Christine O’Donnell blames “left-wing conspiracy” for campaign fraud investigation

Posted on January 3, 2011

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Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation of Republican former Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell to determine if she broke the law by using up to $300,000 of campaign money to repeatedly pay her personal expenses. At least seven former campaign workers have alleged that O’Donnell routinely used political contributions to pay personal expenses including her rent in recent years as she ran for the Senate three consecutive times, starting in 2006.

Although O’Donnell’s campaign has denied wrongdoing, she has acknowledged she paid part of her rent on numerous occasions with campaign money, arguing that her house doubled as a campaign headquarters. She attributed her home utilities, personal vehicle costs, groceries, clothing and other purchases made with campaign funds as “legitimate campaign needs.”

Federal law prohibits candidates from spending campaign money for personal benefit. FEC rules state that this prohibition applies to the use of campaign money for a candidate’s mortgage or rent “even if part of the residence is being used by the campaign,” although O’Donnell’s campaign maintained that it was told otherwise by someone at the agency. When questioned as to the identity of that agency official, O’Donnell said she “could not recall their name” and cannot locate any record of the information she supposedly claimed from the agency official.

One former O’Donnell staffer, Kristin Murray, recorded an automated phone call for the Delaware Republican Party just before the primary, accusing O’Donnell of “living on campaign donations — using them for rent and personal expenses, while leaving her workers unpaid and piling up thousands in debt.” Another former aide, David Keegan, said he became concerned about O’Donnell’s 2008 campaign finances as she fell behind on bills and had no apparent source of income besides political contributions, but regularly wrote checks to pay monthly bills and expenses. He submitted an affidavit to CREW alleging that she used campaign money to cover meals, gas, a bowling outing, and rent to a landlord, Brent Vasher.

During her three failed Senate bids, O’Donnell had numerous campaign treasurers, all of whom left abruptly after serving brief stints. After losing two treasurers in 2009, she named herself treasurer until this past summer. Another short-term treasurer took over in August and resigned less than two months later, at which point campaign manager Matt Moran added the treasurer’s role to his responsibilities.

O’Donnell, who announced just after Election Day that she had signed a book deal, hasn’t held a full-time job in seven years and has struggled to explain how she makes a living. She reported in July that she earned only $5,800 in income for the previous 18 months through freelance public relations work. She said she lived mostly on a savings account that she reported in an amended Senate disclosure report as being worth “somewhere between $1,000 and $15,000.”

Her financial past includes two tax liens from the IRS, a lawsuit from the university she attended over unpaid bills, and a foreclosure action that she illegally avoided by selling her house to Vasher the afternoon before a sheriff’s auction. O’Donnell insists that the tax liens are IRS mistakes and she attributed all other financial problems to “other people’s mix-ups.”

Ever-denying any personal responsibility, O’Donnell blames the investigation on “Democrats who are afraid of [her]” and particularly, Vice President and former Delaware Senator Joe Biden.

“We’ve been warned by multiple high-ranking Democrat insiders that the Delaware Democrat and Republican political establishment is jointly planning to pull out all the stops to ensure I would never again upset the apple cart,” O’Donnell said in her statement Wednesday. “Specifically they told me the plan was to crush me with investigations, lawsuits and false accusations so that my political reputation would become so toxic no one would ever get behind me.”

In an interview with FOX News, O’Donnell said that she’s “never done a single thing wrong,” and she added that the criminal investigation is “just the same thug tactics that they’ve been using for months to discredit this anti-establishment movement, and attributes the launch of the investigation to “a former staffer for Vice President Joe Biden who is “so far to the left that she’s to the left of most leftists.”

O’Donnell and her representatives have been asked on numerous occasions to provide accounting documents to determine the exact nature, time and purpose for campaign expenditures, particularly those paid personally by O’Donnell. To date, the response to those requests has been, “We’re looking into it and will provide whatever documentation we have when it becomes available.”

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