South Carolina tea party supporters are denying suggestions by aides of Rep. Michele Bachmann that Newt Gingrich is paying off members of the grass-roots movement in exchange for their support, calling the charge bogus.
“Those charges are completely false,” Dianne Belsom, of the Laurens County Tea Party, told The Washington Times. “I’m connected with tea partyers all over the state, and there is no way any tea party person would stoop to that.”
“We are in it to save our country. We are not in it to get paid off,” she said.
Mrs. Bachmann, founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, refused Wednesday to back away from accusations floated by her spokesman, Wesley Donehue, who reportedly said that the only way the former House speaker “can get the tea party vote is to buy it.”
“Well, Wesley would have to speak to that himself with what evidence he has, but this is something that we’ve been hearing all across the country, that money is changing hands, and that’s not how I do business,” Mrs. Bachmann told CNN’s John King when asked about the remarks.
“In fact, I’ve told people, I’ve told evangelicals, I’ve told tea partyers, I don’t pay people to come out and be my supporters, that’s not what I do. When we have tea party groups and all of the rest, I don’t do that because I’m just a real person.”
The Gingrich campaign announced on Tuesday that the Myrtle Beach and Laurens County tea parties had endorsed his candidacy. Gerri McDaniel, a member of the Myrtle Beach Tea Party, was hired by the Gingrich campaign — but only after she made the endorsement, Mrs. Belsom said.
Mrs. Bachmann won the Ames, Iowa, straw poll in August, but since then polls show that she’s consistently struggled to make up ground on the GOP front-runner. She also has struggled to woo members of the House Tea Party Caucus — securing only one endorsement from the group that she founded.
Mrs. Belsom said she originally backed Mrs. Bachmann but was turned off by the increasingly negative tone of her campaign, including the most recent charges of vote buying, which she said Mr. Donehue also peddled on local tea party Facebook pages.
The charges upset her so much that she axed their online friendship.
“I de-friended him this morning,” she said.