Bachmann, who announced last week that she is running for president, has gone from a little-known freshman Member in 2007 to a major conservative figure in part because she has strategically used her campaign, political action committee and Congressional office to build a national following.
For instance, in January, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) gave the official Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, complaining that Obama had launched a big-government agenda of bailouts and health care reform that was crippling the nation's economy.
Bachmann gave her own response, calling it the tea party response, making many of the same points as Ryan. The speech was streamed online by the Tea Party Express. The following day, Bachmann's campaign paid Oval Office Writers — an Arlington, Va., firm — a $5,000 fee for "speechwriting."
Bachmann has occasionally spent money out of her office account for things closely tied to her political activities. But as with the rally, it is not clear whether she has violated any rules.
For instance, in June 2010, Bachmann added to her Congressional payroll a "senior advisor" named Guy Short, whose last Congressional job had been chief of staff to ex-Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.), who lost her re-election bid in 2008.
According to Congressional pay records, Bachmann paid Short $5,000 for the month.
On June 3, 2010, Short established C&M Strategies in Colorado. Records on file with the Colorado secretary of state list Short as the "registered agent" of the firm; the incorporator was Colorado certified public accountant Barry Arrington.
In July, Short dropped off Bachmann's payroll, but Bachmann's campaign began paying C&M Strategies for fundraising consulting services.
That month, Arrington filed papers with the Federal Election Commission creating Bachmann's leadership PAC, called Many Individual Conservatives Helping Elect Leaders Everywhere, which by September was also paying C&M Strategies for fundraising consulting services. Since then, MICHELEPAC and the campaign committee have paid C&M Strategies about $150,000 for fundraising consulting, and Short has never again appeared on Bachmann's Congressional payroll.
Asked about Short's duties in the Congressional office, Bachmann spokesman Doug Sachtleben said in an email, "With six years of hill experience as a Chief of Staff, Guy Short worked with every member of the Congresswoman's staff to ensure that they worked as effectively as possible to serve the constituents of Minnesota's sixth district."
Several other Bachmann staffers, including Communications Director David Dziok, former Chief of Staff Ron Carey, former "constituent service officer" Jack Tomczak and former Chief of Staff Andy Parrish all received regular checks from her campaign while serving on her Congressional payroll as well — which is permissible as long as the employees make a clear separation between the time they spend working on the campaign and the hours they are working for the Congressional office.
Bachmann also appears to have used her Congressional office account to cover travel costs for television appearances — again, an unusual expense but not one barred by House rules.
For example, on Jan. 12, 2009, a Monday, Bachmann and then-Press Secretary Mary Vought flew to New York at a cost to Bachmann's Congressional office of about $600, according to House spending records.
The next day, Bachmann was a guest on the Fox Business morning program "Money for Breakfast," apparently in the show's studio in New York. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) was interviewed in the same segment from a studio in Milwaukee. Vought was reimbursed $386 for lodging costs for Monday night, and the two flew back to D.C. on Tuesday at a total cost of $130. Bachmann was back in Washington in time for a 2 p.m. Financial Services Committee hearing on Jan. 13.
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