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Former Bachmann staffers call national campaign staff "rude, unprofessional"

Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011.
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann's former New Hampshire campaign staff released a scathing statement today that cited a lack of support and poor communications with the national team as reasons for the recent mass departure of five staffers. The statement paints a picture of dysfunction in the candidate's presidential campaign and complains that her national operatives were hostile to not only Bachmann's Granite State staff but to prospective voters.

"The manner in which some in the national team conducted themselves towards Team-NH was rude, unprofessional, dishonest, and at times cruel," said the five former staff members in a joint news release on Monday. "But more concerning was how abrasive, discourteous, and dismissive some within the national team were towards many New Hampshire citizens. These are our neighbors and our friends, and some within the national team treated them more as a nuisance than as potential supporters."

Bachmann had a paid staff of five people in New Hampshire: Campaign Manager Jeff Chidester, Caroline Gilger, Tom Lukacz, Nicole Yurek, and Mattheau LeDuc. Gilger, who was the state's southern field director, confirmed on Friday that she would be joining Gov. Rick Perry's campaign. In their statement, the staff members said they were asked to "go off payroll" in mid-September and all were hoping to join the campaigns of Bachman's rivals for the Republican nomination.

Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart told a National Journal/CBS News reporter that the Minnesota Republican's national staff has been trying to get in touch with the former New Hampshire staffers to discuss their grievances, without success. Stewart said that while it was hard to fully comment without being able to communicate with the staff, "At the end of the day, what's going on in New Hampshire is not going to change our strategy, which we've had from day one. Iowa is the top priority... Staffers come and go every single day."

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Over the weekend, Stewart said that the national team was taken by surprise by the New Hampshire resignations, and only learned about them on Friday through media outlets. She acknowledged that there was some frustration stemming from the candidate's lack of presence in their state.

Sent on "Team NH - Bachmann for President" letterhead, the staff's statement is remarkably frank and public. Such insider battles usually play out behind the scenes. "It saddens this team to see a dedicated patriot - a person so desperately needed in the White House - sequestered behind a wall of pretense, guarded by political operatives consumed by their own egos," the staffers wrote.

They claimed that problems with the national team stretched back to June, when Bachmann announced her candidacy for president and hired several national GOP heavy-hitters, including Campaign Manager Ed Rollins, pollster Ed Goeas, and adviser Brett O'Donnell. Rollins and Goeas have since left the campaign and former top advance man Keith Nahigian took over in early September as campaign manager.

Chidester said in an interview that the national team did not communicate their intentions to shift resources away from New Hampshire as time went on. He said he was surprised that the congresswoman's senior staffers were unaware of the departures. He said that on Oct. 13 he emailed "someone extremely close to Michele" about his resignation.

According to the staff's statement, some New Hampshire aides then reached out to senior staffers expressing a desire to remain with the campaign if improvements were made, but when they heard nothing back, decided to resign.

"The NH Team didn't want to leave the campaign, but it should be clear the entire NH team has departed," the release stated. "The team holds no ill will towards the candidate, but (no) longer feels relevant based on their poor relationship with the national team."

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