Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., has brought in a new treasurer for her congressional campaign and leadership political action committee in the wake of a federal grand jury probe, a potential House Ethics investigation and a possible inquiry from the Federal Election Commission.
Nancy Watkins, a well-known campaign finance treasurer in GOP circles, submitted paperwork a few weeks ago naming her the new treasurer of both campaign accounts for the Minnesota Republican. Watkins is still the treasurer for Bachmann's failed 2011 presidential bid, and despite allegations of impropriety surrounding that campaign, Watkins' stewardship of that account has not been questioned.
“She is a fixer, in terms of coming in and cleaning-up the mess that other people left behind,” said Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer at Arent Fox.
Kappel described Watkins as a “total straight arrow” who has been asked by other troubled GOP campaign committees to “clean up the books.”
Former Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., brought Watkins in to help him fix his reporting lapses. He ended up paying the FEC a hefty $99,000 fine.
Former Arizona GOP Rep. Rick Renzi also hired Watkins to help him deal with FEC violations. He paid a $25,000 fine. Earlier this year, Renzi was found guilty of 17 felonies connected to a land-swap deal, including conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering.
Like others before her, Bachmann appears to face some potential legal troubles. An Office of Congressional Ethics report released Wednesday said there was "substantial reason" to believe that Bachmann authorized or failed to prevent illegal contributions between her campaign committees, and that she improperly mixed promotion of her book, "Core of Conviction," with her presidential campaign activities.
In particular, Bachmann is accused of using her leadership PAC, Michele PAC, to subsidize her presidential campaign activities, particularly when it came to paying Guy Short, the director of the leadership PAC.
The OCE explained in its summary:
During the course of the presidential campaign, Mr. Short was compensated by both Representative Bachmann’s leadership PAC and her presidential campaign. Funds from the leadership PAC may have been used to subsidize her presidential campaign.Minneapolis Star Tribune
After Representative Bachmann launched her presidential campaign, Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson was named as her campaign’s Iowa State Chairman. Mr. Short and other consultants to Representative Bachmann’s presidential campaign may have arranged to compensate Senator Sorenson for his service to her campaign by directing payments to Senator Sorenson through Mr. Short’s consulting firm.
During Representative Bachmann’s presidential campaign, she engaged in a series of promotional activities for her book, Core of Conviction, including a multi-stop book tour organized and paid for by the book’s publisher. Representative Bachmann may have used funds from her presidential campaign to promote her book, and may have used book promotional activities paid for by the publisher to promote her presidential campaign.
"The panel’s decision comes less than a week after revelations of a federal grand jury probe of top Bachmann campaign operatives, including Bachmann’s husband, Marcus. Among the records being subpoenaed by the U.S. Justice Department are financial registers of the National Fiscal Conservative (NFC) Political Action Committee, which allegedly agreed to help raise funds for a campaign mailer ahead of the Iowa caucuses.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) also has been brought allegations of illegal coordination between the Bachmann campaign and the [National Fiscal Conservative] PAC, as well as with Bachmann’s own political action committee, MichelePAC."