Is There a Case Against Christine O'Donnell?

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 29 2010 3:30 PM

Is There a Case Against Christine O'Donnell?

The news that Christine O'Donnell's campaign is allegedly being probed for campaign finances violations is totally unsurprising. Consider:

- On September 9, before the U.S. Senate primary, the Delaware GOP filed a formal complaint with the FEC against O'Donnell's campaign over suspicions that it was coordinating with the Tea Party Express. After the primary, the Delaware GOP dropped the complaint.

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- On September 20, after O'Donnell won her primary, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed more complaints with the FEC. They focused on allegations made by David Keegan, formerly a consultant to the O'Donnell campaign (this is how he was described in CREW filings), that O'Donnell had used money from Friends of Christine O'Donnell to pay rent and utility bills at her home. The explanation from the campaign was that this home was the O'Donnell campaign's headquarters, and that staffers lived there. I was told in September that a charge for a mattress was, indeed, for a mattress used to put up a staffer.

- On December 2, O'Donnell's final campaign filings with the FEC were released. She had $924,800 left in her campaign account. This is what the O'Donnell campaign told Shira Toeplitz:

O’Donnell spokesman Matthew Moran said O’Donnell was advised by her attorney to reserve "several hundred thousand dollars" for after Election Day to use for legal challenges resulting from her campaign — such as a complaint filed with the Federal Election Commission filed by the state GOP during the primary and a criminal complaint filed with the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
And that's what's happening. Most of the allegations against O'Donnell concern campaign spending from her previous campaign account, but an investigation was assumed to be coming as soon as CREW weighed in. This is why Moran ranted a bit to ABC News about the flimsiness or political motivation of the CREW case. The O'Donnell campaign's explanation for the use of fund was always an eyebrow-raiser, but it's only been a month since CREW's last FEC complaint, against John Ensign, was dismissed. "Hit by complaint filed by CREW" does not always (or typically) mean "guilty of violating law."
 
UPDATE: And here's the full statement from Team O'Donnell:
December 29, 2010.  Wilmington, DE: Christine O'Donnell's campaign released the following statement in response to investigation rumors and states that Democrat insiders warned her that the "Establishment" would use phony investigations to end her political career.
Campaign Manager Matt Moran responded to the rumor of a criminal investigation, "We have heard absolutely nothing other than the same unsubstantiated allegations and rumors that have been circulating in the press for months.  If anything does materialize from this rumor, we will continue to fully cooperate as we have made every attempt to ensure we are in compliance with all rules and regulations.  The politically motivated charge was all started by false accusations by Christine's political opponents, and ratcheted up by former Biden staffer Melanie Sloan and CREW with their false claims. Let us be clear:  there was no impermissible use of campaign funds. Period. This is just an ongoing effort by the George Soros-funded CREW and other liberal groups and individuals to intimidate and threaten Christine, even after the election."
Christine O'Donnell continued, "Since anonymous sources are being taken seriously, please allow me to share some tips I've received and keep the tipsters' identities anonymous.  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.  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.  I was warned by numerous sources that the DE political establishment is going to use every resource available to them.  So given that the King of the Delaware Political Establishment just so happens to be the Vice President of the most liberal Presidential administration in U.S. history, it is no surprise that misuse and abuse of the FBI would not be off the table.  And further connecting the dots, do you think it is just a coincidence that Melanie Sloan was a senior Biden staffer just before she joined CREW and filed her complaint against me?!
"I have faith that our supporters and the general public will see right through these thug tactics.  This is simply an Establishment trick to stop the anti-establishment Tea Party movement in its tracks.  Heck, the Presidency is at stake in 2012."

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics