When it comes to Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party rhetoric doesn’t always match the record. Should she launch a serious bid for president, Bachmann would likely find herself defending a slew of questionable votes and decisions, including on earmarks, pardons and farm subsidies.
Bachmann’s penchant for earmarks dates back to her days in the Minnesota state Senate. Despite her reputation as a fiscal conservative, from 2001-2006, then-state Senator Bachmann proposed more than $60 million in earmarks, including a $710,000 “Bond For Centerville Local Improvements Around Highway 14” and a $40,000,000 “Bond for Lino Lakes And Columbus Township Highway Interchanges.”
Doug Sachtleben, Bachmann’s communications director, sought to explain the earmarks, arguing that voters resent “taking money from taxpayers in one state to pay for a host of wasteful projects in other states.” He added that voters “also expect that things like road projects should be done at the state level, where voters can have a say through the selling of bonds.” These are not absurd arguments — bridges have to get built somehow — but Tea Party activists may find the argument that earmarks are fine at the state level as appealing as Mitt Romney’s argument that individual health care mandates are fine so long as they are enacted at the state level.
The federalist argument is also severely undercut by the fact that since joining the U.S. Congress in 2007, Bachmann has appropriated more than $3.7 million in earmarks. What is more, when Republicans sought an earmark moratorium, Bachmann pushed to exclude transportation projects from the ban.
Bachmann may also be plagued by her involvement in a controversial pardon. In 2007, Bachmann wrote a letter requesting a presidential pardon for a convicted drug-smuggler and money-launderer named Frank Vennes. Vennes was convicted of money laundering in 1988 and pleaded no contest to a cocaine and weapons charge. Making matters worse, he and his wife donated a total of $27,600 to Bachmann’s 2006 and 2008 election.
On October 2, 2008, Rep. Bachmann wrote a second letter after Vennes’ home was raided by federal agents investigating his connection to a billion dollar Ponzi scheme, this time admitting: “Regrettably, it now appears that I may have too hastily accepted his [Frank Vennes] claims of redemption and I must withdraw my previous letter.” Bachmann’s spokesman tells me, Rep. Bachmann “has remained disassociated from Mr. Vennes and is saddened by the latest charges that were filed against him.” Some have questioned whether or not evangelical Christians like Bachmann may be naive when it comes to claims of redemption. Should Bachmann’s campaign gain steam, she will likely have to answer questions about her judgment.