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December 30, 2010

Feds Investigate Christine O'Donnell's Use of Campaign Funds Based on Complaint from Soros-Funded CREW; O'Donnell Denies, Claiming All Expenses Were Legitimate

I've been hard on Christine O'Donnell, but I'm going to guess nothing comes of this, except for the embarrassment factor. Campaign funds can't be used for personal expenses, I guess, but I also know that a candidate running for office has a lot of campaign-related expenses which have a personal nature. Like eating on the road. So the exception is so huge as to swallow the rule.

If O'Donnell could legally pay herself a salary from campaign funds (which, I understand, she could), she could use campaign funds for many expenses of her daily life. And she's been "campaigning" for office for a long time, so I can't figure out how they're going to separate her truly personal, non-campaign expenditures from legal campaign expenditures that just so happen to involve candidate upkeep.

The embarrassment factor, though, comes in because most people expect candidates to have sufficient gainful employment to have their personal situation squared away, and campaign donations are usually used just for campaign-related staff and ad buys and the like. O'Donnell seems to have used at least some of her campaign funds (even if legally) for her personal upkeep, which sort of stresses the chief knock on her: She didn't seem to have any real gainful employment except for running for office.

I'm going to link the AP story about the investigation, an ABCNews report filed today about her denial on GMA, and then a pro-O'Donnell website's claim about the "half the rent" charge, which is probably part of the investigation.

AP:

Defeated Tea Party candidate Christine O'Donnell, who ran for vice president Joe Biden's former Senate seat, is reportedly under federal investigation for using campaign funds for personal expenses, the Associated Press reports. The criminal probe is being conducted by two federal prosecutors and two FBI agents, an anonymous source told the AP. The matter has not yet been referred to a grand jury.

Spokespersons with the FBI in Washington and the Delaware Attorney General's office declined to comment.

But O'Donnell campaign spokesman Matt Moran told ABC News the wire report was the first he had heard of an alleged investigation.

"The anonymous source seems politically-motivated and may well be tied to the ultra-liberal, George Soros-financed, former Sen. Biden staffer-run CREW [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington] complaint," Moran said.

The left-leaning watchdog group filed complaints with the Delaware U.S. Attorney's office and Federal Election Commission in September alleging the Republican candidate misused campaign funds.

"Left-leaning." A bit of an understatement but thanks for at least that.

ABCNews:

"There's been no impermissible use of campaign funds whatsoever," O'Donnell told "Good Morning America" today. "You have to look at this whole thug politic tactic for what it is. ... I'm confident that we will be cleared of any charges.

"You don't need a tipster to show that this was politically motivated. We were informed that the Delaware political establishment was going to use every resource available to them, including launching phony investigations ... tying me up with lawsuits to make sure I can't move forward politically," she said. "I even expect more things to come, that's their tactic."

On the rent allegation, I got an email from what seems to be a very pro-O'Donnell website. Here's what they claim on the rent issue:

Christine O'Donnell's campaign reported that her U.S. Senate campaign paid "half the rent" on the condominium townhouse that Christine lived in in Wilmington, Delaware.

So imagine my surprise, when I visited my friend Christine after the election at the famous townhouse condo. Er, condos -- there are two of them!

We should have expected the Delaware news media and national news media to be completely incompetent in mis-reporting this information.

The reason the O'Donnell campaign paid "half" the rent is because 1 of 2 townhouses is 100% dedicated to office space and the other townhouse is living space. There were and are TWO (2) completely different townhouses.

But both condos were contracted through the same realtor in one single contract.

So "half" the rent pays for ONE (1) of the TWO (2) completely different townhouses.

Assuming that's true, it's hard for me to see how someone could prove a violation of law. What, she used the office space a little too much for personal reasons? I doubt there's any sort of metric to determine what "too much" is. I have a feeling most "misuse of campaign donations" charges will be similarly hampered.

That website also stresses that the source of the charges against O'Donnell comes from a single person, apparently linking to CREW.


More: This WaPo article on the investigation is more detailed than the AP one.

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. 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.

Vasher, a nephew of Keegan's and a one-time boyfriend of O'Donnell, declined comment when asked by The AP if he had been contacted by authorities. Vasher bought O'Donnell's house in 2008 after she was served with a foreclosure notice, then charged her rent to stay there, according to CREW's complaint.

Meals, gas, and rent, I think, will all wind up being legal uses of campaign funds (if all i's are dotted and t's crossed). The bowling outing seems more personal, but the moment there's anyone political there at all, bingo, it's a campaign expense, same as a businessman taking his friend/potential client out to dinner writes that off as a business expense.

That's my guess, at least.

Headline Corrected: I initially misread the pro-O'Donnell Delaware News website and thought it claimed that her accusers were not in a position to level charges against her. But I misread; they're not sure they're the people feeding information to CREW, and further, I also misread in that one of them clearly is in such a position (he served as "interim treasurer" for O'Donnell for a spell). So I've deleted the part of the headline that said her accusers didn't have the information with which to even make charges; that's just wrong, and due to a misreading.


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posted by Ace at 12:05 PM

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