Michele Bachmann (R-MN) officially kicked off her presidential campaign this morning in Iowa, right after the latest state poll shows her surging and only a point behind front-runner Mitt Romney (R-MA). But as she becomes a more prominent and viable candidate, Bachmann is facing fresh scrutiny over her past remarks and positions. The Los Angeles Times recently released an investigative report showing that she and her family personally benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars in government aid.
Bachmann, who once declared, “All this pork is bad” and has centered her campaign around denouncing out-of-control government spending, was less than truthful when disclosing the full extent of the earmarks she’s taken during an interview on Sunday with Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
Wallace confronted her with the government funds she’s accepted over the years while portraying herself as a fiscal conservative. They include $30,000 for a counseling clinic run by her husband and $260,000 in federal subsidies for a family farm in Wisconsin, where she is listed as a partner. Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite, struggled to square her pledge not to take congressional pork with accepting earmarks for personal projects.
WALLACE: Over the years you sought more than $60 million in state earmarks and more than $3.7 million in federal earmarks. Question: that’s a fiscal hawk?
BACHMANN: Well let’s go through them. First of all the money that went to the clinic was actually training money for employees. The clinic did not get the money and my husband and I did not get the money…Number two regarding the farm, the farm is my father-in-law’s farm, it’s not my husband and my farm. My husband and I have never gotten a penny of money from the farm. Regarding the earmarks, I believe the right place to build projects is in the state. And the states have to build roads and bridges, and I don’t apologize for building roads and bridges.
WALLACE: So you’re pro-earmark?
BACHMANN: No, during my first term in Congress I signed a pledge that I will not take earmarks. I’ve been faithful to that pledge.
The LA Times swiftly rebutted Bachmann’s defense. Her insistence that “my husband and I have never gotten a penny of money from the farm,” directly contradicts her own financial disclosure forms, where she reported receiving between $32,503 and $105,000 in income from the farm, at minimum, between 2006 and 2009.
Bachmann’s claim that she has been faithful to the no-earmark pledge simply does not square with the facts. And as Wallace pointed out, Bachmann’s counseling clinic benefited from federal money even if it was “just” for employee training, as she claimed. Her defense that “it actually took away from the clinic because these were training hours where employees were not able to bring more income” doesn’t pass the laugh test, as Bachmann or her partner would have had to apply for and accept federal funds to receive money for employee training. She also failed to explain how “additional training to help employees” was not a benefit to the clinic (or why she applied for it if that was the case).
She also dismissed the charge that she was “pro-earmark” based on the fact that some of the pork she took was for infrastructure projects. Her defense that pork isn’t pork if it’s for projects she likes sounds a lot like the political truism: “It’s only pork if your opponent takes it.”
All in all, Bachmann’s explanation was completely inadequate, fudged the truth, and failed to justify how she took taxpayer money for pet projects while denouncing reckless Washington spending. As she kicks off a three-state campaign tour, hopefully the media will continue to press her until she gives a more honest accounting of the earmarks she accepted.