Bachmann still hasn't paid presidential campaign staffers

Five Iowa staffers say they've refuse to sign a gag order the campaign demands (updated: Bachmann official denies)

Published January 11, 2013 12:55AM (EST)

Michele Bachmann
Michele Bachmann

Over a year after she dropped out, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann has refused to pay five staffers from her failed presidential bid, according to a former top campaign official. Peter Waldron, her controversial former national field coordinator, told Salon the dispute started when former Iowa straw poll staffers refused to sign a nondisclosure agreement that would bar them from discussing any "unethical, immoral, or criminal activity" they witnessed on the campaign with police or reporters.

Waldron said the staffers are owed a mere $5,000, and that Bachmann has more than $2 million in her campaign account, but has refused to pay unless the staffers sign the agreement. Negotiations over payment with Bachmann Finance Chairman James Pollack eventually broke down and Waldron decided to go public with the news, posting a press release on Christian Newswire this evening.

"I feel a moral obligation to see that my Christian brothers and sisters are paid for worked performed in good faith. I've continually communicated by telephone and email with Mr. Pollack for 1 year but he broke every promise made to me to pay the staff. I appealed to Dr. [Marcus] Bachmann for help. I appealed to Representative Bachmann's Chief of Staff Robert Boland to intercede with Mrs. Bachmann on behalf of her loyal Iowa staff -- all of whom are married, all have children,” Waldron said in the press release.

"It is sobering to think that a Christian member of Congress would betray her testimony to the Lord and the public by withholding earned wages from deserving staff," Waldron added.

Reached by phone, Waldron confirmed the details and said the nondisclosure agreement stems from the campaign’s alleged misuse of an email list. A home-schooling group accused the Bachmann campaign of stealing the list, which was contained on a volunteer's laptop, and then using it to fundraise for the campaign. The home-schooling group has sued the campaign and Waldron said there is also a criminal investigation pending, explaining that he spoke with police about the incident “several times.”

“They wanted us to have no further conversation [with police] without first notifying Michele’s attorneys, and we just refused,” he told Salon. “We’ve been lied to at every turn.”

“This story is important. I’ve got five soldiers, as it were, five men who are willing to stand and not capitulate to this unnatural pressure that is coming from the Bachmann campaign. It’s just immoral what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to shut us up. You want to get paid? You gotta sign this agreement and not talk to either the police or lawyers,” he continued.

Bachmann’s campaign was marked by poor management. At one point in October of 2011, her entire New Hampshire staff quit en masse, in part because of a lack of payment. Waldron was brought on in July of 2011 by former campaign manager Ed Rollins, who quickly left the campaign and later publicly attacked his former candidate. Waldron said he’s known Rollins since the late 1980s and “made a tactical error in sticking with the campaign” after his boss left.

UPDATE: In an email to Salon, Pollack calls Waldron's charges about the non-payment "false and inaccurate," but doesn't specifically address the non-disclosure agreement. His statement in full follows, and we will have more on this in the coming days:

Mr Waldren's presentation of the facts and related allegations are false and inaccurate. Why Mr Waldren would be motivated to attempt to disparage the Congresswoman, the campaign, or fellow campaign members I can't explain.
All Bachmann campaign debt is accurately reflected in the FEC filings of Bachmann for President.  As of today, there is but one Iowa consulting firm having only their last invoice outstanding for $3000. We have been in communication and anticipate bringing resolution to this invoice shortly. There are two Iowa consultants who recently submitted invoices to us, over eleven months after the campaign concluded, each of which are significantly under a $1000 dollars. We are in the process of resolving these as well. It should be noted the Presidential Campaign suspended all activity on January 4th, 2012, so any claims for compensation  thru the month of January 2012 are erroneous.
Mrs. Bachmann has paid off in excess of 90% of her Presidential Campaign debt, and we look forward to accurately resolving any residual outstanding campaign debt in the very near future

By Alex Seitz-Wald

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Election 2012 Michele Bachmann Tea Party