06-24-2018  11:15 pm      •     
The Skanner Report
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NEWS BRIEFS

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By Marian Wang of Propublica

The basics:

Though she certainly has a challenger in Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann has held the title of Tea Party favorite thus far in the presidential race, touting her opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage, support of "intelligent design," and rejection of the scientific consensus that human activity is a leading cause of global warming.

A detailed profile in The New Yorker tracks both her career steps and her deeply religious background. Bachmann's first job after law school was working for the IRS, an agency she once called "the most heartless organization that anyone knows of." As both The New Yorker and the Minneapolis Star Tribune note, she worked mostly on cases that were settled and rarely litigated. (The Star Tribune reported two minor cases, The New Yorker one.) She recently said on a campaign stop that she went to work at the IRS "because the first rule of war is 'Know your enemy.' "

Many of her major career and life decisions have been made, she says, according to visions, prayer and directions by God. Bachmann said that God gave her and her husband, Marcus, a vision of marrying each other. She's said that God "called us to take foster children," and went on to take in 23 in addition to the couple's five biological children. As she was running for Congress, Bachmann said that "God then called me to run for the United States Congress." And in May, she said in an interview with Iowa Public Television that she'd also "had that calling" from God to run for president.

Her record:

Bachmann spent six years in the Minnesota Senate and is serving her third term in the U.S. Congress. In July, then-presidential-contender Tim Pawlenty, a fellow Minnesotan, criticized Bachmann's legislative accomplishments in Congress as "nonexistent."

PolitiFact checked Pawlenty's attack and found it to be mostly true — Bachmann has never sponsored anything that became law. The congresswoman "seems to prefer offering legislation that makes a bold statement" and "does not have many legislative victories under her belt," PolitiFact concluded.

You can check GovTrack for Bachmann's recent proposed legislation, including bills to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, repeal the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and repeal the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs (the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act).

In recent days, Bachmann has touted her role in the debate over raising the debt ceiling. "I've been the leading voice, almost the lone voice in the wilderness of Washington, fighting against raising the debt ceiling," she said in an interview with NBC's "Today" show.

Bachmann's role consisted mainly of breaking with GOP leadership, denying that default was a possibility, and saying she would refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless President Obama's health-care law was repealed.

When the rating agency Standard & Poor's subsequently downgraded the nation's credit rating, she called the president "AWOL," "missing in action," and said, "It happened on your watch, Mr. President," arguing that S&P's downgrade decision proved her right.

PolitiFact rated that assertion false. In fact, S&P had cited "political brinksmanship" and failure to compromise as a primary reason for the downgrade.

Despite her hawkish stance on fiscal issues and her criticism of government spending, many news reports have noted that she's benefited from such spending. Bachmann proposed more than $60 million in earmarks while serving in the Minnesota's Senate and more than $3.7 million since joining Congress, The Daily Caller noted. While she supported the GOP's supposed earmarks ban, she also argued that "advocating for transportation projects for one's district in my mind does not equate to an earmark," the Star Tribune noted.

And while criticizing the Obama administration's stimulus spending in public, Bachmann often sought those funds in private, writing letters repeatedly to administration officials seeking funding and support for projects in her district, The Huffington Post reported.

At the same time, Bachmann has received what may be questionable criticism for introducing a bill to build a $700 million bridge to replace an aging bridge connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin. While some have criticized the proposal as destructive to the environment, others have labeled it an earmark even though Bachmann's proposal sought no federal funds.

Bachmann and her husband also have a stake in a family farm that has received nearly $260,000 in federal subsidies over the years. Though she's asserted that she hasn't received income from the farm, the Los Angeles Times notes that her financial disclosures show otherwise.

Her recent promises:

Bachmann has become known for her sweeping promises. "Under President Bachmann you will see gasoline come down below $2 per gallon again," she vowed this week.

She has also been creative with her promises.

"President Bachmann will be canceling barbecues if we see the markets going down," she said this month after the Dow Jones industrial average plunged on Obama's birthday.

Still others advance her social agenda. "The 'don't ask, don't tell' policy has worked very well," she told CNN recently, noting that if elected president, she'll consult with military officials but "probably will" reinstate the policy.

Bachmann has also promised to shutter the Environmental Protection Agency, which she's decried as the "job-killing organization of America." The New York Times quoted her as saying in Iowa: "I guarantee you the EPA will have doors locked and lights turned off, and they will only be about conservation."

Controversiesand unfair criticisms:

Bachmann has been involved in her fair share of controversies but not all of her making. A report last month by The Daily Caller noting that Bachmann has severe migraines and alleging that she "takes all sorts of pills" for them got played up by the D.C. media until Bachmann released a letter from a doctor verifying that the migraines were infrequent and controllable.

Newsweek recently put an unflattering photo of her on its cover, prompting a torrent of complaints that the cover was sexist.

Bachmann often makes headlines for her minor gaffes, such as mixing up Elvis' birthday and death-day, confusing John Wayne the actor with John Wayne Gacy the serial killer, and otherwise botching references to American and world history.

Her husband's counseling clinic, as many have noted, has been a center of more significant controversy. Former patients have come forward alleging that the clinic practices "reparative therapy" to change the sexual orientation of gay men and women. Marcus Bachmann has previously denied that his clinic does that, although he's also compared gay people to "barbarians" who "need to be educated," CNN reported. His wife's campaign has refused to comment on the matter in recent days, citing "patient-client confidentiality."

Following the money:

Bachmann's campaign has been funded largely through small donations — at least when compared with her GOP rivals. You can check some of her top contributors on OpenSecrets.org.

Earlier this month, her supporters launched a super PAC, Citizens for a Working America, which would be able to accept unlimited donations from individuals and corporations but must operate independently of her campaign.

  ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

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