U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann developed a “diva complex” during her presidential campaign and wound up “a far-right candidate from Minnesota who got in over her head,” says a former campaign aide who has written a book detailing why he decided to blow the whistle on a campaign he says lost its way.
Peter Waldron, a controversial Florida minister, was hired by Bachmann to be her point man with the national evangelical community. But Waldron clashed with others in Bachmann’s inner circle. His self-described “report from the inside,” a digital book titled “Bachmannistan,” fleshes out publicly, for the first time, many of the accusations of ethical and financial wrongdoing now before an array of state and federal agencies, including the House Ethics Committee.
The Bachmann camp fired back Tuesday with a forceful denunciation of Waldron. “This former staffer with an ax to grind has been peddling these same reckless falsehoods, half-truths, and innuendos for well over a year in his attempt to maliciously smear Congresswoman Bachmann’s name,” finance chairman James Pollack said in a statement released by the campaign. “Doing this to someone of her immense character is despicable. Whether his motivation is an attempt to selfishly get 15 minutes of fame or reap an economic benefit on this e-book, it is unconscionable.”
Pollack said the campaign followed all laws and regulations, and that “to the extent this e-book claims otherwise, it lacks credibility, and is thus a reprehensible piece of fiction.”
In Waldron’s account, Pollack asked him to hold off on making his allegations public until after Bachmann got through her 2012 congressional election. He did.
The book also claims that Bachmann campaign attorney William McGinley, a prominent GOP attorney in Washington, warned him against writing the book on the grounds that it would violate a nondisclosure agreement. McGinley did not respond Tuesday to a request for comment.
Extension of FEC allegations
The book represents an extended literary version of accusations Waldron first made to the Federal Election Commission in January, culminating what he says were his frustrations with a campaign that he felt had ceded Bachmann’s natural evangelical base, a turn he blames on Bachmann’s growing “diva complex” and a cadre of “dime- store” political consultants from Washington he believed were in it for the money.
The picture that emerges, in Waldron’s telling, is that of a “far right Minnesota candidate who got in over her head and turned to hucksters for advice.”
Written with St. Paul attorney John Gilmore, a conservative lawyer who represented ex-Bachmann chief of staff Andy Parrish, the book is based largely on the material Waldron and Parrish have related to the FBI and other investigative agencies through interviews and affidavits.
“But for those filings,” Waldron contends in the book, Bachmann would still be running for a fifth term in Congress next year. “That she isn’t speaks to the fundamental truth of the allegations.”
Bachmann said in June that her decision not to seek re-election had nothing to do with the investigations surrounding her presidential campaign.
The book questions that claim: “No one except the most inbred voter in Stearns County believed her when she said her decision had nothing to do with her ethical and legal woes,” the authors wrote.
Bachmann’s legal problems include a recently settled lawsuit over a purloined e-mail list of home-schoolers taken from the personal computer of Iowa campaign staffer Barb Heki. A police investigation is continuing in that case. The FBI also has been asking questions about possible campaign finance violations involving Bachmann fundraiser Guy Short, including allegedly improper payments to Iowa campaign chairman Kent Sorenson, a Republican state senator who also has been linked to the Heki e-mail heist. Chris DeLacy, an attorney for Short, disputed Waldron’s account, adding that Short will “consider all appropriate legal action” regarding Waldron’s claims.
Meanwhile, the House Ethics Committee also is looking at allegations that Bachmann used campaign staff to promote her autobiography, “Core of Conviction.” A decision is expected next month.
Besides Short and McGinley, Waldron takes particular aim at former campaign manager Keith Nahigian and former McCain campaign and Liberty University debate coach Brett O’Donnell, whom he believes had a “Stockholm syndrome” hold over Bachmann.
On Tuesday, O’Donnell declined to comment, and Nahigian did not return a call.
Outsourcing of judgment
Bachmann, for her part, is portrayed both as “the definition of a micromanager” and as an isolated and controlled candidate who “outsourced” her judgment, “which is to say, her identity.” Her husband, Marcus Bachmann, a Christian psychotherapist, is described as a regular presence in the campaign, which Waldron said was “essential to show that she was ‘under authority,’ ” an important marital precept among many evangelicals.
In one passage, the Bachmanns are depicted in the bedroom of their Stillwater home wrestling with the decision of whether she should run for president. In an effort to help her seek clarity, her husband reportedly suggested that she stand in front of a full-length mirror and say, “I am president of the United States.”
That ambition went unfulfilled, Waldron writes, because of the campaign’s subsequent spiritual failings.
The resulting bitterness is revealed in a 2012 exchange of text messages purported to be between Waldron and a Bachmann aide seeking to see a draft the book. Waldron declined.
The book, finally released Monday on Amazon Kindle, ends with Waldron’s response: “Michele, here is the book.”
Follow Kevin Diaz on Twitter @StribDiaz.