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Rep. Michele Bachmann

Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Ex-Bachmann aide alleges campaign finance violations

  • Article by: KEVIN DIAZ
  • Star Tribune
  • May 3, 2013 - 10:44 AM

WASHINGTON - A top adviser in Michele Bachmann's 2012 White House bid has filed a complaint with federal election officials alleging campaign finance violations involving her presidential campaign and the independent political action committee she leads.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint was filed Tuesday by Peter Waldron, a widely known evangelist enlisted by the Bachmann campaign for outreach to Christian conservatives. The filing follows his allegations last week that the Bachmann campaign has withheld payments to staffers who refused to sign confidentiality agreements.

Waldron, formerly Bachmann's national field coordinator, is accusing the campaign of improperly dipping into money from MichelePAC to pay longtime fundraising consultant Guy Short for presidential campaign work he performed in the critical final weeks ahead of Iowa's caucuses last year.

Waldron also alleges that the campaign concealed payments to Iowa state campaign chairman Kent Sorenson, a state senator who abruptly left the Bachmann camp to join then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's insurgent campaign. Under Iowa Senate rules, Waldron maintains, Sorenson could not perform paid work for a presidential campaign.

Neither Short nor Sorenson responded to requests for comment Tuesday.

FEC records show that the campaign paid Short more than $104,580 through his Colorado-based company, C&M Strategies, between July and November of 2011. At the same time, MichelePAC, the leadership organization that Short helped her start, was paying him an average of $5,000 a month.

Records show no payments from the campaign to Short or his company in the month leading up to the Jan. 3, 2012, Iowa caucuses, where Bachmann finished in sixth place.

Short, who had worked in Bachmann's congressional office and also on her 2012 congressional campaign, told campaign workers at the time that he was volunteering on the Bachmann presidential campaign. Others were asked to do the same as the campaign limped through the final days of the Iowa caucuses.

But the FEC records show that MichelePAC made two separate $20,000 payments to Short on Dec. 6 and Jan. 3, a time when he was supervising operations for the Iowa campaign as Bachmann's national political director, which is not typically a volunteer position.

While Short continued to get paid, others agreed to forgo checks during the Christmas season. Among them were Waldron and a half-dozen other workers who are still owed money from the campaign. "To me, that was unconscionable," Waldron said.

'Veiled effort'

One of those involved in the payment dispute is Barbara Heki, who sued the campaign last year over the use of a database listing the names and e-mail addresses of thousands of Christian home-school families. Although the campaign eventually agreed to pay $2,000 for the list, the lawsuit continues, as does a separate criminal investigation.

Waldron has accused the campaign of seeking to silence him and others who have provided information to investigators about the home-school list. Bachmann finance chair James Pollack and Iowa campaign manager Eric Woolson strenuously denied any connection between that investigation and the requested confidentiality agreements, which they said are routine.

But nobody in the campaign or in Bachmann's congressional office responded Tuesday to Waldron's FEC complaint alleging improper ties between Bachmann's PAC and her campaign.

Lawyers and other top campaign officials contacted by the Star Tribune did not explain why Short's PAC payments were bumped up at the same time the campaign stopped paying him in December 2011.

Waldron, who was part of Bachmann's bus retinue in Iowa, said that whatever else Short was doing for Michele-PAC, he was an integral part of the campaign apparatus.

"He engineered the caucus strategy," Waldron said. "He was the one who decided who went where and did what. They can't pay a PAC employee to function as a senior staff member in a supervisory role in a presidential campaign."

Waldron's FEC filing also alleges that Sorenson was paid $7,500 a month via Short's company out of the proceeds from the PAC, an arrangement set up to get around rules prohibiting him from getting direct campaign payments.

"It was a veiled effort to cloak the payments," Waldron said.

FEC officials said they had not seen Waldron's complaint and could not comment.

Kevin Diaz is a correspondent in the Star Tribune Washington Bureau.

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