by Eileen | 8:00 pm, January 17, 2013 | Comments Off
According to a complaint filed with the FEC by one of her former staffers, Michele Bachmann illegally funneled a small fortune to a Colorado-based consultant at a time when rank-and-file staffers were foregoing any pay at all, having been told the campaign was broke. (This is not, FYI, the first time Rep. Bachmann has dealt with charges of stiffing her staff.)
A secondary item on the complaint alleges that staffers who are already owed backpay have been told they won’t get anything until they sign NDAs, which would specifically ban them from discussing illegal activity they witnessed on the Bachmann campaign.
Sounds about right.
Peter Waldron, formally the National Field Director, was brought on board to use his brand as an Evangelist to reach out to fundamentalist and conservative Christians. He now says Rep. Bachmann illegally took money from her independent PAC to pay a fundraising consultant, Guy Short, who also runs C&M Strategies. C&M has been a steady beneficiary of Rep. Bachmann’s largesse since its 2010 inception, prior to which, Guy Short was on the Congresswoman’s staff. He bounced on over after losing his job as Marilyn Musgrave’s Chief of Staff, right around the time Marilyn Musgrave learned the hard way that winning campaigns requires actual work.
Between July and November of 2011, Mr. Short received $104,580, a tidy $20,916 a month. That came on top of the $5,000 base fee he was taking each month from MichelePAC – all told, $26,916 a month, more than some campaign staff might earn in a year, to deliver…well, we know how well Michele Bachmann did. Records show two additional $20,000 payments, both from the PAC, to Mr. Short on December 6, 2011 and again on January 3, 2012. The total? Just under $170,000.
You all know my feelings on overpaid consultants. There are people who can deliver $170,000 worth of value in half a year, but a sixth place caucus finish and an ignominious, early exit from the 2012 race hardly qualify.
The actual charges are what’s so worrying. Did Michele Bachmann lie to her staffers about her ability to pay them, getting free work while throwing money at her ‘consultant’? Was that consultant paid for campaign work with money siphoned away from the PAC? And did the Congresswoman threaten to withhold backpay unless staffers agreed to keep mum about fraud they witnessed?
(Given that the guy bills himself as a ‘fundraising consultant’, if he really can’t bring in enough money to pay the field staff, why should he take home anything at all?)
These are significant charges, to say the obvious thing. Some circumstances indicate the parties knew they were playing dirty. At the time when he was getting those $20,000 checks, Guy Short was representing himself as a volunteer. By itself, that’s dishonest. Coupled with the fact that most of the people still hanging on to the Bachmann campaign in late 2011 really were volunteering and that the people who were drawing a paycheck were being pressured to work without compensation or for delayed pay, it’s truly classless.
Mr. Short was being pressured to explain why he was getting PAC money when he was clearly working for the campaign as early as last March. His explanation strained credulity; he claimed to be volunteering for the campaign while working as a consultant for the PAC. By itself, that’s a problem. It’s just not believable that a man spending most of his time with a campaign operation while getting five figures a month from a PAC isn’t doing anything questionable. I think it’s fair to say that if you are getting money from the PAC and working on the campaign, you are, ipso facto, getting paid by the PAC to work on the campaign. It becomes an even greater reach when we consider that Guy Short’s title was National Political Director, hardly a volunteer position.
During his tenure as an official member of Rep. Bachmann’s House Staff, Mr. Short was one of several staffers to simultaneously draw a paycheck for his Congressional job and for his campaign work on the Congresswoman’s re-election efforts. That might sit uneasily with many, but is not strictly illegal. Taking pay from a PAC to work for a campaign is. So, has Michele Bachmann made the move from the merely unethical to the truly illegal?
Peter Waldron, who is bringing the complaint, was one of the staffers who agreed to forego pay, believing the campaign’s claims of financial straits. Rep. Bachmann and her people are largely keeping mum, not commenting at all on the pay issues and heaping praise on Guy Short, saying only that the NDAs are routine. The FEC is, for now, coy about the complaint.
Bank records should make short work of who was paid what from which account; that would at least settle the question of illegally paying campaign staff with PAC money, and the matter of how many people are owed backpay. The FEC complaint says half a dozen people are owed $5,000; the campaign admits to owing two people around $2,000. A copy of the NDA being passed around will also put to bed any he-said-she-said over the terms. My contract law is fuzzy, but I believe any confidentiality agreement that specifically tries to ban the witness to a crime from testifying is void on its face. Nor do I think NDAs can be used to silence witnesses in return for pay they are already owed. In fact, ‘promise you won’t talk about what you saw, or I’m stiffing you on work you already did’ is probably grounds for some sort of extortion charge.
For what it’s worth, though, the Minnesota Star Tribune claims to have seen the NDA and reports it does not say anything about staying silent on unethical and illegal behavior. They haven’t seen fit to post that document, that I know of.
Michelle Bachmann is already fighting one lawsuit related to the campaign’s use of a list they may not have had the rights to and is under criminal investigation for the same matter. At this point, she’s either the victim of an actual conspiracy or is dirty.
Frankly, the woman is a howling moonbat, tenuously held together by conspiracism and eye liner. She’s saddled with a reputation of screwing over her staff, playing games to barely get away with spending public money on private ends, and, perhaps worst of all, attending to hopeless fringe causes when she ought to be serving her constituents. It’s really hard to champion state’s rights, to press for smaller government, and to decry things like Obamacare as the unConstitutional jokes they are when the Michele Bachmann’s of the world keep interjecting their own crazy attention-whoring. Essentially, she’s a credibility drain. The left is having a field day with the latest allegations. GOP efforts fire low-level flunkies for a tenth of what the Congresswoman has already weathered, citing the appearance of impropriety and the supremacy of the campaign the any individual’s reputation or continued financial solvency. Clearly, that thinking is not applied to the better placed.
While that inconsistency has caused no end of harm to center-right causes, I have the gravest doubts of how fully, if at all, the powers that be have figured that out. The people who presided over the debacles that were our efforts in 2012 and 2008 promise that, given more time and money, they’ll get it right. Often, these are the very people who most emphatically do not merit the benefit of the doubt, especially when there are better candidates ready to go. For some of them, it’s not enough to recognize that there is a problem. They need to recognize that they are the problem.
But, we’re part of the problem, too. How was Rep. Bachmann able to convince staffers to work for free and buy her tales of a struggling campaign when she’d already tried that one months earlier in New Hampshire? And she is a sitting member of the U.S. House. As with so many other causes and candidates that aren’t worth supporting, we keep working for and voting for them. Inertia, incumbency bias, the devil you know, call it what you will. If we can’t find better replacements for many of the public faces of small government, we’re effectively asking to keep losing.
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