Why We Should Worry about Michele Bachmann

Michele Bachmann and supporters at Tea Party Rally

According to Roll Call, Michele Bachmann and three other right-wing Congresspeople used money from the their Congressional office accounts to pay for equipment and a sound system for a tea party rally on November 5, 2009 that was organized to protest President Obama’s health care bill.

According to House expense reports, Bachmann and three conservative GOP colleagues — Reps. Tom Price (Ga.), Steve King (Iowa) and Todd Akin (Mo.) — each paid $3,407.50 that day, a total of $13,630, to a sound and stage company called National Events, apparently for the sound system used at the rally.

The money came from the Members’ taxpayer-funded office accounts, despite House rules prohibiting the use of these funds for political activities. Bachmann’s office insists the expense was a proper use of official funds.

Bachmann billed the event as a “press conference,” which can be funded from official accounts. But no questions were taken from the press and, unlike most press conferences, it opened with a prayer, the national anthem and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

A press conference? According to the article, Bachmann also hyped the rally on Fox News and Minnesota Public Radio and posted an announcement of the event on her House website, which is also against House ethics rules. She apparently also used these funds for travel expense to media appearances and to pay political consultants and a speechwriter for her “response” to the State of the Union address.

The Hill says that, while the use of taxpayer funds for political purposes is questionable, it isn’t absolutely clear that she did anything wrong. But certainly this shows that Bachmann may have a tendency to cut corners when it comes to ethics.

On Saturday, the Guardian published a profile of Bachmann following her appearance at the New Hampshire Republican Debate.

They quote Stillwater, MN blogger Karl Bremer on a particularly troubling episode in Bachmann’s political history:

“She has got plenty of skeletons in her closet,” he said. One of those skeletons could be her relationship with Frank Vennes, a man who served time in jail for cocaine distribution and money-laundering after being convicted in 1987. After his release, and apparently after finding God while in prison, Vennes became a friend of Bachmann and a big campaign donor for her elections. However, Vennes has recently been indicted on charges stemming from a Ponzi scheme and could end up behind bars again.

That is a juicy story. As are Bachmann’s links to the mysterious “Bobby Charles Thompson”, who disappeared after the collapse of his apparently fraudulent fundraising organisation, which had been portrayed as a navy veterans’ group. Arrest warrants have now been issued for Thompson, whose real identity is not known. But what is known is that Thompson’s group donated campaign funds to Bachmann.

Then there is the issue of the Bachmann family farm in Wisconsin. The large rural property has been the recipient of considerable government largesse in the form of agricultural subsidies, despite the fact that Bachmann is a vociferous critic of government handouts. Yet Bremer’s blog has reported that the farm has reaped the Bachmanns about $154,000 of government cash since 2001. That is obviously not illegal but – given Bachmann’s virulent dislike of state welfare – it could make for some interesting headlines.

But will the media cover Bachmann’s “skeletons,” or are they going to give her a pass like the one they gave Obama in 2008? Frankly, I’m worried about it. It’s easy to dismiss Bachmann and treat her as a joke, and she deserves that. But she is driven and a very hard worker; the tea party crowd find her charismatic and inspiring; and she is one of the best fund-raisers around.

In three congressional terms, presidential contender Michele Bachmann has made a name for herself as a formidable fundraiser. As of her latest filing with the Federal Election Commission, Bachmann had $2.8 million cash on hand (compared with, say, veteran Ron Paul’s $1.6 million). And she took in $13.5 million in the 2010 election cycle, out-raising the leader of her own party, John Boehner, by almost $4 million and making Bachmann the most prolific fundraiser in the House. So how is she getting all that money?

Bachmann is increasingly getting money from individuals making smallish donations, a feat that helps solidify her status as a grass-roots, Tea Party–fueled outsider rather than another Establishment fixture. Of the $1.7 million she reported raising last quarter, only $1,500 came from non-individuals, and the average donation was just $619.34.

The Washington Post reports today that Bachmann is increasingly using a new fundraising technique for which is is uniquely qualified, called “money blurts.”

Here’s how it works: An up-and-coming politician blurts out something incendiary, provocative or otherwise controversial. The remark bounces around the blogs and talk shows and becomes a sensation.

And in the midst of it all, the politician’s fundraisers are manning the phones and raking in the donations.

Consider Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the tea party favorite and newly minted presidential candidate, who has made a specialty of raising money in the wake of bold and well-placed remarks. Shortly after accusing President Obama of having “anti-American views” during one cable-news appearance, for example, Bachmann took in nearly $1 million.

I’ve spent the past few days reading extensively about Bachmann’s personal and political history. I’ve learned two important things from all this reading: 1) Bachmann is a dangerous extremist with serious psychological problems; and 2) She should never be underestimated.

I will continue to write about her, because I think that with the dearth of exciting Republican candidates, the growing strength of the crazy right, and the increasing tendency for the media to ignore facts and accept lies at face value, she could actually win the nomination. We can ridicule her all we want, but we dismiss her chances at our peril.

Here’s some video of Bachmann’s “press conference” on November 5, 2009.


25 Comments on “Why We Should Worry about Michele Bachmann”

  1. If Bachmann wins the nomination, Obama wins.

    • dakinikat says:

      I wouldn’t trust Bachmann near any weapon let alone our nuclear arsenal. The only institution she belongs in is one with padded walls.

      • bostonboomer says:

        It’s too bad we live in a culture that is as crazy as Bachmann. I’ve been realizing that more and more lately. We live in a culture that doesn’t value science, facts, honesty, hard work, or creativity.

      • Thursday's Child says:

        Or women. That’s why Bachmann hates herself.

    • bostonboomer says:

      If she wins the nomination, I hope Obama wins. Who will the press back? Who will Wall Street back?

      • If it’s O vs. Bachmann, the press and Wall Street will back O, imho. Obama could lose to a generic Repub at this point but not to most of the specific Repubs that are running, esp. Bachmann.

      • dakinikat says:

        I can’t imagine any one backing her that actually has money. She’d be a disaster for them. They’d get tax money back but since she’s suggesting we default on our debt, they’d have to pay 30% + interest rate. Whatever company that could do it would exit US markets pretty quickly. We’d find most of our major corporations moving to Bermuda, the Caymens, or Qatar.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I’ve always felt that way too, but when Bachman ran for the state senate, she was considered a laughing stock. She ended up beating a long-time incumbent who was pretty popular. Same thing when she ran for the House. She was even behind in the polls and everyone thought she was a joke. She won. The people who have dealt with her say never to underestimate her.

        After all the research I’ve done, I’m concerned. I want to make sure that she doesn’t pull off another upset–especially when she would be running against a guy who claims not to care if he he wins and who hasn’t done diddly-squat about jobs and unemployment.

        And don’t tell me about how what she proposes won’t work. What Obama is doing hasn’t worked either, and as I said in the post, we do not live in a fact-based culture anymore.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I can’t imagine any one backing her that actually has money.

        There are plenty of wingnuts with real money. She isn’t stupid enough to actually run on letting the U.S. go bankrupt. She will clean up her act just like Obama did. I only wish she were that stupid.

      • Obama cares if he wins (even though he is set for life even if he doesn’t win). The only reason he puts on the facade of saying he doesn’t care is to sell himself as some kind of noble president who’s just doing what he thinks is right and isn’t making these decisions to be popular. Which is a bunch of BS, because the fierce urgency of his permanent campaign has pretty much dictated every move he’s made as president.

        Every disaffected Dem frustrated with O right now would come home to O quicker than anything if Bachmann is the nominee.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Well, I guess there’s nothing to worry about then. I should probably find something else to write about. I’d still rather not take any chances on her getting the nomination….

      • BB, please keep writing about whatever concerns you… Bachmann would make a horrid president. I just can’t see it happening (and I hope for all our sakes I’m right about that).

      • Thursday's Child says:

        I’m not voting for O even if Bachmann is the nominee. I’ll vote 3rd party, probably green, or stay home.

      • Whether or not Bachmann is the nominee, I can’t vote for Obama or any of the GOP.

        The only exception to that is Huntsman so far–I don’t know if I could vote for him, but I’ve not ruled it out either.

        I’ll most likely be voting third party/green.

    • paper doll says:

      If Bachmann wins the nomination, Obama wins

      Exactly. That’s her purpose. It says the powers that be are so worried BO will lose, they put her up
      to “run” angist him…. they can’t trust he could beat anyone better. oy

      • Silent Kate says:

        That’s exactly what I think. She has been getting lots of media hype and I think the hype is to just help Obama. I saw a few minutes of Hardball tonight and Debbie Wasserman Schultz was on and some other woman. The woman was talking about how Obama defeated Hillary and he was able to keep the women’s vote. I’m sorry but I know some women that didn’t vote for Obama!

      • paper doll says:

        They just pull out of their ass whatever the bosses want . It’s today’s lies they need sold, not news.
        Judging from TV ” news” one would think we have ceased to be a nation and are now a theme park…and a run down one at that

      • Judging from TV ” news” one would think we have ceased to be a nation and are now a theme park…and a run down one at that

        Lol… yeah it’s like Tweety’s “sideshow” graphic on endless loop with his stupid “ha” at the end.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    Do the Koch Brothers have real money? From a link in my post on Bachmann’s donors:

    The list of past committee donors includes a range of industries and interests, from health care company Aetna to oil giant ConocoPhillips, Koch Industries, Big Pharma’s Pfizer and the Republican Jewish Coalition. KochPAC donated to Bachmann sporadically from 2006 to 2010, and is affiliated with the company run by the billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles, whose myriad foundations and advocacy organizations promote libertarian and Tea Party causes.

    • bostonboomer says:

      BTW, I’m not stupid either. I’m well aware that Obama will probably be reelected. But this country is in deep sh*t right now. Europe is on the brink of a major financial crisis. Basically the world is in chaos. Anything can happen under conditions like that–especially when the current administration is ignoring the economic problems of ordinary citizens. Think Germany in the ’30s.

  3. Dario says:

    I’m not concerned about a Republican, even Bachmann, winning in 2012. I’m more concerned that Obama wins. Here is why. An Obama win will in the end be as destructive as any GOP candidate. I’d rather give a chance that the Democratic Party rebuilds itself with a GOP win in 2012, than to continue with Obama in the WH.

    • bostonboomer says:

      I hate to say this but you could be right. On the other hand, I think it may be to late for the Democratic Party to rebuild. I don’t believe Bachmann would win. But if she somehow got the nomination, that would push her extremist views further into the mainstream. That’s what scares me.

  4. Allison says:

    I can’t vote for BHO either – just as a matter of principle. I agree with Dario – maybe people need to be shown just how bad it can get to realize neither party is representing us. What I’d like to see is the Green party or any liberal third party be taken seriously and have a chance in this country. If we have to go through a period of draconian Rethuglican rule to get there – it’s at least a shot. The Dems will not get us there – now or ever.

  5. Allison says:

    P.S. The dreaded Google Ads are at it again – running ads for Bachmann! LOL – I guess it’s hard to stop those…