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Morning Roundup: Witch hunt or the witching hour?

On NBC’s Today show this morning, Christine O’Donnell (R), who lost her bid for U.S. Senate in 2010, denied allegations that she misused campaign funds for personal expenses – rent and paying her mother as a consultant, for example. She blamed it on the “establishment,” but stopped short of wanting to use the word “conspiracy.”

A point of context: All of these allegations were known during the campaign. What’s new here is that there’s now a federal investigation under way that will tell us if, in fact, she violated campaign-finance law.

Here she is on TODAY being interviewed by NBC’s Ann Curry:

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Here’s MSNBC’s Norah O’Donnell’s TODAY show piece on the allegations:

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Here’s O’Donnell’s statement from last night, per Campaign Manager Matt Moran:

"We have heard absolutely nothing other than the same unsubstantiated allegations and rumors that have been circulating in the press for months. If anything does materialize from this rumor, we will continue to fully cooperate as we have made every attempt to ensure we are in compliance with all rules and regulations. The politically motivated charge was all started by false accusations by Christine's political opponents, and ratcheted up by former Biden staffer Melanie Sloan and CREW with their false claims. Let us be clear: there was no impermissible use of campaign funds. Period. This is just an ongoing effort by the George Soros-funded CREW and other liberal groups and individuals to intimidate and threaten Christine, even after the election."

Christine O'Donnell continued, "Since anonymous sources are being taken seriously, please allow me to share some tips I've received and keep the tipsters' identities anonymous. We've been warned by multiple high-ranking Democrat insiders that the Delaware Democrat and Republican political establishment is jointly planning to pull out all the stops to ensure I would never again upset the apple cart. Specifically they told me the plan was to crush me with investigations, lawsuits and false accusations so that my political reputation would become so toxic no one would ever get behind me. I was warned by numerous sources that the DE political establishment is going to use every resource available to them.

So given that the King of the Delaware Political Establishment just so happens to be the Vice President of the most liberal Presidential administration in U.S. history, it is no surprise that misuse and abuse of the FBI would not be off the table. And further connecting the dots, do you think it is just a coincidence that Melanie Sloan was a senior Biden staffer just before she joined CREW and filed her complaint against me?!

"I have faith that our supporters and the general public will see right through these thug tactics. This is simply an Establishment trick to stop the anti-establishment Tea Party movement in its tracks. Heck, the Presidency is at stake in 2012."

Murkowski to be certified today: Alaska’s long statewide nightmare is over. Lisa Murkowski (R) will be certified officially today as the winner of the Alaska Senate race, the first time since 1954 that someone has won a write-in bid for the U.S. Senate. The governor and lieutenant governor will sign her certification today and then it will be hand-delivered to Washington, so she can be sworn in by Wednesday when the new Congress convenes. Because of the four-hour time delay, they’re going to have to get started early.

Or is it? NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports that Joe Miller (R) is holding a press conference at 6 pm ET on his plans. He has said he might keep up the legal fight despite the fact that he’s unlikely to win future appeals and the Supreme Court is unlikely to take up the case.

‘Tea Party-ization of Congress’: The Washington Post reports, “When Republicans take over the House next week, they will do something that apparently has never been done before in the chamber's 221-year history: They will read the Constitution aloud. And then they will require that every new bill contain a statement by the lawmaker who wrote it citing the constitutional authority to enact the proposed legislation. Call it the tea party-ization of Congress.”

This is all part of a new package of rules released by the House Rules Committee:

“As promised in the Pledge, members will not be able to introduce a bill or joint resolution without a ‘statement citing as specifically as practicable the power or powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact’ it. This will serve to refocus members of Congress, with every bill they introduce, on the Constitution that they take an oath to support and defend.”

2012 Watch: After the NAACP mounted a national campaign to free two black Mississippi sisters serving an unusually long sentence for armed robbery, Gov. Haley Barbour says he’ll issue them an early release. They have served 16 years of their sentence. The men were robbed of $11. One of the sisters is in poor health; she requires regular dialysis. The Washington Post notes: “Barbour, who is weighing a run for president, announced his decision a week after he ran afoul of civil rights advocates. Last week, Barbour backtracked on comments he made about the civil rights era in Mississippi.”

In Recess: President Obama made six recess appointments, bypassing Congress where his appointments had been held up by Republicans. One of the appointments is the first American ambassador to Syria in five years. And the deputy attorney general James Cole is particularly controversial, because he equated the 9/11 attacks to criminal acts.

Vacation, all I ever wanted: President Obama’s vacation will be extended by a day. "After the extended lame duck and five-day delay of his trip here, he's just trying to squeeze in more time with his family before returning to Washington,” White House spokesman Bill Burton said.

Speaking of vacations: The lieutenant governor, Kim Guadagno, who was out of state at the same time New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was on vacation at Disney World was actually in Mexico to be with her ailing father, suffering from Stage IV cancer, the South Jersey Courier-Post reported. (Hat tip: Political Wire).

Just a reminder: The ASPCA sent the following statement to First Read on President Obama’s phone call to the Philadelphia Eagles’ owner on giving Michael Vick a second chance:

“The ASPCA would like to remind the public that Michael Vick pled guilty to helping torture and kill dogs because they didn't perform well in his dogfighting ring. While we do believe in second chances, we also support the conditions of Michael Vick’s probation, which prohibit him from owning, buying or selling dogs for three years from the date of his July 2009 release from federal prison. Mr. Vick’s performance on the gridiron may continue to attract attention and accolades, but we believe the final measure of his newly found compassion toward animals can only be borne out over time."

In non-U.S. political news: Former Israeli President Moshe Katsav, 65, was convicted of rape and could face four to 16 years in prison.