WASHINGTON – In the waning days of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign, her husband, Marcus Bachmann, allegedly wrote an e-mail describing his efforts to raise much-needed funds through an outside "super PAC."
That e-mail is now in the hands of the U.S. Justice Department, which has subpoenaed records from the National Fiscal Conservative (NFC) Political Action Committee as part of a federal grand jury investigation into potentially illegal coordination between the PAC and Bachmann's campaign.
The grand jury subpoena, first reported in the New York Times, represents a major escalation in the multiple federal and state inquiries that rose from alleged election law violations brought forward last January by campaign whistleblower Peter Waldron.
"It's a pivot point," said Waldron, a Florida minister and longtime Republican operative who says he grew disillusioned with the ethical practices of the campaign.
Officials representing Bachmann and the NFC PAC did not respond to requests for comment Friday. Bachmann announced in May that she would not seek a fifth term in Congress next year.
Both Waldron and former Bachmann aide Andy Parrish have acknowledged publicly that they were contacted by the FBI. However, the empaneling of a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., signifies that the federal inquiry goes deeper than previously known.
Parrish's St. Paul attorney, GOP activist John Gilmore, called it "a thunderclap."
Parrish, meanwhile, was interviewed Friday by a special investigator for the Iowa Supreme Court, which is investigating allegations of hidden payments to state Sen. Kent Sorenson, Bachmann's Iowa chairman.
The latest federal inquiry comes as the House Ethics Committee is poised to render a decision next week on alleged Bachmann campaign improprieties, including whether she used campaign staff to help promote her book, "Core of Conviction."
The grand jury subpoena, obtained by the Star Tribune, covers financial transactions involving an array of top Bachmann campaign officials, including her husband.
A copy of an e-mail purportedly written to Waldron by Marcus Bachmann describes a telephone conversation he had with PAC president Bill Hemrick to raise money for a mailing to evangelicals. Hemrick reportedly suggested that Bachmann contact GOP donor August Busch, who, according to the e-mail, agreed to give $7,000 "thru the NFC super pac."
The e-mail ended: "Praise the Lord!!"
In his reply, Waldron warned that raising money through the super PAC could violate federal election laws that bar certain types of coordination between campaigns and outside political organizations.
"There are so many rules," Waldron wrote.
Body of allegations
Waldron also alleges that he personally drove Michele Bachmann to a meeting with Hemrick at his home in Tennessee in 2011. Hemrick also served as the finance chair for the Bachmann presidential campaign in Tennessee.
Campaign finance reports show that Busch did make a $7,000 contribution to the NFC PAC.
The e-mail adds to a body of allegations Waldron made to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that prompted investigations by the FBI and the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Waldron's original FEC complaint also alleged illegal coordination between the campaign and MichelePAC, Bachmann's own leadership organization.
In it, he recounted alleged conversations between Bachmann and NFC officials about buying radio and television advertising in Des Moines for the 2012 Iowa caucuses.
The FEC complaint unfolded as another Bachmann staffer, home-school activist Barb Heki, sued the Bachmann campaign for the misappropriation of her organization's e-mail list.
That case recently was settled out of court under undisclosed terms.
Waldron and Gilmore recently published an insider e-book critical of Bachmann titled, "Bachmannistan: Behind the Lines."
Kevin Diaz • 202-383-6120