A top official of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s 2012 Republican presidential campaign says an ethics investigation involving an Iowa state senator is “a lot of nothing about nothing” stirred up by a disgruntled former aide.
The aide, Peter Waldron, “was hired as a senior staff person to do campaign outreach to the evangelical pastor community,” James Pollock, the Bachmann campaign’s financial chairman, said in a statement to The American Spectator. After Bachmann finished a disappointing sixth place in the January 2012 Iowa caucuses and suspended her campaign, Pollack said, Waldron “made very clear … his intent and desire to disparage and discredit those individuals who he felt incompetently and ineffectively ran the campaign.”
Waldron, a Florida-based evangelical Christian activist, is the chief accuser against Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson, claiming that Sorenson accepted illegal payments of $7,500 a month to serve as Iowa state chairman of Bachmann’s campaign, money that Walron says was funneled through a Colorado-based company controlled by a Bachmann fundraiser. Both Sorenson and the Bachmman campaign have denied the allegations, which are the subject of an investigation by the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee. In an affidavit filed with that committee, Bachmann’s former chief of staff Andy Parris said that the payments were made, but that neither he nor the congresswoman were aware that these payments violated Iowa ethics laws.
“Congresswoman Bachmann knew of and approved this arrangement,” Parrish said in his affidavit. “She, like the rest of us, understood from Senator Sorenson that it did not run afoul of any Iowa Senate ethics rules. We relied on his representations in this regard.” An attorney for Bachmann said that Parrish’s affidavit clears her of wrongdoing.
“The way the media is portraying this story is wrong, reckless, and outrageous,” Bachmann’s campaign lawyer Bill McGinley told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “The affidavit by a former employee in fact confirms that Congresswoman Bachmann followed all applicable laws and ethical rules and instructed those working for her to do the same. The alleged arrangement at issue was both lawful and properly reported under federal law. This dispute is between the Iowa Senate and an Iowa senator.”
Indeed, the allegations against Sorenson have been widely portrayed in the media as a scandal implicating Bachmann, and have helped prompt an investigation by the Federal Elections Commission.
An Iowa native, Bachmann was a favorite of many Tea Party activists and had hoped her ties to the Hawkeye State would help her in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. After she announced her presidential candidacy and made her first campaign appearance in a June 13 televised debate, Bachmann emerged among the leading rivals to the GOP frontrunner and eventual nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. By July 20, 2011, Bachmann was second in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls, with 14 percent, behind Romney at 24.2 percent.
Bachmann won the August 2011 Iowa GOP Straw Poll at Ames, a victory that drove her fellow Minnesotan, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, out of the Republican presidential field. However, Bachmann’s win at Ames was overshadowed by the entry of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s into the GOP race. After Perry’s campaign subsequently floundered because of the Texan’s poor showing in debates, and Atlanta businessman Herman Cain was forced out by allegations of sexual misconduct, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich moved to the top of the Iowa polls, only to be torpedoed by millions of dollars of attack ads from Romney.
Bachmann had staked her entire campaign on a strong showing in Iowa, but was stung when, just five days before the Jan. 3 caucuses, Sorenson quit her campaign and endorsed a rival, Texas Rep. Ron Paul. At the time, Bachmann said Sorenson told her “he was offered a large sum of money to go to work for the Paul campaign.” Bachmann subsequently finished with just 5 percent of the vote in the caucuses, and dropped out of the presidential campaign the next day.
Waldron’s allegations against Sorenson appear to result from “a situation of egos,” Pollack, the Bachmann finance campaign chair, told me in a brief telephone interview last week. A flamboyant figure who was once jailed in Uganda on terrorism charges, Waldron has been involved in Republican politics since the 1980s. Waldron has never expressed any animosity toward Bachmann, Pollack told me, but seems to be pursuing a vendetatta against other members of her campaign team. Asked about Waldron’s motives, Pollack said, “I’m not a psychiatrist.”
Pollack’s written statement to The American Spectator:
I first met Peter Waldron the evening of the Iowa Caucuses. To the best of my recollection, and I have never been informed otherwise, Mr. Waldron was never assigned a director title with the Bachmann For President Campaign. It is my understanding he was hired as a senior staff person to do Campaign outreach to the Evangelical Pastor Community. Any inference to the contrary regarding Mr. Waldron’s position, responsibility, or authority with the Campaign seems to be an inaccurate embellishment.
I further understand that during the Campaign Mr. Waldron was frequently immensely critical of both the Campaign’s strategy direction, and of those individuals responsible for managing the Campaign. Apparently he was lobbying with the hope and intention of being put in charge of the entire Campaign. Within days following the suspension of the Campaign, he made very clear of his intent and desire to disparage and discredit those individuals who he felt incompetently and ineffectively ran the Campaign. While expressing malice and deceit for them, he continually voiced praise and accolades for Congresswoman Bachmann. I cannot speculate on Mr. Waldron’s motivation, other than to say other Campaign members have long moved on, which I assume to be normal and customary.
James L. Pollack, Finance Chairman
Bachmann For President Campaign