O’Donnell’s money woes

Forget the witchcraft, declarations on masturbation, the mice with the human brains. Christine O’Donnell, latest national sensation and Tea Party star, has a list of financial problems so long that cleaning them up will require more than solvency, a lawyer and a life coach. But she hopes voters will answer all these questions by electing her in November with a resounding “No, we don’t care!” — and it is entirely possible that they will.

O’Donnell is now the subject of a criminal complaint, filed by a watchdog, alleging she used campaign funds for personal living expenses and has committed tax evasion. A former campaign manager for O’Donnell’s 2008 Senate campaign has accused her of being a “complete fraud,” who without a job or steady source of income lived on campaign donations “while leaving her workers unpaid and piling up thousands in debt.” The university she finally received a degree from several weeks ago sued her five times for unpaid tuition dating back to 1994. The IRS placed a lien against her this year for more than $11,000 in taxes and penalties from 2005. The Federal Election Commission has cited O’Donnell eight times for failing to report contributions between 2007 and 2009. When she failed to make payments on her house in 2008, her mortgage company filed a lawsuit against her, securing a judgment against her for more than $90,000. When her house was to be auctioned, O’Donnell managed to sell it to a boyfriend. She has said she intended to buy it back but decided to run for office instead.

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What she lacks in responsibility or accountability, O’Donnell makes up for in tenacity and self-assurance, served with a winning smile. So her response to the legal and money woes people (including Fox News’s Sean Hannity) keep pestering her about is to explain why her staggering amount of baggage endears her to voters and how the many lawsuits and accusations brought against her in her short adult lifetime say more about her opponents’ weaknesses than her own. When running against Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) for the nomination, O’Donnell said her financial struggles made her “sympathetic,” and any new filings against her now that she has beaten Castle are a reflection of the fact that “they’re scared that the person Harry Reid called his ‘pet’ is not gonna get the seat.” She has called the accusations “baseless.” 

All of O’Donnell’s troubles, and space does not provide the opportunity to describe each of them here, were known at the time she was campaigning for the Sept. 14 primary election. As far back as March the News Journal in Delaware had chronicled her long history of liabilities and dubious explanations for them. We can assume that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is aware of O’Donnell’s record, since he endorsed her in the primary race and has just spent $250,000 to buy an ad on her behalf. According to The New York Times, Sal Russo — a Tea Party funder who runs the Tea Party Express out of California — dropped what he calls a “money bomb” on the primary race, spending $250,000 in advertisements to help O’Donnell beat Castle.

There will be others who want to invest heavily in O’Donnell, her checkered past notwithstanding. Those who don’t want to be written about will give to 501(c)4 groups, where donors are granted anonymity. 

After years of money troubles, O’Donnell will find her campaign won’t want for money. 

Then, should she get elected six weeks from now, welcome to the new norm. 

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.