WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s former chief of staff, GOP operative Andy Parrish, stated in a signed affidavit Monday that the Minnesota Republican approved payments made to a top aide who was barred by Iowa Senate ethics rules from accepting money for his work on her presidential campaign.
The suspected payments to Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson, first alleged in a Federal Election Commission (FEC) complaint filed by campaign whistleblower Peter Waldron, are now the subject of an inquiry by the Iowa Senate Ethics Committee.
Sorenson or his company, Grassroots Strategy, allegedly were paid $7,500 a month through C&M Strategies, a Colorado-based company run by Bachmann fundraiser Guy Short, who was serving as the campaign’s national political director.
“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.”
Sorensen, who switched allegiances from Bachmann to Ron Paul days before the 2012 Iowa caucuses, has called the payment allegations “totally baseless.”
Parrish, a close Bachmann aide who worked in her congressional office and on her presidential bid, said he was instrumental in recruiting Sorenson, a Tea Party figure who served as the chairman of Bachmann’s Iowa campaign.
Bachmann’s campaign acknowledged the restrictions Sorenson faced in an October 27, 2011, press release, two months before the Iowa Caucuses, where she finished sixth and dropped out: “Sorenson is serving in a full-time role but state Senate rules preclude lawmakers from being paid by the campaign.”
But according to Parrish, Sorenson was instead paid indirectly through C&M Strategies. Such an arrangement could potentially skirt Iowa ethics rules designed to avoid conflicts of interest between state officials and candidates in the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.
Short is also the subject of an FEC inquiry because he was being paid by Bachmann’s independent political organization, MichelePAC, at the same time that he was working on her presidential campaign, a potential violation of federal election rules.
Attorneys for Short and the Bachmann campaign say his work for Michele PAC, which paid him $40,000 in the months preceding and after the caucuses, was separate from his campaign work.
The alleged financial improprieties are the subject of a separate inquiry by the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, which is also looking into whether the campaign improperly helped promote Bachmann’s political memoir, Core of Conviction.
The investigations are part of a growing web of legal problems facing Bachmann, including a lawsuit by former staffer Barbara Heki alleging that Sorenson stole a proprietary e-mail list of Iowa home-school families from her personal computer. Those allegations also are the subject of an ongoing police investigation in Urbandale, Iowa.
Here is the affidavit: