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Where Bachmann campaign probes stand after a busy week

There’s been a good amount of movement in the ethics investigations into Rep. Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign.

Rep. Michele Bachmann shown speaking during the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans in 2011.
REUTERS/Sean Gardner

There’s been a good amount of movement in the various ethics investigations into Rep. Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign this week, so let’s recap.

Here’s one potentially new detail right off the top: A source close to former advisers of the campaign has confirmed to MinnPost that the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) included in its investigation an Iowa woman who alleges campaign staffers stole and used an email list she maintained.

Barb Heki, a former outreach coordinator for the campaign, has sued Bachmann and former campaign staffers for the alleged theft of the email list, which Bachmann’s Iowa Chairman, state Sen. Kent Sorenson, is said to have taken and used without her permission. An Iowa police department is investigating the incident and Sorenson’s involvement is the subject of an Iowa Senate Ethics Committee inquiry.

OCE had originally been investigating allegations of potential under-the-table payments made to former staffers, but by talking to Heki, it seems to have expanded the inquiry, which is said to be its final days.

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Beyond that, the other news this week was the emergence of former Bachmann aide Andy Parrish as a witness in a related Iowa ethics case. Parrish’s attorney said he would submit an affidavit to the Iowa Senate ethics panel sometime next week corroborating claims that the Bachmann campaign paid Sorenson for his work, which may go against Iowa Senate ethics rules.

Parrish’s attorney, John Gilmore, has said the affidavit will likely indicate Bachmann knew about he payments, but, as he told the Des Moines Register, there is no evidence she knew they were against Iowa rules.

Gilmore maintains Parrish has no underlying political motivation in wading into the case. “He doesn’t have an ax to grind,” Gilmore said. “He wants to let the ethics committee know that a complaint made about the payment is valid.”

Sorenson and Bachmann have maintained that they did nothing wrong. In a statement, Bachmann’s attorney told MPR: “As we have previously stated, the campaign denies that it has engaged in any inappropriate activities. We are confident that any fair and objective review of the record will demonstrate that neither the campaign nor Congresswoman Bachmann engaged in any wrongdoing.”

Additionally, the Star Tribune reported this week that the OCE is interested in a book tour for Bachmann’s “Core of Conviction” memoir. According to the report, investigators are looking into whether Bachmann campaign staffers improperly helped promote the book through the campaign, which could violate election and House ethics rules.

Again, Bachmann officials say everything was above-board.