DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa campaign aide for former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann sued the Minnesota congresswoman and her senior campaign aides on Monday, alleging an official stole a private email list and that she was blamed for its use.
The lawsuit filed by Barb Heki claims that Bachmann's Iowa campaign chairman, state Sen. Kent Sorenson, took the list from Heki's private computer to promote Bachmann's candidacy among Christian home-school advocates before the Iowa caucuses. Heki was hired to coordinate home-school supporters for Bachmann's Iowa campaign.
Phone messages left for Bachmann and Sorenson, of Indianola, weren't immediately returned Monday. The lawsuit was filed in Polk County District Court.
Christian home-school advocates have become a sought-after constituency in GOP presidential caucuses. Heki had been a board member for the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators for 10 years, and had worked as a top home-school volunteer for Republican Mike Huckabee's winning Iowa caucus campaign in 2008.
Heki, who lives in Johnston, claims in the lawsuit that Sorenson took a database from her private computer in November that contained names and contact information, including email addresses, of thousands of Iowa families who were part of the Iowa home-school network on whose board she served. Heki said she had told Sorenson months earlier that she would not provide the list to the campaign.
When an email from the campaign was sent to members of the network in November, Heki was named in media reports as providing the list. She was later removed from the boards of the Iowa network and a related national network of home-school advocates on which she served.
"It's been the most devastating thing that's happened to me in my whole life," Heki told The Associated Press on Monday.
Bachmann won the Iowa Republican Party's presidential straw poll in August in part by appealing to Christian home-school advocates. But her campaign struggled to maintain its momentum into the fall. Sorenson quit Bachmann's campaign the eve of the Jan. 3 caucuses. Bachmann finished a disappointing fifth in the caucuses, the leadoff contest of the 2012 GOP presidential campaign, and quit the race the following day.
Also named in the lawsuit are four other top aides whom Heki claims knew of the alleged theft and tried to conceal it.