As former Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell suggested yesterday the federal investigation into improper use of campaign funds was just one of Vice President Joe Biden’s “thug tactics” against the Tea Party star, the president of the ethics group which made the complaint told TPM that the outcome depends on just how much campaign money she allegedly put to personal use.
“I think the major issue DOJ will have is whether it was enough money,” Melanie Sloan, president of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) told TPM in an interview.
So is $20,000 enough? Sloan thinks it would be. “I don’t know what their threshold is. Generally below certain numbers, they leave it to local authorities,” she said.
But Sloan said there was “really no doubt” that O’Donnell was “stealing” money. The feds are looking into whether O’Donnell spent $20,000 dollars in campaign money on personal expenses and rent.
Sloan said that despite the argument of lawyers that CREW’s claims weren’t legitimate “because we’re some Soros funded group or something, it’s the Republican staffers — people who worked for her — who made it clear she was stealing the money,” Sloan said.
Meanwhile, O’Donnell sent out a statement in which her spokesman criticized the probe as politicized and driven by liberal interest groups. O’Donnell, who reportedly thought Biden was tapping her phone lines during the 2008 campaign, suggested the Vice President was using the FBI to go after her.
“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,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell went after Sloan as well. “[D]o 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?!” O’Donnell said. (The entire statement is below.)
According to a person with knowledge of the investigation who spoke to the AP, O’Donnell is accused of using campaign money to pay for personal expenses. Though the source did not disclose precisely what expenditures were under investigation, the AP article went on to report how O’Donnell has been accused by a former campaign aide and another staffer of using her campaign’s bank account for personal uses.
The most damning evidence against O’Donnell comes from her former finance consultant, David Keegan, who asserts that O’Donnell had signature authority over campaign accounts and used her authority to make improper withdrawals. According to a letter sent to the US Attorney for Delaware by the Washington watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), “Mr. Keegan attests that Ms. O’Donnell used campaign funds to pay rent she owed to her landlord, Brent Vasher, on two occasions in 2009. In addition Ms. O’Donnell used campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, including gas, meals and even a bowling outing.”
Brent Vasher, who is David Keegan’s nephew, purchased O’Donnell’s house in 2008 as O’Donnell was facing foreclosure. Vasher subsequently rented her the house for $750 per month. With O’Donnell apparently personally unable to make the payments, the O’Donnell campaign paid Vasher $750 on March 10, 2009 and April 13, 2009. The campaign listed these as “Expense Reimbursement” and “reimbursement for services.”
In 2010, as O’Donnell was ramping up for primary challenge against Mike Castle, she moved to a new house that she also used as her campaign headquarters. According to the Wilmington, Delaware News Journal O’Donnell split the rent between her personal accounts and her campaign. According to FEC filings included as evidence by CREW, O’Donnell paid Mid-Atlantic Realty Co, Inc. $16,816 for campaign office rent and other expenses. She paid Mid-Atlantic Realty $1,419 on January 8, 2010 and paid $1,480 dollars on May 4, 2010. CREW also lists campaign payments to Delmarva Power, Comcast of Delaware, and Verizon Wireless that it alleges were personal utility expenses paid for by the campaign.
Here’s the statement issued by O’Donnell’s camp on Wednesday (emphasis theirs):
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.”
Read the CREW report below: