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His reaction, conveyed to congressional investigators, was “Really? We all worked for nothing, but he [Short] didn’t.”
The OCE got conflicting accounts from various Bachmann staffers about what Short was paid and what work he did for the PAC. None indicated that Bachmann was in the loop.
Twin Cities businessman James Pollack, the campaign’s national finance chairman, told investigators he also learned about the Short payments from press reports. Taking his concerns to Bachmann, Pollock later described her as unhappy and “surprised.”
Asked about her reaction, Bachmann told the OCE, “I don’t like any problems.” Pollack, who has largely taken control of Bachmann’s political affairs amid a cascade of legal woes over the past year, confronted Short. There had been a project, Short told him, but it had been postponed. They then worked out an agreement: The disputed payments would be construed as prepayment for work Short would do for the PAC later.
That remains the Bachmann team’s current legal firewall in the ethics investigation. But it leaves unanswered the question of who approved the payments.
DeLacy says Short “never had check-writing authority or operational control of Michele PAC or Bachmann for President.” But Bachmann, told the OCE she “trusted him to run it.” Short reported directly to Bachmann.
According to Bachmann, Short made the PAC’s hiring decisions and approved its invoices. Former Colorado legislator Barry Arrington, an attorney who worked for Short, was the PAC’s treasurer at the time and the person who nominally signs the checks. Arrington recently was replaced as PAC treasurer.
A hands-off approach
That was not the only time Bachmann’s hands-off approach got her into trouble with the feds.
The OCE determined that Short did not receive his entire $22,500 monthly retainer from the Bachmann campaign. Deputy campaign manager David Polyansky, who negotiated Short’s consulting contract, told investigators Short was paid through his own company, Colorado-based C&M Strategies. That company in turn hired Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson to serve as the campaign’s state chairman for $7,500 a month.
The Sorenson payments, which were not reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), now are subject to a special inquiry by the Iowa Supreme Court, which is looking at whether the payments violated rules meant to keep state lawmakers from peddling their influence.
Sorenson has publicly denied getting paid to work for Bachmann, who maintains she does not know how he became involved in her campaign. Polyansky confirmed the payments to Sorenson and told the OCE that campaign lawyers had signed off on the arrangement.
Bachmann said she knew of no deal to pay Sorenson and told OCE investigators she was not involved in decisions on anyone’s compensation. That contradicts an earlier affidavit from former Bachmann chief of staff Andy Parrish, who said Bachmann “knew of and approved” the payments to Sorenson, believing them to be legal.
Campaign lawyers say Sorenson, though one of Bachmann’s key Iowa supporters, technically was a subcontractor for Short, meaning there was no obligation to disclose his pay. Vendors are not required to disclose subcontractor payments. The OCE disagreed, but ultimately decided that although the FEC reports were false, there was no way to prove that Bachmann knew it.
Follow Kevin Diaz on Twitter @StribDiaz.
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