AP: Feds Open Criminal Probe of Christine O'Donnell's Campaign Spending

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Updated 3:21 p.m.

An AP brief from anonymous sources suggests that what many observers expected -- that former Delaware Republican senate candidate Christine O'Donnell's campaign finances were sufficiently unusually constructed they'd eventually attract legal scrutiny -- has come to pass.

They report:

A person with knowledge of the investigation says federal authorities have opened a criminal probe of Delaware Republican Christine O'Donnell to determine if the former Senate candidate broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses.

A former O'Donnell aide alleged last fall that she had been living off of campaign donations for years. And complaints against her were lodged during the campaign that seemed certain to eventually require a federal response of some kind. Salon reported on the allegations last September:

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington ... filed complaints with the U.S. Attorney's office in Delaware and the Federal Election Commission against Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party-backed Republican Senate nominee in Delaware. The group alleges that O'Donnell, a perennial candidate who waged two losing (and little-noticed) Senate campaigns before this year, has been breaking the law for years by using campaign contributions for personal use, paying for gas, rent, even bowling.

O'Donnell's campaign spokesman told ABC the AP story was the first he'd heard of the probe:

O'Donnell campaign spokesman Matt Moran said the wire report was the first he had heard of an alleged investigation and he could not confirm its accuracy.

"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....

"These charges are already being addressed with the FEC," he said. "We are confident that they will be resolved in the New Year, and put an end to the frivolous sensationalism regarding this matter."

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Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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