September 21, 2010; Source: The News Journal | Although some Republicans are prone occasionally to charge the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, D.C. with pro-Democratic bias, our experience with CREW has been that its regular reviews of crooked politicians are impressively bipartisan.

Today’s announcement of CREW’s complaint that Delaware Republican senatorial candidate Christine O’Donnell misused campaign funds received the predictable Republican slams. O’Donnell’s campaign manager declared that the CREW complaint was “yet another establishment attack, this time by [Democratic candidate] Chris Coons’ goons, and he should denounce it as shameless and frivolous.”

CREW charged that O’Donnell used campaign funds to pay rent for a house that had been sold to a campaign aide. O’Donnell’s campaign lawyer described the charges as “ridiculous,” and “obviously a political ploy by the George Soros-funded, left-wing CREW, which has devoted itself to attacking Republicans.” The lawyer added, “They must be worried about Christine’s momentum.”

The campaign manager’s response is to be expected, but the campaign lawyer’s sounded very unusual—unless you think of who it is. O’Donnell’s campaign lawyer is the nationally prominent Cleta Mitchell from the Milwaukee firm of Foley & Lardner, whose principals have played high up roles in Republican Party positions. One now heads the conservative Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

NPQ readers might be familiar with Mitchell for her 2008 book, The Lobbying Compliance Handbook, her writing and lecturing on the meaning of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision for nonprofits [PDF], and strident opposition to any restrictions on political speech by corporations.

Mitchell’s nonprofit cred is substantial, though mostly from the conservative part of the political spectrum: She sits on the board of the National Rifle Association (though she criticized the NRA exception in the Disclose Act, saying that you can’t make deals to protect the free speech of the NRA but give away free speech rights of other political activists, is general counsel to the Vanguard Organization, a conservative think tank devoted to building a technological platform for conservative activists that would allow them to compete with liberal opponents such as and Obama for America, and serves as vice chairperson of the Galen Institute, a nonprofit that promotes free market alternatives in health care “to counter the march toward government-controlled medicine.”—Rick Cohen