O’Donnell denies misuse of campaign funds

Defeated U.S. Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell says she did not misuse campaign funds – “period.”

In an interview Thursday evening with WHYY, O’Donnell said the allegations are “trumped up charges based on politics of personal destruction to discredit my candidacy and this movement that’s behind me.”

The Delaware Republican has spent the last 24 hours defending herself after it was revealed that federal authorities launched a probe to determine whether she broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses.

The story broke Wednesday when a person familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press that it was being conducted. The person spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity to protect the identity of a client who has been questioned as part of the probe.

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O’Donnell, the Tea Party favorite who scored a surprising primary victory over Mike Castle in September only to lose badly in the November general election, says neither she nor her campaign have been informed of a federal investigation.

“So I find it awfully suspicious that The Associated Press was contacted before we were,” she said. “But if anything does materialize from these rumors we will continue to fully cooperate.”

She suggests the accusations are being driven by her political opponents on the right and left, including someone close to Vice President Joe Biden.

“I don’t think he (Biden) personally is involved,” she said. “But the woman personally leading the charge, Melanie Sloan, is a former Biden staffer with a very long resume with ‘to-the-left’ organizations.

Sloan is the executive director of CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit government watchdog group. She told WHYY that O’Donnell is simply trying to deflect attention from the key fact.

“She stole money from her campaign and may soon be held accountable for that,” Sloan said. “Further, she is sorely deluded if she thinks the Vice President of the United States has the time or inclination to worry himself about a failed Senate candidate who has a questionable relationship with the truth.”

In a written statement Wednesday in response to the criminal probe, O’Donnell said about Biden, “So given that the King of the Delaware political establishment just so hapens 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 raised more than $7.3 million in this year’s campaign, and has been dogged by questions about her personal and campaign finances.

At least two former campaign workers claim that O’Donnell routinely used political contributions to pay personal expenses including her rent as she ran for the Senate three consecutive times, starting in 2006.

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