WASHINGTON — A congressional ethics panel is investigating Rep. Michele Bachmann and former presidential campaign staffers for potential campaign finance violations, according to her lawyer and former staffers.
The Office of Congressional Ethics investigation centers on alleged improper payments from the Bachmann campaign to one of her chief political advisers, according to the Daily Beast, which first reported the investigation.
“There are no allegations that the Congresswoman engaged in any wrongdoing,” Bachmann campaign counsel William McGinley said 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.”
According to the Daily Beast:
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.
The investigation appears similar to allegations leveled against the campaign by former staffer Peter Waldron, who filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission in January saying Bachmann’s political action committee, MichelePAC, made improper payments to Short through his fundraising company.
According to Waldron’s complaint, the Bachmann campaign paid Sorenson a $7,500-a-month salary through Short’s C&M Strategies fundraising company. He also alleges Short himself got a $20,000 payment through MichelePAC — an organization Short helped found — in December 2011, the month before Bachmann quit the presidential race.
The Bachmann campaign and its staffers have denied wrongdoing.
Waldron said Monday that federal officials had questioned him in connection with their investigation.
Legal issues have followed former Bachmann staffers since she ended her campaign. Waldron says the campaign has refused to pay a group of staffers their remaining salaries because they won’t sign a non-disclosure form with the campaign. And a former staffer is suing the campaign, alleging staffers stole and used an outside group’s fundraising list without permission (the Iowa Senate launched an investigation of Sorenson’s involvement in the matter, and a criminal investigation is underway). Bachmann officials have said none of it is true.
The OCE conducts preliminary investigations into possible ethics violations by House members and determines whether to refer them to the full House Ethics Committee for further action. If the complaint is passed on to the Ethics Committee, it becomes public.
An OCE spokesman wouldn’t discuss the case on Monday, but the Daily Beast reported the OCE investigation is “now in its final, 45-day period before OCE makes its determination about whether to recommend that the Ethics Committee pursue the investigation.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.