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Christine O'Donnell: OK to use $20,000 in campaign funds to pay her rent?

Christine O'Donnell, the Republican party candidate for a senate seat in Delaware, used campaign money to pay half her rent, according to a Federal Elections Commission filing. Christine O'Donnell denies doing anything wrong.

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O'Donnell essentially used her campaign's bank card as her personal ATM, CREW executive director Melanie Sloan said, and the improper spending likely would have gone unnoticed if not for her surprise victory in last week's primary.

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"She never thought anybody would look at her campaign finances very closely because she was not considered a serious candidate. She thought she could get away with this," Sloan said. "Now we're talking about a candidate for U.S. Senate. That's pretty serious, and there's no reason that Ms. O'Donnell shouldn't have to follow the same rules as everybody else."

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Monday released an ad that attacks O'Donnell's financial history.

Besides the FEC complaint, CREW sent a letter to Delaware U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss asking for a criminal investigation of O'Donnell. Through his secretary, Weiss acknowledged receiving the letter but declined to comment further.

The complaint is based largely on a sworn statement by David Keegan, a former campaign finance consultant for O'Donnell. Keegan's nephew, Brent Vasher, purchased O'Donnell's Wilmington, Del., home for her in 2008 because she was facing foreclosure, according to Keegan's affidavit.

Vasher began charging O'Donnell $750 a month in rent in January 2009, and in March and April of that year, she paid the rent from her campaign treasury, according to the complaint. Documents filed with the FEC show two $750 payments to Vasher during the months in question. The payments are listed as reimbursement for expenses.

CREW also alleges that O'Donnell spent campaign money on gas for personal travel, meals and a bowling outing. This year, she continued to use the campaign treasury to pay rent at her new residence in Greenville, Del., which doubles as her campaign headquarters, as well as utility and wireless phone bills. The questionable 2010 expenses total more than $20,000.

O'Donnell has also been subject to an IRS tax lien and has been accused of leaving a trail of unpaid bills.
Associated Press correspondent Randall Chase in Middletown, Del., contributed to this report.

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