|Counties hire Craig's firm to woo federal prison|
Commissioners from the counties voted this week to hire New West Strategies, a consulting firm co-founded by Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican who served three terms in the U.S. Senate.
Craig stepped down from the Senate in 2008, a little more than a year after being cited in a sting operation targeting men cruising for sex at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The counties hired the firm to help in the early phases of competition for a proposed $300 million medium-security federal prison near the small town of Malta. Officials envision building the lockup near a U.S. Geothermal Inc. plant to take advantage of clean, cheap geothermal energy.
Commissioners said the prison could create an estimated 350 jobs and help diversify a regional economy dominated by agriculture. Even though it could be 18 months before a location is picked and take at least four years to build, commissioners are eager to get started.
The contract calls for paying New West a monthly fee of $5,000 and monthly travel budget of $500.
Craig's involvement in helping bring the prison to southern Idaho will be limited.
Neither Craig nor any of his former senior Senate staffers can lobby any member of Congress or congressional staff member until January 2011, according to federal law. That ban doesn't preclude other employees of Craig's firm from lobbying, according to Steve Carpinelli, spokesman for the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C.
"Lobbying is all about advocating for a particular client," Carpinelli said. "As of 2008, senators are prohibited from lobbying Congress for two years; former House members for one year. They're pretty strict about it."
The ban does not rule out Craig lobbying the federal Bureau of Prisons, Carpinelli said.
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