Peter Waldron, an evangelical activist and former contributor to Representative Michele Bachmann’s (R-MN) presidential campaign in 2012, released an e-book last month about his former boss. Bachmannistan is Waldron’s account of what it’s really like to work for the Tea Party favorite, and what actually happened when she allegedly failed to pay campaign staff while some of her closest advisors were cashing $40,000 checks. Bachmann’s failure to compensate staff, yet pay Iowa State Senator Kent Sorenson (R) in the buildup to the 2012 Iowa Caucus, was originally uncovered by Waldron, who reported it to the Minneapolis StarTribune. The incident is now the center of a criminal investigation by the FBI. Bachmann’s staffers have denied Waldron’s allegations, and referred to Bachmannistan as “a reprehensible piece of fiction.“
Waldron is a controversial figure himself. In 2006, he was arrested by Ugandan authorities for terrorism along with six Ugandan and Congolese nationals and held in prison for 37 days, where he claims he was tortured. Waldron was released and deported from Uganda after the charges were dropped in March of 2006 after his friends and colleagues petitioned the U.S. government to intervene and the Ugandan government to pardon him. Waldron claims the Bush administration intervened on his behalf to secure his release.
You purchase an e-book copy of Bachmannistan here.
Rachel Maddow, incontestably every conservative’s favorite person on MSNBC, said on her show in mid-August 2013, that the Ames Straw Poll was a “scam.” Usually, though, scams aren’t known in advance and they leave people without that which they thought they were getting.
The Ames Straw Poll might be more accurately described as a carnival: a garish midway bordered by lots of acts, each stranger than the last.
The straw poll functions as a gigantic fundraiser for the republican and democratic state parties by simply selling tickets which then—and only then—allows an individual to vote. To this extent, cheerfully buying & selling votes, Maddow isn’t wrong to use the word scam. It’s just that it’s so much more!
In fact, the land on which the straw poll takes place is blocked out and sold in parcels to the highest bidder. Those parcels close to the center of the action are perceived as the best and consequently fetch the highest price. Those further away, meh.
On June 23, 2010, this “land auction” took place in the Iowa Republican Party Headquarters. Creepy is a good word to describe the place because the building used to be a funeral home. And no, you really can’t make this stuff up. One wag said that it might as well have looked like how “The Simpsons” portrays the Republican Party: a dark, haunted castle-like place, full of foreboding, replete with thunder and lightening [sic].
Worse, the auction meeting took place in what used to be the main viewing room of the former funeral parlor. The party offices themselves were downstairs in what used to be embalming rooms. It’s a wonder Republicans win anything anywhere.
Maddow might be floored to learn that not only are the tickets, which function as ballots, sold openly, not only are the parcels of land closest to the Hilton coliseum sold at auction, but so is the speaking order of the candidates at the main event on the big day. Doubtless if organizers of the event could have found a way to sell off air and gravity, they would have.
The land auction was held around a horseshoe shaped table. Most everyone knew each other but a few did not. Oleaginous state Senator Kent Sorenson made the few requisite introductions for those who needed them.
One Bachmann for President hire sat on the Iowa Republican State Central Committee, which proved most helpful in keeping both Sarah Palin and Rick Perry off of the straw poll ballot. Flyover land operates by the same political principles as DC only with worse food.
The campaign representative for Newt Gingrich cheerfully told the assembled operatives that he would be observing the process but not actually bidding on any of the auction items. “We’re broke,” he explained, saying nothing that the others didn’t already know.
A moment of silence and then someone asked “Need a job?”
The room filled with laughter, informed by the knowledge of those chortling that it could just as well have been their candidate who was broke, such are the vagaries of politics.
One participant, however, would not identify the campaign she represented, although she readily gave out her own name. This proved so disconcerting to the others that a walk out was promptly engineered. The Bachmann, Pawlenty, and Santorum campaign representatives all agreed to boycott the auction process if the identity of the mystery campaign in question was not disclosed.
“Money talks and it’s persuasive,” Elvis Costello has famously sung. The Executive Director of the Iowa Republican Party was not about to see it walk out the funeral home doors. Some observers believe that the Ames Straw Poll is so lucrative that it funds the party for an entire year.
Disaster was averted when the hapless woman was forced to bleat out that she was present on behalf of the Thaddeus McCotter campaign. The urge by the others in attendance to snicker out loud was suppressed with effort.
Initial bidding for the prime piece of land was set by the party at $15,000, no negotiating on that point possible. This particular piece of land was the easiest for getting into and out of Ames and was closest to the coliseum.
The Bachmann representative did not want to spend more than $25,000 for the choicest spot. He eventually went to $30,000 but only to make a point that if he couldn’t have it, it wasn’t going to go cheap.
The Ron Paul campaign ended up the successful bidder at $32,000 because apparently liberty demanded it. It would later be learned that the Ron Paul campaign would buy a sitting Iowa Senator, Mr. Oleaginous, for the cool sum of $100,000 plus. It was while she reported on this startling revelation of corruption that the plucky Rachel Maddow opined that the Ames Straw Poll was a “scam.”
The Bachmann campaign ended up with the next best parcel of land, outbidding the Pawlenty people. Foreshadowing his own fortunes in the poll, Pawlenty ended up with the worst spot. He came in last in the poll and dropped out of the presidential race altogether the next day…
The auction concluded on an up note with attendees eager to get back to preparing for the straw poll that would be over in less than two months. All that was missing from this tableau was Mr. Burns rubbing his hands together and exclaiming “Excellent!”
If you enjoyed this excerpt, you can purchase the full book here.
Excerpted with permission from Bachmannistan: Behind The Lines by Peter Waldron and John Gilmore. Copyright © 2013. Excerpted from Chapter Five: The Ames Straw Poll: What Rachel Maddow Doesn’t Know.