Graham fires aide accused of embezzling $215,000

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Lindsey Graham fired one of his most trusted and longest-serving aides, and his campaign treasurer told federal election officials that the fired woman had embezzled $215,000 for personal use.

Jennifer Adams, 49, was removed from her post as a campaign bookkeeper last November, and "she was fired from the Senate office in June 2007," said Kevin Bishop, Graham's communications director. Her employment ended June 19, aides said.

Bobbi Schlatterer, spokeswoman for the State Law Enforcement Division, said her agency had opened a criminal investigation into Adams' activities. She declined further comment.

Graham, a first-term Republican senator from Seneca, S.C., is up for re-election next year. No viable opponent has stepped forward to challenge him to date.

Campaign documents the Graham campaign submitted Monday to the Federal Election Commission detail dozens of alleged "unauthorized payments" to Jennifer Adams over a 33-month period ending in July 2005.

McClatchy Newspapers learned that years before she began working for Graham in 1994, Adams was convicted in South Carolina of writing fraudulent checks on two occasions -- in April 1987 and again in September 1990.

Graham didn't know about those convictions until informed Tuesday by McClatchy Newspapers, Bishop said.

"The individual in question has been terminated from employment, and we have implemented strict internal controls governing all financial activities of the campaign to ensure nothing like this ever happens again," Graham said Monday in a letter to supporters.

Though Graham didn't mention Adams by name, he indicated that his campaign will try to recoup the stolen money.

"I am hopeful we may be able to recover some of the funds and am determined to pursue our legal options to the fullest extent possible," Graham said in the letter.

Graham, 52, declined to be interviewed.

Graham first met Adams in 1994 when she worked on his initial campaign for the House of Representatives, aides said. He served there for eight years before being elected to the Senate in 2002.

Adams worked at various points as a full-time and part-time bookkeeper with Graham's campaigns and as a deputy press secretary in his Senate office in Seneca, according to aides. It is common for aides to move back and forth between lawmakers' congressional and campaign offices, though their salaries must come from separate sources.

"I am sorry to say that events like this happen in campaigns," Graham said in his letter to supporters.

"Our campaign recently conducted an intensive internal review of our financial records," Graham wrote. "During this review, we uncovered numerous unauthorized disbursements made by a former employee. While we are still conducting the review, it appears the unauthorized payments for personal use totaled approximately $215,000 over a period of four years."

In a separate letter to the Federal Election Commission, Kevin A. Hall, treasurer of Graham's re-election committee, said the campaign discovered the alleged embezzlement during a voluntary "detailed review of our campaign records and related FEC filings."

"We are committed to complete and accurate information for the public record," Hall said in the letter.