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February 7th, 2013
 

Woolson Affidavit: Sorenson Admitted Taking NICHE List, Bachmann Campaign Knew

The Iowa campaign manager for Michele Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign testified in a sworn affidavit that Kent Sorenson admitted taking part in the theft of a contact list of homeschooling families from the computer of Barb Heki, another former Bachmann staffer. At the time of the alleged theft, Sorenson, a state senator, was the Iowa chairman for Bachmann’s campaign.

“We took it,” Eric Woolson quotes Sorenson saying on the day of the alleged theft. The sworn affidavit is signed by Woolson, dated September 4, 2012, and notarized. An affidavit is a written statement made under oath.

TheIowaRepublican.com viewed a copy of Eric Woolson’s sworn affidavit on Wednesday. In it, Woolson describes how he learned about the alleged theft and his subsequent discussions with Sorenson and national leaders of Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign. Woolson’s version of the events differs greatly from theirs.

The Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators (NICHE) list would be a prized possession for any presidential campaign. Homeschooling families overwhelmingly favor Republican candidates and provide ample organizational and volunteer support. However, use of the NICHE list for political purposes is in violation of federal law.

Barb Heki was a longtime board member for NICHE. She served as a field staffer on Bachmann’s presidential campaign. Following the alleged theft, the Bachmann campaign sent two mass emails to the NICHE list. Woolson states in his affidavit that he found out about the use of the list the same day the emails were sent, November 10, 2011:

 I went to Sen. Kent Sorenson’s office to tell him because he was the campaign’s state chair. Kent smiled at me and said, “Do you want to know how it happened?”

I said, “No,” and tried to back out of the office. Kent said they weren’t getting anything out of Barb (Heki), so when she stepped out of the office they took it.

Kent said, “We stood watch.”

Woolson then states in the affidavit that he notified Guy Short, the Bachmann campaign’s national political director, and Keith Nahigian, the national campaign manager, that Kent Sorenson had said he and others took the database from Heki’s computer.

Woolson testifies that the original draft of the campaign’s statement to the media regarding the use of the NICHE list included the word “accidentally”, which he objected to. That word does not appear in the version sent to the media. In a statement, Keith  Nahigian claimed the emails were “mistakenly” sent to the NICHE list.

A similar explanation was apparently relayed to NICHE. “We have been assured by the Bachmann Campaign that it was inadvertent,” NICHE President Justin LaVan stated in an email sent to the homeschooling families in November 2011.

LaVan also publicly made the connection between Barb Heki, NICHE and the Bachmann campaign. ABC News reported that LaVan told them Heki “was the only connection we can figure out”. He also speculated that Heki had “a computer with NICHE stuff and campaign stuff and somehow the files got mixed up.”

Shortly after TheIowaRepublican.com broke the story regarding the Bachmann campaign’s use of the NICHE list, and it became national news, Barb Heki and her husband Rich were removed from the NICHE board of directors. They had served on the board for more than 10 years.

Heki says she was not told how the list made it from her computer into a Bachmann email blast until the day the campaign ended. It was Congresswoman Michele Bachmann who informed her that Kent Sorenson had taken the list off her computer, Heki says.

“Michele (Bachmann) told me,” Heki said to TheIowaRepublican.com last July. “We had a private staff luncheon right after she left the race and she came up to me then and told me that she was told that Kent (Sorenson) did it. I was flabbergasted. When Michele and I got done talking, I walked straight over to Eric Woolson and asked him if it was true. He said, “Yes.”

Woolson writes in his sworn affidavit that he overheard Bachmann and Heki discussing the NICHE list at that January 4, 2012, luncheon. Woolson’s statement also confirms Heki’s claim that she asked him if Sorenson stole the list:

I nodded yes and told her I did not want to discuss the details at the luncheon. At a later date when she visited my office, I reconfirmed to her that Kent Sorenson had taken the list and shared a few more details.

Barb Heki has filed a lawsuit against State Senator Kent Sorenson, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Keith Nahigian, Guy Short and others involved in the Bachmann campaign. Heki claims they knew the truth about the alleged theft but let her take the fall for it. Eric Woolson was originally listed as one of the defendants, but has been removed from the suit. Heki says she has other witnesses to Sorenson’s alleged theft. Last week, the judge denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss the case.

Additionally, the Urbandale police department is investigating the alleged theft of the NICHE list from Heki’s computer. Police spokesman Randy Peterson told TheIowaRepublican.com on Wednesday that the investigation is still open and ongoing.

Eric Woolson would not discuss the affidavit or any other details of the case when TheIowaRepublican.com contacted him on Wednesday. However, he has been interviewed about the incident by the Urbandale P.D. Woolson told the Washington Post on January 10 that he “personally provided more information to the local investigator than anyone.”

Peter Waldron, another former staffer on Bachmann’s Iowa campaign, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission last month. Waldron alleges that the Bachmann campaign made improper payments to Kent Sorenson and Guy Short. Waldron would not comment for this article.

Sources tell TheIowaRepublican.com that a complaint against State Senator Kent Sorenson (R-Milo) has been filed with the Iowa Senate ethics committee. The details of that complaint have not been made public.

Sorenson has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com


About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for TheIowaRepublican.com.




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