With assistance from Derek Wallbank in Washington.
What are the ingredients for a classic Washington scandal?
Perhaps one part crime, one part hypocrisy and two parts intrigue. For U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican and Mormon who was arrested yesterday in Alexandria, Virginia, and charged with driving under the influence, that mixture may be diluted by the Christmas holiday, a congressional recess until Dec. 27 and more pressing national concerns such as a federal budget impasse.
The damage will be muted because Crapo immediately acknowledged the DUI and took responsibility for it, said Ron Bonjean, a Republican communications strategist who worked as a spokesman for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
“His honesty, combined with that it’s the holidays and people are paying attention to the fiscal cliff” will limit the story’s impact, Bonjean said by phone today from New Orleans. “We are so used to scandals that are exponentially greater than this that we have become desensitized to it.”
In 2008, then-Representative Vito Fossella, a New York Republican, was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, also in Alexandria. It turned out that Fossella — married with three children — was having an affair with the woman who picked him up from jail. Also revealed as the case unfolded: he’d also fathered a child with the woman.
As far as Idaho senators go, the last one to run into trouble with the law was Larry Craig in 2007, arrested on allegations he was trying to solicit sex in a men’s bathroom at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and then said he did nothing wrong. He eventually resigned.
Police arrested Crapo, 61, at 12:45 a.m. He was alone in his car when an officer saw him run a red light, the Alexandria Police Department said in a statement. The self-proclaimed teetotaler failed several field sobriety tests, police said. Crapo’s blood-alcohol content was 0.11, according to Alexandria Police. The legal limit in Virginia is 0.08. The Mormon faith prohibits alcohol consumption.
In 2009, Crapo cosponsored a Senate bill that would have cut in half the tax on barrels of beer for brewers producing less than 2 million barrels a year. More recently, he’s worked as part of a bipartisan group of eight senators to find a way to avert more than $600 billion in automatic tax increases and across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to begin Jan. 1, as part of the so-called fiscal cliff.
Crapo was released on a $1,000 bond. His court date is scheduled for Jan. 4.
“I am deeply sorry for the actions that resulted in this circumstance,” Crapo said in a statement yesterday. “I made a mistake for which I apologize to my family, my Idaho constituents and any others who have put their trust in me. I accept total responsibility and will deal with whatever penalty comes my way in this matter.”