O'Donnell Rejects Allegations of Campaign Contributions Misuse - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

O'Donnell Rejects Allegations of Campaign Contributions Misuse

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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 is fighting back against Federal Election Commission allegations that she illegally used at least $20,000 in campaign contributions to pay rent and utility bills at a Delaware town house.

The FEC filed a complaint in federal court in Wilmington against O'Donnell, her campaign committee and former campaign treasurer over payments at the Greenville town house that served as her headquarters in the 2010 Senate campaign.

The January lawsuit was based on a 2010 complaint filed with the FEC by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a 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.

In court papers filed Friday, O'Donnell disagreed, saying FEC regulations allow the use of campaign money to lease headquarters space and do not prohibit the campaign from subleasing part of the space to a candidate as a residence.

While denying FEC allegations that she lived upstairs in the town house for at least 10 months, O'Donnell, who stunned the political establishment by defeating longtime congressman and former Gov. Mike Castle in the 2010 GOP primary, acknowledged subleasing space in the town house.

Federal election law defines the conversion of campaign funds for personal use as using campaign funds to fulfill any commitment, obligation or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate's election campaign, including a home mortgage, rent, or utility payment.

But O'Donnell argued that the language of the conversion law does not apply when a candidate pays the campaign to use a portion of office space that the campaign would have to rent anyway, regardless of the candidate's decision to occupy the premises.

"Indeed, the campaign committee would have incurred greater costs but for her decision to sublease a portion of the space and reimburse Friends of Christine O'Donnell for the pro-rata, fair market value based on her specific, proportionate use of such space," O'Donnell attorney Richard Abbott wrote.

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