The Delaware U.S. Attorney’s office is looking into allegations that Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell has used funds from her failed Senate campaigns to pay personal expenses, the Associated Press reported.
The AP reported that the office confirmed it is reviewing a complaint about O’Donnell’s campaign spending made this year by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. However, officials in the office headed by U.S. Attorney Charles M. Oberly have declined to say whether a criminal investigation is taking place.
CREW has claimed she improperly used more than $20,000 in campaign funds to pay her rent and other personal expenses, the AP reported.
O’Donnell has denied the misuse of campaign funds and has said her campaign staff and lawyer have not been informed of a federal investigation.
She said the accusations are politically motivated and driven by Vice President Joe Biden, who was a senator from Delaware for more than 30 years. Biden in 2008 ran simultaneously for re-election to the Senate and for vice president; he faced O’Donnell in the Senate race and defeated her with 65 percent of the vote. He later resigned the seat to become vice president.
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Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) isn’t worried about a group of activists’ calls for an investigation into his personal finances, the Arkansas News reported yesterday.
Citing a September report from the non-profit investigative journalism Web site Pro-Publica, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sent a letter to the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section asking them to probe a two-year-old real estate transaction.
The DOJ responded to CREW’s letter with a boilerplate response telling the watchdogs they took the complaint “seriously,” the group announced yesterday.
In 2007, Ross and his wife Holly sold a pharmacy they owned in Prescott, Ark., to USA Drug, a company based in Pine Bluff, Ark. According to CREW, USA Drug overvalued the sale by at least $140,000 when they bought it for $420,000.
Pro-Publica said in their investigation that the Ross family made much more money. In addition to the $420,000, USA Drug owner Stephen LaFrance paid the Ross family between $500,000 and $1 million for the pharmacy’s assets, and paid Holly Ross an additional sum valued between $100,001 and $250,000 for signing a non-compete agreement.
That’s a haul worth somewhere between $1 million and $1.67 million, Pro-Publica said.
The question for CREW is whether the pharmaceutical industry used the sale to influence Ross, chairman of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats. Ross has been an outspoken opponent of Democratic health care reform measures supported by liberals, including the public option.
With the sale of the business, CREW wrote in their letter, Ross “has gone from accepting campaign contributions from those with legislative interests before him to accepting significant personal benefits of dubious legality.”
The sale occurred well before President Obama’s efforts to reform health care got underway. According to the News, Ross responded to the complaint:
“This business transaction had nothing to do with my being a member of Congress and everything to do with an Arkansas-based family pharmacy business buying a pharmacy my family and I have worked hard since 1993 to develop into a successful, trusted and respected business in my hometown.”
According to the News, Ross spokesman Brad Howard dismissed CREW’s concerns. “Anyone with a pen and piece of paper can file a complaint with the Department of Justice,” Howard said. “This was nothing more than a standard DOJ form letter acknowledging they received a complaint. There is really no news here.”
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Last week, Obama administration officials gave arguments for why former Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2004 interview with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald should remain secret. Fitzgerald was investigating how CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity got leaked. Ultimately, Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was convicted of obstruction of justice in the matter. The liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wants to know why Cheney didn’t get prosecuted, and has sued for release of the interview.
But Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Smith said disclosure would have a “chilling effect” on future administration officials’ willingness to cooperate voluntarily with investigations, and that officials might not comply with future requests out of fear ”that it’s going to get on ‘The Daily Show’.”
Read our report here.
Last night, Jon Stewart responded to the Justice Department’s newest justification for blocking transparency and protecting Cheney, and the irony was lost on no one:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
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U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan was on another tear yesterday. At a hearing, he scoffed at Obama administration arguments for why former Vice President Dick Cheney’s 2004 interview with special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald should remain secret. Fitzgerald was investigating how CIA agent Valerie Plame’s identity got leaked. Ultimately, Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, was convicted of obstruction of justice in the matter.. The liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) wants to know why Cheney didn’t get prosecuted, and has sued for release of the interview.
But Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Smith said disclosure would have a “chilling effect” on future administration officials’ willingness to cooperate voluntarily with investigations, and that officials might not comply with future requests out of fear ”that it’s going to get on ‘The Daily Show’ .”
“Says who?” Sullivan said.
Former Attorney Genreal Michael Mukasey — that’s who, Smith said. Problem is, the Bush administration’s formal argument against release of the interview came in a filing from former Office of Legal Counsel head Steven Bradbury, who is also under investigation by the Office of Professional Responsibility for his role in authorizing torture. Not the most credible advocate.
“Bradbury’s a political appointee. I don’t know what his experience was,” Sullivan said, according to news accounts.
David Sobel, the attorney for CREW, called it “disappointing” that the Obama administration is taking the same line as the Bush administration. But hey – the Obama people must know they’ll eventually be under investigation themselves for something, god knows what. But it’s inevitable.