Will Michele Bachmann’s impending retirement from the House save the Republican right wing money? That’s the interesting thesis David Freddoso offered at the blog Conservative Intelligence Briefing on Wednesday.
Mr. Freddoso says he thinks Ms. Bachmann is sincere about her political values, many of which he shares. But he adds that it’s a good thing for the GOP that conservative small donors now won’t be spending more than $10 million to reelect her to a safe Republican House seat every two years.
“Campaign money is a limited resource, and Michele Bachmann may hold a lifetime record for wasting it,” Freddoso writes.
It’s true that Bachmann has long been one of the most skilled fundraisers in US politics. She’s had to be, as her controversial and at times inaccurate statements on everything from the effect of vaccinations to John Wayne’s birthplace have sometimes helped her Democratic opponents in a Minnesota district that otherwise leans GOP.
She raised almost $15 million for her House race in 2012, for instance. (That’s separate from the $9 million she raised for her presidential bid.) She spent about $12 million of this cash to barely win reelection over Democratic opponent Jim Graves, who spent only $2.3 million.
“The race was the third most expensive in the House in 2012 in terms of funds raised as well as money spent,” notes Russ Choma at the Open Secrets campaign finance blog.
That’s been the pattern of Bachmann’s past races, too. In 2010 she spent $12 million to win 52 percent of the vote in a district that GOP presidential candidate John McCain won by nine percentage points.
What conservatives need are not more Bachmanns, but more like-minded candidates who can hold safe seats easily “so that they’re not competing for money that could go to conservatives running for shakier seats,” writes Freddoso.
He’s surely right that Republicans will spend less money on Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District seat in the future, with as much if not more chance of electoral success. The question is whether Bachmann herself will continue to raise as much money as she has in the past, and if so, what she’ll use it for.
Remember, political fundraising isn’t limited to actual candidates. Sarah Palin’s leadership Political Action Committee, SarahPAC, raised $5 million for the 2012 election cycle, despite the fact that the former Alaska governor opted not to run for president herself. Bachmann has such an organization, too – her MICHELE PAC raised $1.4 million in 2012. It’s already received about $212,000 for 2014.
Of course, she may need that money for lawyers. The FBI is reportedly investigating whether leadership PAC funds were improperly used to pay presidential staff expenses, among other things.
Legal problems aside, Bachmann is likely to remain a fundraising powerhouse. That’s because of her national profile. According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, in the last election cycle 86 percent of her big-dollar donations came from individuals who did not live in Minnesota. She had substantial donor support from Texas, California, and Florida.
Half of the money she raised for her presidential bid came from small, unitemized contributions of $200 or less, according to CQ Roll Call Political “Moneyline.”
“She still has funds available to maintain a base of national support for her ideas and positions,” writes Moneyline’s Kent Cooper.