BALTIMORE - 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.
Matt Moran, O'Donnell's former campaign manager, did not immediately respond yesterday to questions from The AP. The U.S. attorney's office has confirmed it is reviewing a complaint about O'Donnell's campaign spending filed by a watchdog group, but officials in the office and the FBI declined to say whether a criminal investigation was under way.
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 finances.
The Washington-based watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission and is the group that asked Delaware's federal prosecutor to investigate.
O'Donnell's campaign has denied wrongdoing, but acknowledged she had paid part of her rent at times with campaign money, arguing that her house doubled as a campaign headquarters.
Federal law prohibits candidates from spending campaign money for personal benefit.
O'Donnell pulled off one of the primary election season's biggest upsets by beating moderate Republican Rep. Mike Castle for the GOP Senate nomination. She was defeated in November by Democrat Chris Coons.