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Bachmann campaign's use of contact list comes under more fire

Charlie Neibergall / AP file

U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks at a rally by home-school advocates in March 2011 at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa.

Eight months after Michele Bachmann's 2012 presidential bid ground to a halt in Iowa, her campaign manager there signed a sworn affidavit, pointing his finger at another top staffer in a still-simmering dispute over the misuse of a contact list of home-school family names.

The Sept. 4 affidavit – first reported by the Iowa Republican and obtained Friday by NBC News – was written by Bachmann's Iowa adviser Eric Woolson, and accuses former State Sen. Kent Sorenson of stealing the list from another Bachmann staffer.  Sorenson was the campaign’s state chairman at the time.

"We took it," Woolson says Sorenson told him.

The list was the at the center of a flap late in Bachmann's presidential run, when a powerful Iowa home-school network called “NICHE” complained that its collection of contacts for thousands of home-school families had been mined by the campaign and used to expand its fundraising.

At the time, the campaign called the emails a "mistake."  The campaign agreed to pay NICHE, a 501c3 nonprofit, several thousand dollars in order to keep the group compliant with federal elections law.

But in his affidavit, Woolson says he approached Sorenson on the same day the fundraising emails were sent, and was told the list had been stolen. 

 "Kent smiled at me and said, 'Do you want to know how it happened?'" Woolson writes, adding:

I said, "No," and tried to back out of his office. 

Kent said, "We took it."  Kent said they weren't getting anything from Barb (Heki), so when she stepped out of the office they took it.

Kent said, "We stood watch."

Woolson appears to corroborate the account of the alleged victim, Barb Heki, who last summer filed a lawsuit against Bachmann and other high-ranking staff, including Sorenson and Woolson. 

Heki, who was the campaign's Homeschool Coalitions Director and a NICHE member, says she was unjustly blamed for leaking the list and that she and her husband later lost their seats on the group's board.  Heki alleged senior staff was aware of what Sorenson had done but allowed her reputation to suffer.

Sorenson has long denied taking the list, saying he helped negotiate the solution with NICHE.

"Nothing new here," he said over text message Friday.  "Same story being recycled."

Sorenson later bolted Bachmann's campaign for the Ron Paul team – a high-profile defection that helped cripple her campaign days before the caucuses.

Lawyers for the Bachmann campaign have also disputed Heki's claims. 

A court filing this summer called the case a “broad brush, shotgun approach” that “fails to inform Michele Bachmann… and the other named defendants (other than perhaps Kent Sorenson) what they did wrong.” 

A Polk County Judge on Jan. 30 denied the defendants' motion to dismiss the suit.

In his affidavit, Woolson says Heki ultimately learned details of the alleged theft from Bachmann herself, during a staff party the day after Bachmann quit the presidential race. 

"Barb approached me and said Michele Bachmann told her Kent Sorenson had taken the NICHE list and asked me if it was true," Woolson says.  "I nodded yes."

Bachmann's campaign lawyer and congressional office did not immediately respond to a request for a comment. 

Woolson's name was dropped from Heki's lawsuit sometime after he signed the affidavit.   He declined to comment for this story.

Bachmann dropped out of the presidential race one day after finishing last among the candidates competing in the Jan. 3, 2012, caucuses.

Follow Jamie Novogrod on Twitter at @JamieNBCNews.