Federal authorities have opened a criminal investigation of Delaware Republican Christine O’Donnell to determine if the former Senate candidate broke the law by using campaign money to pay personal expenses, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to protect the identity of a client who has been questioned as part of the probe. The case, which has been assigned to two federal prosecutors and two FBI agents in Delaware, has not been brought before a grand jury.
O’Donnell, who set a state record by raising more than $7.3 million in a tea party-fueled campaign this year, has long been dogged by questions about her personal and campaign finances.
At least two former campaign workers have alleged that O’Donnell routinely used political contributions to pay personal expenses including her rent in recent years as she ran for the Senate three consecutive times, starting in 2006.
Her campaign issued a statement Wednesday denying that she misspent campaign money and saying it has heard nothing from authorities.
“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 statement said.
O’Donnell called the allegations politically motivated and suggested that the Obama administration — particularly Vice President Joe Biden, who represented Delaware in the Senate for decades — could be behind it.
“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,” she said in the statement.
The U.S. Attorney’s office has confirmed it is reviewing a complaint about O’Donnell’s campaign spending lodged this year by a watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics of Washington, but officials in the office and the FBI declined to say whether a criminal investigation was under way.