An evangelical organiser whose “tremendous” effort helped Michele Bachmann win the Ames Iowa Straw Poll last weekend was arrested on gun possession charges in Uganda in 2006, The Atlantic reports. The staffer, Peter E. Waldron, like many American evangelicals working in Uganda, has ties to the country’s anti-gay movement, which last year sought to pass a law that would make homosexuality a capital crime.
According to NPR, Ugandan police suspected Waldron of seeking to establish a political party based on Christian values. He was arrested for possession of assault rifles and ammunition in February 2006, just days before the country’s first multi-party elections in two decades.
Waldron, a longtime Republican operative, had apparently been in Uganda since 2002, where he worked with the born-again Christian community distributing anti-retroviral drugs to HIV/AIDS patients. According to a 2004 story in The New Republic, Waldron has ties to Ugandan Pastor Martin Ssempa, a major proponent of criminalizing homosexuality. Waldron also claimed to have a relationship with Uganda’s autocratic president, Yoweri Museveni, and his wife, a well-known born-again Christian.
In 2006, according to the Kampala Monitor, police arrested Waldron at his house in Uganda, where they found four sub-machine gun rifles and 184 rounds of ammunition. A Ugandan police official told the Monitor that the seizures confirmed “suspicion of the terrorists.”
The charges against Waldron apparently stemmed from his work for The African Digest, a newsletter apparently published in partnership with Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church (Waldron has written for The Washington Times, another Moon publication).
The Atlantic reports that “the charges, which could have led to life in prison, were dropped in March 2006 after a pressure campaign by Waldron’s friends and colleagues and what Waldron says was the intervention of the Bush administration.”
Waldron’s website says he was a consultant to the 1980, 1988 and 2000 Republican presidential campaigns, and the Republican National Committee. In 1998, he helped organise the campaign to ban same-sex marriage in Alaska.
Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart told reporter Garance Franke-Ruta that Waldron was a valued member of the Bachmann campaign team, organising evangelical outreach in Iowa and South Carolina.
“Michele’s faith is an important part of her life and Peter did a tremendous job with our faith outreach in Iowa,” she wrote in an email. “We are fortunate to have him on our team and look forward to having him expanding his efforts in several states.”