|Michele Bachmann Campaign Probed|
|By RUSSELL GOLDMAN (@GoldmanRussell)||Mar 25, 2013, 3:27 PM|
Federal investigators are probing allegations that Rep. Michele Bachmann, or members of her staff, inappropriately used money raised during her presidential campaign, her lawyer and former campaign staffers said today.
Bachmann has not been formally accused of any wrong doing, but staffers said they had been questioned by federal authorities. The investigators are working on behalf of the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Bachmann's attorney confirmed to ABC News.com that Bachmann was being probed by the OCE, but denied any wrongdoing.
"There are no allegations that the congresswoman engaged in any wrongdoing," campaign lawyer William McGinley told ABCNews.com in a statement.
"We are constructively engaged with the OCE and are confident that at the end of their review the OCE board will conclude that Congresswoman Bachmann did not do anything inappropriate," he said.
Others confirmed that they had been contacted by investigators.
"I was questioned by federal investigators," said Peter Waldron, a member of Bachmann's Iowa campaign staff.
Waldron had filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission in January alleging inappropriate use of campaign funds. He said the interview covered some 40 questions and took place in his Florida offices.
Waldron has complained both to the FEC and to the media that he was never fully compensated by the Bachmann campaign, but said today he could not discuss the specifics of his interview, although he said the questions pertained to the allegations made in his FEC complaint.
Among those allegations are that Bachmann's onetime Iowa campaign chair, state Sen. Kent Sorenson, received money under the table for his support. Sorenson's position in the Legislature prohibits him from receiving payments from the campaign.
Waldron also accused a staffer of illicitly receiving funds from both the campaign and a political action committee, a violation of federal election laws.
Waldron, a fundamentalist pastor who worked in Iowa and often led Bachmann and staffers in prayer, further accused the campaign of failing to pay staffers and then requiring them to sign a non-disclosure agreement in order to get paid.
Staffers received copies of the NDA after police in Urbandale, Iowa, began their own investigation into allegations that campaign officials stole a list of families who home schooled their children, an influential Iowa voting bloc.
Waldron also provided a notarized copy of an affidavit by Eric Woolson, another staffer who alleges that he was told by Sorenson and others how the list of home school families was stolen.
The owner of the list, Barb Heki, who worked for a home schooling advocacy organization and volunteered for the campaign has filed a separate lawsuit against Bachmann.
Another Bachmann campaign staffer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed being questioned by federal investigators.
Bachmann, a Congressional backbencher known for her conservative views and ability to fundraise, was never considered a real contender for the White House, but briefly captured the spotlight early in the campaign when she won the Iowa Straw Poll in the summer of 2011.
Her campaign was marked by a revolving door of senior advisers, malapropisms and missteps. In the days before the Iowa caucuses, Sorenson quit her campaign and defected to Texas Rep. Ron Paul. She came in last place at the caucus and immediately suspended her campaign.
Calls and emails to Sorenson for comment were not returned.
The Office of Congressional Ethics is an independent organization whose investigators work for the House of Representatives. The findings of their investigation are submitted to the House Ethics Committee, which can then further investigate and recommend penalties if the case warrants it.
The OCE would not confirm or deny the investigation, first reported by the Daily Beast.
The FEC confirmed receiving Waldron's complaint but would not comment on whether an investigation was launched as a result.