Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who announced in May that she would not seek re-election, operates a PAC with the stated aim of helping to elect other conservatives nationally. But while her “leadership PAC” spent more than $250,000 in the first half of 2013, just $400 of that went to supporting other political candidates — the lowest percentage of any such committee of its size.
In 2010, Bachmann registered the Many Individual Conservatives Helping Elect Leaders Everywhere political action committee (MICHELE PAC) with the Federal Election Commission. In 2012, the PAC raised more than $1.2 million from supporters. More than $100,000 of that went to conservative Republican candidates for U.S. House and Senate. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is reportedly investigating whether some of the money was also improperly spent to pay the national political director of her unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign.
But a ThinkProgress analysis of campaign finance data reveals that, so far this year, the PAC has done almost nothing that would qualify as “political action.” Between January 1 and June 30, the committee reported raising nearly $300,000 and has spent more than $250,000. Of that, just 0.16 percent — a $400 contribution to a former staffer running for Mahaska County Supervisor in Oskaloosa, Iowa — went to the PAC’s alleged purpose of “helping elect leaders everywhere.”
Where did the rest of the money go? More than $58,000 went to legal fees — unsurprising given the legal imbroglio, but hardly helpful to her political cause. About $170,000 went to telemarketing, direct mailing, list rental, credit card fees, and other expenses associated with fundraising. The rest went to accounting and other overhead.
While political action committees, including leadership PACs, are mostly free to spend money on whatever the choose, the percentage spent on political activity is unusually low and MICHELEPAC appears to spending virtually nothing on its stated mission. In fact, no other leadership PAC that spent more than $100,000 in the first half of 2013 spent less than 7 percent on political activity and the median level was about 44 percent among those groups.
Campaign finance expert Paul S. Ryan of the Campaign Legal Center frequently warns — when donating to political action committees it is really “donor beware.”