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Former Bachmann staffer sues campaign

A former staffer for Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign filed suit Monday against Bachmann and her senior campaign staff, alleging emotional distress and a damaged reputation during the run-up to the Iowa caucuses.

The staffer, Barb Heki, who was the campaign’s Homeschool Coalitions Director, says she was unjustly blamed during a flap last fall over the use of a list of thousands of homeschool families for campaign e-mails. Heki, based in Johnston, Iowa, says she and her husband lost their seats on the board of the Iowa homeschool network "NICHE" shortly afterward.

“The Plaintiffs have been isolated and expelled from their professional, social, political, and spiritual lives and careers, in Iowa and nationally,” said the petition, filed in Polk County District Court in Des Moines.

Read the lawsuit here (.pdf)

Heki alleges that Iowa State Sen. Kent Sorenson, then the campaign’s Iowa chairman, took the list from her computer. 

Also named in the petition are campaign manager Keith Nahigian and other senior staff, who Heki says were aware of what Sorenson had done but nevertheless allowed her reputation to suffer.

Reached by phone late Sunday, Sorenson denied taking the homeschool list.

“No, I did not,” Sorenson said, adding that he dealt extensively with NICHE in the aftermath to rectify things.

The Bachmann campaign paid NICHE, a 501c3 nonprofit, several thousand dollars in order to keep the group compliant with federal elections law prohibiting political activity.

Nahigian also released a statement on Dec. 1, noting the campaign “regrets any inconvenience this mistake may have caused.”

Nahigian was not available for comment Monday.

In an telephone interview, Heki said her “whole life and reputation was destroyed” by the events. But, she said, she still supports Michele Bachmann’s conservative platform, and she won’t vote for Mitt Romney for president in November.

Bachmann is currently facing a tough reelection fight in Minnesota’s 6th district.

“We need her in Congress,” Heki said.

Bachmann dropped out of the Republican presidential race on Jan. 4, after finishing last among the candidates competing in the Iowa caucuses.