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Continued: Bachmann's legal troubles rooted in presidential campaign divisions

  • Article by: KEVIN DIAZ , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 22, 2013 - 9:58 AM

Meanwhile Heki, a lifelong activist in the home-school movement, was removed from her organization’s board, a punishment she blamed on the lingering suspicion that she had misappropriated the list.

Waldron, the campaign’s liaison to the religious community, was incensed. A global missionary with a mysterious past among gun runners in Uganda, Waldron had been involved in presidential politics since Ronald Reagan. Now his job was to persuade local pastors to stake their reputations on Bachmann, and he wanted Sorenson to come clean. In an e-mail to Woolson and Bob Heckman, a D.C. consultant who had hired him, Waldron wrote, “I owe it to my Lord, Michele, her Christian supporters, Barbara Heki … to do the right thing.”

He also went to Bachmann and her husband, Marcus, meeting with them a week before Christmas in a Fort Dodge hotel room. The conversation was not limited to the theft of the e-mail list. Waldron said he also raised concerns about reports that Sorenson was getting paid for his campaign work, which for Sorenson would be a violation of Iowa Senate ethics rules.

By Waldron’s account, the Bachmanns seemed troubled but unsure of how to respond.

But no action was taken against Sorenson. A few days before the caucuses, in one of the most dramatic defections of modern presidential politics, he bolted from the Bachmann camp and joined the surging Ron Paul campaign.

MichelePAC

By then, the Bachmann campaign was running out of money, and running Bachmann around the state on a grueling bus tour. The crowds were small. The momentum of the previous August was gone.

With the Jan. 3 caucuses approaching and the final push underway, some staffers working over the Christmas season said they were being asked to forgo checks. Among those owed money were Waldron and Minnesota GOP operative Andy Parrish, a former chief of staff in Bachmann’s congressional office.

Short, however, was not going without pay — something that would not escape Waldron’s notice later on. Subsequent checks with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) would show that while Short was technically volunteering for the campaign, his company, C&M Strategies, was getting paid $40,000 by MichelePAC.

In a complaint now before the FEC, Waldron alleges that Short was being paid by MichelePAC to work as national political director for the campaign, an arrangement that could violate financial limits on the PAC’s contributions to the campaign.

Short’s attorney, Christopher DeLacy, said the work Short was doing for MichelePAC was “completely separate” from the work he was doing for the campaign.

But the questions about Short also revived some of the lingering resentment about Sorenson. Three sources inside or close to the campaign have told the Star Tribune that Sorenson or his firm, Grassroots Strategy, was hired by Short to do work for the Bachmann campaign.

In complaints before the FEC and the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee, Waldron has alleged that Sorenson was being paid $7,500 a month through Short’s firm, C&M Strategies. The source of those funds, according to Waldron, was MichelePAC. Altogether, FEC records show that C&M billed $165,000 for services rendered to MichelePAC over the 2012 election cycle.

‘Shocked’

Until last week, Waldron was alone in making those accusations publicly, making it easy for Nahigian, O’Donnell and other top aides in the campaign to dismiss him as a “disgruntled” employee with a vendetta.

Now Parrish has stepped forward, agreeing to provide evidence to the Iowa Senate documenting the payments to Sorenson. Parrish, a longtime Bachmann protégé, is expected to provide an affidavit in the coming week. Parrish should know about the arrangement to pay Sorenson. According to Parrish’s lawyer, John Gilmore, it was Parrish who recruited Sorenson into the campaign, and Bachmann was aware of the payments.

None of this, however, is expected to help Heki, an Iowa grandmother who said that Bachmann’s continued public silence in the alleged e-mail theft “destroyed” her.

That public silence has been in marked contrast to the account Heki said Bachmann finally gave her in private.

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