Federal investigators are trying to determine if former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann's campaign staff coordinated strategy with an outside "super PAC" in violation of federal law.
The inquiry is the latest in a series of ethics probes into the Minnesota congresswoman's 2012 Republican campaign, reports The New York Times
, which reviewed a grand jury subpoena issued in the case.
Last week, the Department of Justice demanded records from the National Fiscal Conservative PAC, including reports on its finances and its communications with Bachmann, her husband Marcus Bachmann, and former staff members.
According to the Times, federal authorities appear to be pursuing a complaint from former Bachmann campaign staff member Peter Waldron to the Federal Election Commission and the FBI. In his complaint, Waldron said he overheard the president of the PAC ask Bachmann senior advisor Brett O'Donnell about buying ads on Des Moines radio and TV stations before the Jan. 3, 2012 Iowa caucus.
If it turns out the PAC coordinated the ad buys with the campaign it would be in violation of federal election law under some criteria, according to Paul S. Ryan, the senior counsel at the Independent Campaign Legal Center.
Waldron, who refers to himself as a whistleblower, also disclosed an email from Bachmann's husband that describes a phone call he made to a donor asking for $7,000, the Times noted. Bachmann wrote in the email that the donor agreed to send the money through the PAC. If true, the call may have violated a rule that prohibits campaign staff members from raising more than $5,000 for a PAC, Ryan said.
The conservative PAC did report receiving a $7,000 donation from August A. Busch III in December 2011, the Center for Responsive Politics reports.
Bill Hemrick, the president of the PAC, told the Times in an interview that he advised Bachmann's husband to call Busch. But he added that Waldron had actually called him first in search of money for the campaign.
The Bachmann camp has dismissed Waldron's complaints as those of a disgruntled and troubled former campaign worker, one that just last month wrote a critical e-book of her campaign called, "Bachmannistan: Behind the Lines."
Still, the federal inquiry comes at a time when Bachmann's presidential campaign is already the subject of a House Ethics Committee investigation
, which is looking at financing and whether her congressional staff may have been used to promote her campaign and her political biography.
Bachmann announced earlier this year that she will not seek re-election in 2014
, but denies that the inquiries into her presidential campaign had anything to do with her decision.
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