Peter Waldron, Michele Bachmann’s evangelical organizer, was accused in 1999 of “mismanagement of public funds” in connection with a youth program he founded in St. Petersburg, FL. Waldron founded Rising Stars Education and Sports Foundation in the mid-1990s and claimed to serve thousands of inner-city youth in the St. Petersburg area. However, according to reports in the St. Petersburg Times, city officials said the charity served far fewer young people than Waldron claimed, only about 400.
Waldron abruptly shut down the foundation in June, 1999 after questions surfaced about the management and financial practices of the group. According to a July 21, 1999 op-ed in the St. Petersburg Times, Waldron received over $600,000 of state and local grant money, but spent 83% of that on overall administrative costs. During his tenure with Rising Stars, Waldron purchased homes in Florida and Wyoming.
In a February 5, 1999 St. Petersburg Times editorial, Waldron was credited for his innovative program but the paper concluded:
Waldron had a good idea for helping children, one praised by participants, parents and juvenile justice officials. But his mismanagement of public funds taints that success. St. Petersburg should take over Rising Stars, and city and state officials should set up a means for overseeing the program, as they should have been doing all along.
Waldron was arrested in Uganda in 2006 and charged with illegal possession of weapons. After 37 days in jail, Waldron was released and the charges dropped. The Bachmann campaign credited him with part of the reason for their win in the Iowa straw poll on August 13.