Michele Bachmann Campaign Accuses Newt Gingrich of Buying Tea Party Support

The Tea Party battleground in South Carolina is heating up between the Michele Bachmann campaign and the Newt Gingrich campaign.

No Republican since 1980 has gone on to win the Republican Party's nomination without first winning South Carolina, and the candidates know it.

Bachmann's South Carolina representative, Wesley Donehue, told the Columbia Free Times last month that while Bachmann is gaining actual Tea Party support, Gingrich is buying his.

"Bachmann is trying to grow an organic base of supporters, and Newt Gingrich is trying to buy off tea party groups," Donehue said. "Newt Gingrich knows that the only way he can get the tea party vote is to buy it."

Today, Bachmann went on "John King, USA" on CNN and said Donehue would have to speak for himself, but she's "been hearing this all across the country, that money is changing hands."

"And that's not how I do business," Bachmann said. "In fact, I've told people, I've told evangelicals, I've told tea partiers, I don't pay people to come out and be my supporters, that's not what I do. When we have tea party groups and all of the rest, I don't do that because I'm just a real person."

Bachmann's national spokeswoman, Alice Stewart, told ABC News tonight that Bachmann only has Tea Party members who volunteer, unlike the Gingrich campaign.

"Donehue said he's paying a lot people for their help and support on a campaign, but he wasn't accusing him of doing anything illegal," Stewart said.

Tonight, the Gingrich campaign lashed back at Bachmann implying Gingrich pays for his support, saying that Bachmann is suggesting Tea Party members can be bought.

"We're not sure about the strategy of other campaigns, but we know our campaign and our effort to court Tea Party members to come be part of it is first not to challenge their character," said R.C. Hammond, spokesman for the Gingrich campaign.

A strong endorser of the Gingrich campaign and former chairman of the Columbia Tea Party, Allen Olsen told the Free Times last month that he was not paid to endorse Gingrich.

"I endorsed him and did not receive cash," Olson told the Free Times.

Gingrich will campaign in South Carolina next Friday.