The Iowa state Senate Ethics Panel voted to ask for a formal investigation of Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) former Iowa presidential campaign chairman, a move that could continue a rash of unfavorable headlines for the congresswoman and potentially damage her chances at reelection.

The panel voted on Wednesday to request a formal investigation of Iowa state Sen. Ken Sorenson (R), who was one of Bachmann's top surrogates in the state until he switched late in the campaign to back then-Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

Sorenson has been accused of stealing a private email list of homeschooling parents for campaign purposes, and for illegally receiving a salary from Bachmann's campaign while serving in the state senate.

While another former Bachmann staffer says she knew about the payments, that former staffer insisted that the campaign was told by Sorenson that he was allowed to receive them and blamed Sorenson for misleading them.

The back-and-forth between Sorenson and other former Bachmann staffers has been an unwanted distraction for her as she seeks to move past her failed presidential bid and renew ties with her Republican-leaning district.

Bachmann barely survived a tough challenge in 2012, winning by fewer than 5,000 votes, and is facing the same opponent this election. The ethics investigation has continued to create unhelpful local headlines — and now that it's progressing those are likely to continue.