News media are turning an ethics dispute between the Iowa Senate and one of its members into a story that is “wrong, reckless, and outrageous,” according to a statement released by counsel for U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
A Seattle newspaper headlined its story “Affidavit: Bachmann approved pay for Iowa senator,” but a statement from William McGinley, Bachmann’s counsel, today said there was nothing that happened that was wrong under federal law.
The dispute arose over a claim that an Iowa state senator was paid to work on Bachmann’s 2012 presidential election campaign. The charges, and refutations, both come from different members of the team that supported Bachmann in the race.
“The way the media is portraying this story is wrong, reckless, and outrageous. The affidavit by a former employee in fact confirms that Congresswoman Bachmann followed all applicable laws and ethical rules and instructed those working for her to do the same,” the statement.
“The alleged arrangement at issue was both lawful and properly reported under federal law. This dispute is between the Iowa Senate and an Iowa senator: it has nothing whatsoever to do with Congresswoman Bachmann or her political committees,” the statement continued.
“For anyone to suggest otherwise is both dishonest and reprehensible.”
An affidavit released Monday by Andy Parrish, who was Bachmann’s chief of staff and then served on her Iowa campaign, alleges the congresswoman “approved a plan to indirectly pay an Iowa state senator to work on her 2012 campaign.”
Parrish claims he recruited Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Milo, to work on the campaign and arrangements were made for him to be paid.
In the affidavit Parrish writes, “I never saw, nor had the occasion to see, any contract, checks or other documents reflecting this relationship (Sorenson’s pay through an intermediary company, C & M Strategies.)”
He also explained he considers Bachmann, a tea-party favorite who ran in the GOP primary as an advocate of conservative social and fiscal policies, a friend.
“She consistently instructed all who worked on her behalf to follow the law. This, of course, is as it should be but insinuations that somehow she cut corners or played fast and loose with respect to compensating Senator Sorenson are untrue to the best of my knowledge,” the document, dated April 22, said.
While Iowa Senate rules prohibit paid employment with political campaigns, the note from Bachmann’s counsel pointed out there was nothing that happened that violated federal law.
Parrish alleged in the affidavit he suggested the arrangement that a company run by a Bachmann advocate would pay Sorenson $7,500 a month, and that Bachmann approved the plan after Sorenson indicated the strategy did not violate Iowa Senate rules.
Sorenson’s reaction to the claim was that it was “the same regurgitated garbage that they have been claiming and I stand by my previous comments.”
When a former Bachmann aide, Peter Waldron, filed a complaint about the alleged payments, the Iowa Senate ethics panel started looking into the issue.
While an Iowa state Senate ethics panel could make action against a state senator, its reach would not include a member of Congress. Members of the state board also said earlier they would dismiss the complaint unless documentation that supported it was received.
Waldron also asked for an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics in the U.S. House, which is looking at whether there is a complaint.