Congressional ethics panel looking into Bachmann presidential campaign

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The Office of Congressional Ethics is looking into allegations that Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign made under-the-table payments to key staffers.

ABC reports staff members have been questioned by investigators. They didn't disclose specifics of their interviews but allegations of improper payments to Bachmann's national political director and Iowa campaign chairman date back to last year.

The Office of Congressional Ethics is an independent panel created by the House five years ago. It conducts preliminary investigations and can dismiss allegations or refer cases to the House Ethics Committee.

News that the office is looking into Bachmann's campaign for the 2012 presidential nomination first came from the Daily Beast. The website portrays Bachmann as a former Republican rising star who has fallen hard, calling her presidential campaign a disaster and writing that she's now embroiled in a litany of legal proceedings.

As the Star Tribune reports, those proceedings include a complaint with the Federal Election Commission over the same allegations the Office of Congressional Ethics is apparently asking about. In addition, allegations that the Bachmann campaign stole an e-mail list of home schooled families in Iowa have generated a criminal investigation and a lawsuit.

A lawyer for Bachmann issued a statement saying there are no allegations the Congresswoman engaged in any wrongdoing. Attorney William McGinley also expresses confidence the OCE will find Bachmann did nothing inappropriate.

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