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Following the money in O’Donnell’s campaign
Mark Hosenball has been in Delaware and Pennsylvania reporting on the midterm election campaign for our special report “Conservative donors let Christine O’Donnell sink.”
If that’s not enough O’Donnell for you, here’s his report from a bastion of conservative thinking in Delaware:
By Mark Hosenball
Republican Delaware senate candidate Christine O’Donnell may be the darling of both national and local Tea Party groups. But she’s not particularly beloved at one of Delaware’s most august and esteemed conservative organizations.
Among the more venerable institutions of modern American conservatism is the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, an organization based in a mansion in suburban Wilmington. The Institute, dedicated to the promotion of conservative principles on American college campuses, has an impeccable pedigree: its first president was the godfather of American conservative thought, William F. Buckley Jr.
But if records filed in Federal court in Wilmington are any guide, it is one of the Delaware conservative organizations least likely to be campaigning aggressively in support of Christine O’Donnell’s Senate bid. This is because both the Institute and O’Donnell are still smarting over an ugly lawsuit O’Donnell filed against the group after she claimed that they had unlawfully fired her as their director of communications and public affairs in 2004.
Highlights from O’Donnell’s grievance against the Institute, originally written up by O’Donnell herself in a rambling 55 page Federal Court complaint, were reported in the conservative Weekly Standard magazine shortly before the Delaware GOP primary and then given added publicity on the Delaware Republican Party’s official website.
The basic facts of the dispute: O’Donnell claimed that the Institute first demoted her from her top PR job because she was a woman, and then fired her because she complained to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.
In documents filed in response to O’Donnell’s complaint, the Institute enumerated several reasons why O’Donnell was fired. The group accused her of not following her supervisor’s instructions, failing to complete assignments and “repeated insubordination,” among other things. The Institute said that she continued to moonlight promoting Mel Gibson’s controversial film “The Passion of the Christ” “even though she was directed not to because it was not part of” the Institute’s mission.
The Institute says in court documents that O’Donnell gave out an internal computer login and password to a non-employee of the group to use in promoting the Gibson film. It also alleges that O’Donnell inappropriately tried to obtain some of the Institute’s most sensitive information, namely data bases identifying Institute members and donors.
O’Donnell shot to national prominence after her surprise victory over Mike Castle, a former Delaware Governor and Delaware’s long-time Congressman, in the September primary for the Republican nomination to run for the Senate at the Nov. 2 midterm elections.
The pending election was only discussed sotto voce when friends and supporters of the Institute assembled one evening earlier this month at a ritzy country club in suburban Wilmington to bestow a book prize on a conservative academic. Following the award ceremony, a senior Institute official, Marc Henrie, said Institute representatives could not make public comments regarding O’Donnell or her lawsuit.
However, an Institute official present at the event did say that as far as the organization was concerned, statements made by the Institute in the lawsuit about O’Donnell’s conduct were “true.” In 2008, O’Donnell withdrew her lawsuit against the Institute for what she described as “financial reasons.”
While most conversations about the political campaign at the Institute’s events were hushed, at least one vocal supporter of Christine O’Donnell was eager to speak up. Chuck Piola, a businessman whose website describes him as “the King of Cold Calls,” insisted that Mike Castle was “not the choice of the people” and that O’Donnell was “classy, well grounded and ethical.”
He acknowledged: “You’ve got to be a narcissist to run for office.” But he insisted that the Republican Party in Delaware was beginning to line up behind O’Donnell.
Piola is one Tea Party Republican who will not be lining up behind O’Donnell when it really counts, however. He is, he conceded, a resident and voter in Pennsylvania, and thus is not eligible to cast his ballot for O’Donnell on Election Day.
To read Mark’s special report in multimedia PDF format, click here.