Without permission Michele Bachmann’s campaign gained access to the email database of a group of parents who homeschool their children in Iowa, an influential constituency, and sent them two unsolicited email blasts, according to the group’s president.
Justin LaVan, president of The Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, said the group was investigating how the Bachmann campaign got a hold of the email list and said the campaign’s emails violated federal election laws.
LaVan speculated that Barb Heki, a NICHE board member and paid Bachmann staffer, inadvertently transferred the organization’s email list to the campaign’s database.
Homeschoolers are an influential constituency in Iowa, and were credited with helping former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee win the Iowa caucuses in 2008.
“I want to apologize on behalf of the NICHE Board and advise you that we discovered that our list of homeschool contacts was uploaded without our knowledge or permission by the Michele Bachmann Campaign and used twice for e-mails from her campaign,” Justin LaVan, president of the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, wrote to members in an email.
LaVan told ABC News that Heki “was the only connection we can figure out” and speculated that she had “a computer with NICHE stuff and campaign stuff and somehow the files got mixed up.” He said he did not believe the campaign intended to steal the email addresses and accepted the campaign’s apology.
LaVan said NICHE is a 501c3 non-profit organization and cannot endorse any candidate. As a result of the file breech, he has offered each of the GOP nominees and the Obama campaign access to the database to send two campaign emails, for the same price Bachmann was ultimately charged.
“We want to make sure it is absolutely fair and we offered the same opportunity to every candidate,” LaVan said.
In a statement to ABC News, Bachmann campaign manager Keith Nahigian called the email blast a mistake.
“Bachmann for President was recently notified that two campaign emails were mistakenly sent to a NICHE email list,” Nahigian said in an email.
“When notified by NICHE, the Campaign began working with NICHE to take immediate corrective action to ensure that list was permanently removed from any Campaign records and to pay the fair-market value of the use of the list. The campaign regrets any inconvenience this mistake may have caused and is working to enact additional safeguards to ensure that this does not happen again.