Christine O'Donnell FBI Probe: Witch Hunt or Legitimate?

Some call the case against her politically motivated and flimsy

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Is Christine O'Donnell a criminal? Now the FBI is investigating the failed Senate candidate for possible misuse of campaign funds, O'Donnell is defending herself by saying the charges have no merit and are part of a nefarious plot against her by her political enemies, including, she suggests, Joe Biden. It sounds crazy, but could she be right?

Slate's Dave Weigel says the case against her is thin. The Delaware GOP had filed an FEC complaint against her just before the September 9 primary but dropped it after she won. Eleven days later, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed their own complaints based on accusations by a former staffer that O'Donnell had used campaign funds to pay her own rent and utilities. Advisers told O'Donnell to hold onto campaign funds for possible legal challenges after the election. As of December 2, she had kept $924,800. Now she's going to need it.

  • Being Accused Doesn't Make Her Guilty  Slate's Weigel writes, "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 [her spokesman] 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.'"
  • O'Donnell Should Blame Republicans, Not Democrats, conservative blogger Robert Stacy McCain writes. "The FEC usually handles campaign-finance investigations in a quiet manner and it is seldom much of a headline when the FEC imposes a fine. More importantly, nine times out of 10, violations are only really newsworthy when they involve the winner of an election. ... The attempt to inflate this investigation into a big story... via leaks prominently featuring anonymous Delaware Republicans most likely represents the state GOP’s desire to drive a stake through O’Donnell’s political heart. It’s spiteful and pathetic."
  • The Press Is Eager to Convict, American Spectator's Aaron Goldstein muses. "If O'Donnell is under federal investigation shouldn't the FBI apprise O'Donnell before they tell the AP? ... If she is under federal investigation she has the constitutional right to face her accusers and call their evidence into question. The onus is on the federal government to prove her guilt. However, as far as the mainstream media goes, O'Donnell has already been tried and convicted."
  • Not a Crook, Just an Idiot, FireDogLake's TBogg writes. "When it comes to the misuse of campaign funds, I think O’Donnell sincerely believes that the people who gave her money to run for office gave it to her with the understanding that she is doing God’s work no matter how long it takes and a rent payment here and an evening of bowling there are just a place to stay and a thing to do during The Perpetual Campaign of Righteousness, for she is the embodiment of the contributors hopes and desires. They want her to use it as she sees fit. Sure she’s making a living off of the yokels much like Sarah Palin does, but she lacks the white trash feral cynicism of a Palin. O’Donnell’s no Grifter Grizzly, she’s more Blanche Dubois; spiritually pure,  lost in a fantasy and depending on the kindness of strangers."
  • Interesting Conspiracy Theory, Time's Michael Scherer notes. "That's right. She thinks Biden is sending the G-Men after a Republican candidate who has done more to help the Delaware Democratic Party than, well, just about anybody since Biden."
  • These Investigations Happen to Everyone, Pat Buchanan said on MSNBC, as noted by The Daily Caller's Jeff Poor. "Every campaign I’ve been in, they’ve got auditors come walking in afterwards. They go over the books for months and then they say, 'Look at this, look at this, look at this.' You’re going to be fined. Even Hillary Clinton got it. ... And if the FBI, quite frankly, and the federal prosecutors are looking into whether this woman paid her rent with campaign funds, then they don’t have much to do."
  • Huge Surprise, Wonkette's Jack Steuf jokes. "Isn’t it strange how a person who has earned no income over the past half-decade and yet is not living on the streets could be charged with any kind of financial fraud? Same old lamestream FBI bullshit. If you listen to the real FBI, the one made by O’Donnell out of pipe cleaners and dragon blood, she’s actually been too good with her finances, and the FBI that’s charging her should be the ones thrown in prison."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.