The Federal Bureau of Investigation joins a long line of agencies that are looking into the inner workings, and possible illegal activity, of Michele Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign. The Federal Election Commission, Office of Congressional Ethics, Iowa Senate Ethics Committee and Urbandale Police Department are also investigating the campaign. There is also an Iowa lawsuit against Bachmann and several associates filed by former campaign staffer Barb Heki.
The main thrust of the FBI investigation seems to stem from alleged campaign finance violations. Former Bachmann staffer Peter Waldron filed a complaint with the FEC in January regarding five possible violations committed by Bachmann and her associates.
One of those charges involves alleged third party payments to Iowa Senator Kent Sorenson (R-Milo). Sorenson served as the state chairman for Bachmann’s campaign.
Former Bachmann chief of staff Andy Parrish swore in an affidavit that Sorenson was being paid by C&M Strategies for his work on the Bachmann presidential campaign, in an effort to help Sorenson skirt Iowa Senate ethics rules. Parrish also states that Congresswoman Bachmann approved the payments.
“I can confirm that Andy Parrish has been contacted by the FBI and plans to submit to a telephonic interview with them sometime in the coming days. He plans to cooperate fully with them,” said attorney John Gilmore, who represents Parrish.
Due in large part to the affidavit from Parrish, the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee voted to have a special investigator look in to two ethics charges against Sorenson. Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady appointed Des Moines attorney Mark Weinhardt to serve as the special investigator.
One of the ethics charges against Sorenson centers around the third party payment allegations. The other involves the alleged theft of a homeschooling database that was taken off the computer of Bachmann staffer Barb Heki and illegally used by the campaign.
Heki became the public scapegoat for the illegal use of the list because she was a board member Christian homeschooling organization. Heki claims Congresswoman Bachmann informed her, on the final day of the presidential campaign, that Kent Sorenson had taken the database off Heki’s computer. Bachmann’s former Iowa campaign manager in a sworn Eric Woolson states affidavit that Sorenson admitted taking part in the alleged theft.
In response, Barb Heki filed a lawsuit against Bachmann, Sorenson and others involved in the campaign. That suit might be settled soon. Bachmann reportedly came to Iowa two weeks ago to negotiate a settlement with Heki.
Bachmann’s attorney, Jeff Goodman, withdrew his motions to compel in the lawsuit on May 17. That is another indication a settlement is close or has been reached.
As for the FBI investigation, it is likely they are looking into Peter Waldron’s allegation that the campaign used money from MichelePAC to pay fundraising consultant Guy Short, who owns C&M Strategies. A candidate cannot use their political action committee for campaign purposes.
FEC records show the Bachmann campaign paid C&M Strategies more than $104,000 between July and November 2011. At the same time, MichelePAC was paying Guy Short around $5,000 per month.
Waldron also alleges in his FEC complaint that payments were withheld from him and other former Bachmann campaign staffers unless they signed confidentiality agreements. He provided documentation that shows this request was made a year after the campaign ended. If that allegation is true, it is potentially a case of witness tampering and/or obstruction of justice.
State Senator Kent Sorenson has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in regards to his alleged payment and the theft of the homeschooling database. He calls the ethics charges against him part of a political witch hunt.
Michele Bachmann, who grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, won the Ames Straw Poll in August 2011 but finished a disappointing sixth place in the Iowa Caucus on January 3, 2012. She ended her campaign the next day.