FEC Files Lawsuit Against Fmr. U.S. Senate Candidate Christine O - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

FEC Files Lawsuit Against Fmr. U.S. Senate Candidate Christine O'Donnell

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Christine O'Donnell Christine O'Donnell

DOVER, Del. (AP) - Former U.S. Senate candidate and tea-party favorite Christine O'Donnell illegally used at least $20,000 in campaign contributions to pay rent and utility bills at a town house where she worked and lived, the Federal Election Commission says in a lawsuit.

The federal lawsuit, filed Monday in Wilmington, involves payments at the Greenville town house that served as O'Donnell's headquarters in the 2010 Senate campaign. Authorities say O'Donnell lived upstairs in the town house for at least 10 months.

O'Donnell, her campaign committee and former committee treasurer Matt Moran are named as defendants. The lawsuit seeks reimbursement by O'Donnell, plus civil penalties against the defendants. The FEC also asks for a permanent injunction against conversion of any other campaign funds.

O'Donnell, who stunned the political establishment by defeating longtime congressman and former governor Mike Castle in the 2010 GOP primary, denied the allegations Tuesday. She accused the FEC of harassing her and abusing its power.

"We have spent the last four years examining every angle of this, and I am very confident that there was absolutely no wrongdoing," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

FEC spokesman Christian Hilland declined to comment Tuesday, citing the pending litigation.

O'Donnell said FEC officials pleaded with her to take a settlement offer, which she refused.

"I would have to concede something that I did not do. ... That goes to the very heart of my integrity," she said. "They would have given me a slap on the wrist, but an innocent person doesn't deserve a slap on the wrist."

The lawsuit is based on a 2010 complaint filed with the agency by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a federal government watchdog group. O'Donnell and her supporters have dismissed CREW as a left-wing group funded by liberal financier George Soros.

According to the FEC complaint, the defendants converted contributions given to Friends of Christine O'Donnell for her personal use by paying rent and utilities for the three-bedroom town house, which the committee leased from January 2010 to March 2011. Payments required under the rental agreement totaled at least $21,155, according to the complaint.

"O'Donnell allegedly reimbursed Friends of Christine O'Donnell for a small portion of the costs for the town house, but the use of campaign funds for rent or utility payments for any part of a federal candidate's personal residence constitutes unlawful personal use," the complaint alleges.

Authorities said in the complaint that the FEC voted 6-0 in November to find probable cause that O'Donnell had violated campaign finance laws. The complaint notes that the commission voted unanimously last week to proceed with litigation after unsuccessful efforts to correct the alleged violations through "conference, conciliation and persuasion.

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