Report: Feds Open Criminal Investigation Into Christine O’Donnell’s Campaign Spending

December 29, 2010 9:22 a.m.

Federal officials have reportedly opened a criminal probe into whether former Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The feds are looking into whether O’Donnell’s spent $20,000 dollars in campaign money on personal expenses and rent, MSNBC reported. The probe stems from a complaint by the group Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics In Washington (CREW) which was filed back in September.A person speaking on condition of anonymity told the AP of the probe, and said two federal prosecutors and two FBI agents in Delaware are handling the investigation, which has not been sent to a grand jury. A spokewoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware did not immediately respond to TPM’s message seeking comment.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Christine O’Donnell:Anti-Masturbation Crusader. Witchcraft Dabbler. Republican Senate Nominee.]

O’Donnell set a state record by raising more than $7.3 million for her campaign but has faced questions about her campaign finances. TPM reported that her last minute campaign hires included an anti-gay crusader and that she spent $200,000 on her “I’m Not A Witch” and Yale ads.

When CREW made the complaint back in September, O’Donnell’s lawyer attacked the organization by arguing that the group lacked credibility because of donations from George Soros.

But O’Donnell basically admitted that CREW’s main charge were true back in October, conceding she used campaign cash to pay rent on her Delaware town house because it doubled as campaign headquarters, which CREW charged amounted to using her primary campaign “as her personal ATM.” Commission rules “say candidates can’t use campaign money for their mortgage or rent ‘even if part of the residence is being used by the campaign’.”

Late Update: The AP reports that the complaint is based largely on a sworn statement by David Keegan, who was a campaign finance consultant for O’Donnell.

Also, CREW Executive Melanie Sloan told the AP in September that O’Donnell thought that no one “would look at her campaign finances very closely because she was not considered a serious candidate.” Looking at Federal Election Commission Requests for Additional Information, it appears O’Donnell’s assumption about her unimportance was correct until mid November of 2010. Though she had been filing FEC discolsure forms since 2008, five of the six requests for additional information were filed on November 16 or later.

Additional reporting by Alex Sciuto.

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