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Reporters covering the campaign frequently saw Bachmann’s paid campaign staff at her book events, which were promoted in Bachmann campaign news releases. Her legal team says that campaign staff was there to represent and advise Bachmann as campaign issues arose on the tour, and to prepare for debates. The news releases, they said, simply announced Bachmann’s whereabouts to the media.
But a video taken at a Bachmann book signing in Iowa demonstrates the fine line between campaigning and book promotion. The video, produced by freelancer Dave Davidson, shows Nahigian and Stewart at a table with Bachmann, who is signing books. In one frame, a smiling Nahigian was holding up a large placard for the “Core of Conviction” book, with Bachmann on the cover.
Although biographical volumes have become a mainstay prop of presidential campaigns, federal laws and House ethics rules generally prohibit campaign staff from participating in personal book sales for their candidates.
The FEC also governs election-related book deals, although the law can be complicated. Candidates cannot convert campaign funds to personal use. At the same time, campaign contribution limits require that book publishers steer clear of promoting campaign events.
The legal firewall isn’t always crystal clear. The FEC deadlocked in a 2011 case on whether then-Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown could combine campaign fundraising events with a book tour. Said Paul Ryan of the Campaign Legal Institute: “The closer you get to commingling purposes in a specific event, the more challenging it is to ferret it out.”
Kevin Diaz • firstname.lastname@example.org