Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) campaign for president might be over, but the recriminations resulting therefrom are still reverberating in the Minnesota congresswoman's office. Along with accusations from disgruntled staffers, Bachmann has reportedly found herself at the center of an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, the same entity whose investigation eventually led to the censure of Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY).
The accusation? Misuse of campaign funds. Specifically, according to the Daily Beast:
Federal investigators are now interviewing former Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations. The investigators are working on behalf of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which probes reported improprieties by House members and their staffs and then can refer cases to the House Ethics Committee.[...]
Former staffers tell The Daily Beast that investigators have allegedly asked about allegations of improper transfer of funds and under-the-table payments actions by Bachmann’s presidential campaign, specifically in relation to the campaign’s national political director, Guy Short, and Bachmann’s onetime Iowa campaign chairman, state Sen. Kent Sorenson. Questions directly about Bachmann, they said, have been primarily focused on what she knew about those men’s actions and when she knew it.
Sorenson and Short did not return separate calls for comment.
Bachmann's office has not returned TheBlaze's calls for comment. However, Bachmann's campaign counsel, William McGinley of law firm Patton-Boggs, told the Washington Post that the allegations would end up being fruitless:
“There are no allegations that the Congresswoman engaged in any wrongdoing,” said her attorney, William McGinley of Patton Boggs. “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.”
The investigation may be connected to allegations by Bachmann's former national field director, evangelical leader Peter Waldron, who recently filed complaints suggesting that Bachmann had dipped into money from her organization MichelePAC to pay consultant Guy Short for presidential campaign advice. The Dayton Star Tribune explains:
Waldron, formerly Bachmann's national field coordinator, is accusing the campaign of improperly dipping into money from MichelePAC to pay longtime fundraising consultant Guy Short for presidential campaign work he performed in the critical final weeks ahead of Iowa's caucuses last year.
Waldron also alleges that the campaign concealed payments to Iowa state campaign chairman Kent Sorenson, a state senator who abruptly left the Bachmann camp to join then-U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's insurgent campaign. Under Iowa Senate rules, Waldron maintains, Sorenson could not perform paid work for a presidential campaign.[...]
FEC records show that the campaign paid Short more than $104,580 through his Colorado-based company, C&M Strategies, between July and November of 2011. At the same time, MichelePAC, the leadership organization that Short helped her start, was paying him an average of $5,000 a month.
Records show no payments from the campaign to Short or his company in the month leading up to the Jan. 3, 2012, Iowa caucuses, where Bachmann finished in sixth place.
Short, who had worked in Bachmann's congressional office and also on her 2012 congressional campaign, told campaign workers at the time that he was volunteering on the Bachmann presidential campaign. Others were asked to do the same as the campaign limped through the final days of the Iowa caucuses.
But the FEC records show that MichelePAC made two separate $20,000 payments to Short on Dec. 6 and Jan. 3, a time when he was supervising operations for the Iowa campaign as Bachmann's national political director, which is not typically a volunteer position.
The investigation is another in a long line of recent accusations against the congresswoman (The Daily Beast notes accusations of poor research and overreliance on questionable sources). If it turns up any wrongdoing -- whether intentional or not -- it could end up hurting the Tea Party darling. On the other hand, if the investigation turns up nothing, Bachmann may be able to trumpet a victory and could see her stock rise yet again.