Watchdog: Christine O'Donnell "Clearly a Criminal"

AP

Christine O'Donnell
Christine O'Donnell
AP
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, today filed a pair of complaints concerning Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell's use of more than $20,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses.

"Christine O'Donnell is clearly a criminal, and like any crook she should be prosecuted," CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said in a release. "Ms. O'Donnell has spent years embezzling money from her campaign to cover her personal expenses. Republicans and Democrats don't agree on much these days, but both sides should agree on one point: thieves belong in jail not the United States Senate."

CREW is requesting that the U.S. Attorney's office in Delaware open a criminal investigation and asking the Federal Election Commission to audit O'Donnell's campaign expenses.

The group said its allegations are tied to former O'Donnell aide David Keegan's affidavit stating O'Donnell, who has run for Senate three times, paid her rent for two months out of campaign funds in 2009 and also used campaign funds for meals and gas. In addition to misappropriation of campaign funds, CREW argues that O'Donnell is guilty of lying about the expenditures and committed tax evasion by not reporting the money as income.

Representatives for O'Donnell, whose financial disclosure form said her earned income between March 2009 and June 2010 was just $5,800, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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At the Values Voter Summit Friday, O'Donnell said it was worth running for office despite the fact that people "smear our background and distort our record" and "lie about us, harass our families, name call and try to intimidate us."

O'Donnell has faced a variety of criticisms over her personal finances, some of which she responded to on her website. (The alleged campaign finance violations are not among the issues addressed.)

On CBS' "The Early Show" last week, she said, "of course in this economy I've fallen on hard times. But I worked hard. I sacrificed. I made the decision that I needed to make things right."

CREW's Sloan said on CNN in advance of the release of the complaint that it's decision to target O'Donnell was not grounded in partisan politics, noting that her organization had called for Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel to resign over ethics violations. (She also discussed the complaint on CBS News, at left.)

"We're about right and wrong and not about black or white, Republican or Democrat," she said. "And it is flat-out wrong for a candidate for the U.S. Senate to be stealing her campaign funds and be using them for personal use."

In an Election Day robocall on behalf of O'Donnell primary opponent Rep. Mike Castle, O'Donnell's 2008 Senate campaign manager Kristin Murray said, "As O'Donnell's manager, I found out that she was living on campaign donations -- using them for rent and personal expenses, while leaving her workers unpaid and piling up thousands in debt."

"She wasn't concerned about conservative causes. O'Donnell just wanted to make a buck," Murray added.

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Brian Montopoli is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of his posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.

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