Former aide says Bachmann demanding staffers sign gag order for pay

7:26 AM, Jan 17, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON -- Rep. Michele Bachmann, who had more than $2 million in her congressional campaign account at the end of November, is embroiled in a dispute with a former presidential campaign aide over back pay of $916.

In what had been a private matter that has now become a nasty public squabble, Peter Waldron, who served as Bachmann for President national field coordinator, contends he is among five former Iowa staffers whom Bachmann has refused to pay unless they sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding campaign activity in Iowa.

Waldron, an evangelical activist, exposed the dispute in a Jan. 10 press release issued from his Tampa office. He said while Bachmann's campaign finance chairman James Pollack had promised payment several times, no payment ever came. He said he appealed to Bachmann and congressional staff to no avail.

"Recently, Mr. Pollack demanded that each unpaid staff member sign a non-disclosure agreement that prohibits any discussion of any criminal, moral (sic), and/or unethical behavior witnessed during Mrs. Bachmann's campaign in Iowa," Waldron said in the release. "In fact, Mr. Pollack insists that each staffer not speak to law enforcement and/or lawyers without first speaking with Mrs. Bachmann's attorneys."

Bachmann, R-Stillwater, is a defendant in a lawsuit filed last summer alleging that Bachmann's Iowa campaign chairman stole an email database belonging to The Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators.

Bachmann terminated her presidential campaign after finishing a distant fifth in the January 2012 Iowa caucuses, despite having won the Iowa Straw Poll the previous August. She won re-election to a fourth term in the House of Representatives in November.

James Pollack, Bachmann's campaign finance chairman, called Waldron's charges baseless. He said the campaign has paid off 90 percent of its outstanding debt, which was at $169,558 at the end of November, and the rest is being resolved.

"Mr. Waldron's presentation of the facts and related allegations are erroneous, inaccurate and meritless," Pollack said. "Why Mr. Waldron would attempt to disparage the congresswoman, the campaign or fellow campaign members can't be explained."

Waldron more recently has stepped up his attack on Bachmann. He told a BuzzFeed blogger that the congresswoman, had an "unnatural" and "Rasputin" type relationship with her presidential campaign debate coach, according to a Tuesday blog post.

Tera Dahl, Bachmann's personal assistant, called Waldron's accusations "blatantly false and absurd."

"As personal assistant . . . I was with her every single day during the campaign," Dahl said. "As an outside consultant, Peter Waldron spent very little to no time with us on the campaign trail. For Mr. Waldron to make these accusations is despicable, and I am disheartened that someone in Mr. Waldon's position would stoop to smearing Mrs. Bachmann's character in such a deceitful and dishonest way."

On Wednesday, Waldron said he had filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission, accusing Bachmann for President of campaign violations and extortion. The complaint alleges the Bachmann campaign attempted to hide payments of $7,500 a month to its Iowa campaign chairman and that there was illegal coordination between a Bachmann campaign staffer and an independent political action committee.

"Bachmann for President denies the allegations contained in the complaint filed with the FEC and intends to file an appropriate response," said William McGinley, a lawyer with Patton Boggs LLP. "We are confident this matter will be resolved in the campaign's favor."

Waldron, 65, who heads Vertical Horizons One Inc., said he has said nothing in public that he hasn't discussed privately with Bachmann and aides. Bachmann's post-campaign finance records show Waldron's company was owed $916.

Waldron said he had been content to continue pursuing payment through private channels until he was presented with the non-disclosure agreement in December and later learned that a top Bachmann aide had been paid $40,000 after asking others to sacrifice for the campaign.

"He pays himself $20,000 in December at the same time he's telling us to suck it up," Waldron said. "This non-disclosure agreement came out of nowhere. When they sent that to me, and I read it and realized they were trying to gag me, I said, 'That's it.'"

(Copyright 2013 Gannett Washington Bureau. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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