12/01/2011 03:20 pm ET

Michele Bachmann Campaign Accused Of Stealing Iowa Homeschool Email List

Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) is the hot seat for allegedly stealing a coveted email list in order to target Iowa voters.

The Iowa Republican reports the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators sent an email to its members saying Bachmann's campaign used their email list without permission.

"I want to apologize on behalf of the NICHE Board and advise you that we discovered that our list of homeschool contacts was uploaded without our knowledge or permission by the Michele Bachmann Campaign and used twice for e-mails from her campaign," Justin E. LaVan, president of NICHE, said in an email to its staff.

LaVan told the Des Moines Register he's unsure how the campaign got hold of the emails addresses, which belong to thousands of homeschool families, advocates, donors, vendors and businesses.

Barb Heki, a paid employee of the Bachmann Iowa campaign staff, is also a NICHE board member who oversees the public relations communications efforts for the group, and LaVan said that could be the link.

Bachmann has been heavily courting the homeschool network, which is credited with helping former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee win the 2008 Iowa caucuses. LaVan has said Bachmann appears to be the favorite among homeschoolers in Iowa, ahead of fellow Republican candidates Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.

In May, Bachmann visited the Iowa legislature for a lobbying day hosted by NICHE, followed by a rally at the Capitol. Herman Cain and Paul were also at the event. At the time, Bachmann had not yet announced her candidacy.

Over the summer, Bachmann along with other candidates, courted homeschool families at several events.

LaVan said the group must now seek payment from Bachmann's campaign for the two emails they apparently sent to their members.

"Because the Bachmann campaign did receive the benefit of two emails to the contacts on our list -- even though NICHE did not authorize this use in any way -- we now must require the Bachmann campaign to pay for the reasonable value of that usage. Further, in accordance with the legal requirements, NICHE must allow all the other campaigns the equal opportunity to pay for two similar e-mails to the contacts on the NICHE list," LaVan said in the email.

The Bachmann campaign said the misuse was "inadvertent."