Two former high-level aides to Michele Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign are fighting back against what they say is an ongoing attempt by another former staffer to smear the Minnesota congresswoman’s reputation.
On Friday, The Daily Caller reported that Peter Waldron, Bachmann’s former director of evangelical outreach in Iowa, published a press release that accused the campaign of failing to pay five staffers unless they agreed to sign unreasonable nondisclosure agreements.
The nondisclosure agreements, Waldron said, “came out of left field” and required the campaign workers to keep quiet about any “criminal, moral, and/or unethical behavior witnessed during Mrs. Bachmann’s campaign in Iowa.” (RELATED: Bachmann faith outreach coordinator slams campaign for breaking “moral obligation” to staffers)
In the press release, Waldron also accused Bachmann of “betray[ing] her testimony to the Lord” and mentioned that the campaign is under investigation by the Urbandale, Iowa police department because of the alleged “theft of confidential data from a staff member’s personal laptop computer and cover-up of the theft” by the presidential campaign.
But Eric Woolson, who led communications for Bachmann in Iowa from Oct. 27, 2011 until the caucuses, and worked next door to Waldron during that period, told TheDC that all of the allegations are “absolutely ridiculous.”
Woolson acknowledged that Bachmann staffers were asked to sign what he called “pretty common” nondisclosure agreements, which prevented them from divulging proprietary campaign information like mailing lists and research. But he denied that they prohibited staffers from talking about anything unethical or illegal they saw during the campaign.
“No one is ever going to write a nondisclosure that says, ‘You promise not to discuss any criminal activity,’ Woolson said. “That wouldn’t make any sense. … It’s just ridiculous on the face of it. It would be absolutely ridiculous to suggest any attorney in the country would write any nondisclosure that would contain something like that in it.”
Waldron and at least one other staffer refused to sign the agreements, despite Campaign Finance Chairman James Pollak’s repeated efforts to resolve their concerns, Woolson said.
In his press release, Waldron condemned Pollak for “[breaking] every promise made to me to pay the staff.”
“I have worked Jim throughout this process, and he has done everything for me and other staffers he said he was going to do,” Woolson said. “He has kept his word to me and other staffers in every instance.”
In a statement to TheDC, Pollak refused Waldron’s accusations, calling them “false, inaccurate, and misleading.”
“Why Mr. Waldron would be motivated to attempt to disparage the congresswoman, the campaign, or fellow campaign members, I can’t explain,” he said. “Mrs. Bachmann has paid off in excess of 90 percent of her presidential campaign debt, and we look forward to accurately resolving any residual outstanding campaign debt in the very near future.”
And the theft of information from a campaign laptop was a local issue that didn’t even involve the national staff, Woolson added.
“It’s been 14 months since that local issue took place,” he said. “That happened in the Iowa office. If Peter Waldron wanted to talk to the authorities about it, my understanding is he could have picked up the phone and called them. The Urbandale Police Department is on the Internet, in the phone book, and is available through directory assistance.”
Woolson, who now works with a Christian nonprofit, declined to speculate about why Waldron wrote the press release more than a year after the end of Bachmann’s presidential campaign. He also said he did not notice anything particularly unusual about Waldron during his time with the campaign that suggested he would later turn on Bachmann.
Waldron noted in the release that, as of November, Bachmann’s congressional war chest is now large enough to comfortably pay off her presidential campaign’s outstanding debts.
“The thing that bothers me so much is that this a baffling attempt and oddly timed event to hurt Mrs. Bachmann’s reputation,” Woolson said. “The Iowa staff has been paid. Anyone that followed the proper procedure has been paid. … What he’s saying isnt’ true,” Woolson said.
“I don’t understand his motivation. We’re a small staff, and saying the staff hasn’t been paid is untrue,” he added.
The Christian Newswire release links to Waldron’s personal website, which raises money for a planned film about his brief arrest and detention on terrorism and gun charges in Uganda.
Waldron has not responded to TheDC’s emailed request for comment.