The Federal Election Commission filed a lawsuit against O’Donnell, her campaign committee and campaign treasurer on Monday in federal district court in Delaware requesting that the money be paid back, that a fine be leveled and that any transfer of money from her former campaign committee to O’Donnell for her personal use be barred.
The complaint was originally brought to the FEC’s attention in 2010 by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The watchdog group alleged that O’Donnell spent at least $20,000 in campaign funds to pay for her personal living expenses.
The FEC voted unanimously that O’Donnell had broken the law. In November, it “endeavored to correct the violations through informal methods of conference, conciliation and persuasion,” according to the lawsuit, but could not reach an agreement. Thus the lawsuit was filed, which is a pretty rare move for the FEC.
The lawsuit says that O’Donnell has claimed to have paid back some of the costs for the townhouse, “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.”
O’Donnell contends that she did nothing unlawful, and told the Associated Press in an interview that she didn’t settle with the FEC because “I would have to concede something that I did not do. … That goes to the very heart of my integrity.”
In a news release Tuesday, CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said: ““This was no more of a witch hunt than O’Donnell was a witch.”