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Christine O'Donnell: Clearly Not a Witch

Stacy McCain brings up the obvious -- but not necessarily damning -- aspects of implied bias on the part of those raising a fuss. Clearly O’Donnell was a burr under the saddle of the state GOP who would have been quite content to run Mike Castle through to a probable victory in the general election, obscure exit polls not withstanding. And the Democrats in the state obviously have a vested interest in not sending her to Washington.

As for CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), it would be rather futile to pretend that they don’t have a very clear track record of left leaning bias, as they rarely -- if ever -- seem to find time to investigate lapses in responsibility or ethical behavior on the part of Democrats. But, as McCain correctly points out, when you give the appearance of trying to weave them all together into some sort of shadow government conspiracy movement to stifle her, you begin to sound a bit, well… nuts.

But let’s not pretend there’s no reason for an investigation. When you see this much horse manure, you will still occasionally find a pony if you dig deep enough. Unfortunately this investigation is not the type likely to reveal huge, sexy headlines. It will require officials -- along with a horde of journalists and bloggers -- to dig through all of the candidate’s campaign finance filings, matching up expenses with receipts and explanations for same. More than a few of the reported expenditures were enough to raise eyebrows, particularly when coupled with Ms. O’Donnell’s scanty sources of income over the last few years.

But having spent a fair bit of time myself inside the machinery of congressional level campaigns, not every odd looking expense winds up being a violation. We had one staffer during the last cycle who ran up some startling charges in gas station receipts and meals in a short period of time. While that may sound fishy, it turns out that she was loading up and delivering truckloads of yard signs across eight counties in a district that stretches several hundred miles across winding back roads and hamlets.

Christine O’Donnell will be answering questions about charges such as a delivery from Mattress King. Was it a flagrant expense for personal use, or, as she claims, for a staffer who was sleeping at her house which she was also using as a campaign office? Only time will tell, but campaigns running on a shoe-string budget can and do encounter some oddball expenses. But if the expenses do run afoul of the law, she’s going to have to answer for them in court. We have those laws for a reason.

The practical upshot of all this may render the entire argument moot in terms of her political future, though. As we have pointed out so often here, perception trumps reality in American politics. Ms. O’Donnell came out of the last war tremendously damaged, whether it was from clever traps laid by her opponents, her own failings, or a combination of the two. It’s difficult to imagine this particular phoenix rising from the ashes as a serious contender for any federal office in the future.