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Some GOP attorneys who have looked at the FEC complaint see no violations of criminal law. They warn that campaign finance laws can be complex and that technical violations are commonplace.
“My reading of the complaint tells me it is not a serious matter,” said Cleta Mitchell, a campaign lawyer with the political law practice of Foley & Lardner in Washington, D.C. “But I also know that it is hard, if not impossible, to avoid breaking some of these laws every day in a campaign. We can only hope the OCE and the FBI aren’t interjecting themselves where they have no business going.”
The original FEC allegations center on the suggestion that Short and others arranged to pay Sorenson $7,500 a month from Short’s company, C&M Strategies, for Sorenson’s work on the Iowa Bachmann campaign.
In an affidavit to the Iowa Senate earlier this month, Sorenson denied being paid directly or indirectly by any “Bachmann entities.” That contradicts an earlier affidavit from Parrish describing an “arrangement” to pay Sorenson through Short’s company. Parrish’s affidavit said Bachmann was aware of the arrangement, but thought it was legal.
Bachmann has maintained a public silence on the matter.
Another allegation suggests that Short’s company received $40,000 from Bachmann’s PAC in the final two months of the Iowa caucus contest, a time when he was working full time on her presidential campaign. That could be a potential violation of campaign finance laws that bar federal candidates from using their PACs to coordinate with or subsidize their campaigns.
Some analysts say that to spark the FBI’s interest, there would have to be an element of embezzlement or fraud. Mitchell noted that the transactions were duly reported to the FEC. “Embezzlers don’t disclose their payments usually,” she said.
Waldron and other former Bachmann campaign insiders argue that Short would have been misrepresenting the PAC expenditures to the FEC if he were, in fact, being compensated to work for the campaign. They also question how the payments to Short were authorized at a time when they and others on the campaign were being asked to work without pay.
DeLacy, disputing any wrongdoing, said the payments were for work he did for the PAC, not the Bachmann campaign.
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