Michele Bachmann's missing million: Federal elections officials want to know where $1 million from her campaign committee went

In a three-month span, the former Tea Party congresswoman's committee had more than $1 million disappear

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published March 27, 2017 5:40PM (EDT)

Michele Bachmann (Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (AP)
Michele Bachmann (Credit: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (AP)

Former Minnesota congresswoman and Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann may no longer grab headlines for her wacky floor speeches, but that doesn’t mean federal elections officials have forgotten about her — or the more than $1 million in campaign cash they say is now mysteriously missing.

According to a notice from the Federal Elections Commission, it appears that while auditing Bachman’s congressional campaign committee, federal officials noticed that the ex-House member’s 2012 campaign went from having over $1.7 million on hand in October 2016 to reporting only $2,619 in December 2016. The letter was first reported by the Center for Public Integrity’s Carrie Levine. According to Levine, Bachmann’s committee treasurer claimed on Monday that the more than $1 million missing is merely a discrepancy due to a "mistake in using the filing software."

But this is hardly the first time Bachmann has come under intense scrutiny over her use of campaign cash.

During her short-lived 2012 presidential run, Bachman came under investigation by the Federal Election Commission, House Ethics Committee and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for violating campaign finance laws. Bachman was even under investigation by the Urbandale, Iowa, police department for the theft of an email list, according to the nonpartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

After Bachmann broke fundraising records for her 2010 re-election campaign, including collecting a whopping and unprecedented $5.4 million in a three-month period, the FEC asked her campaign’s treasurer to itemize nearly $1.5 million in individual donations for that election cycle’s most expensive House race.

Of course, having her own problems with spending and reporting campaign cash never stopped Bachmann from falsely accusing former House speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., of  "sticking the taxpayer with her $100,000 bar tab for alcohol on the military jets that she's flying."

Bachmann’s brushes with campaign finance authorities may not be the only cause of reluctance to believe her excuse that the missing million dollars is a simple accounting error. Just last week, the "pray away the gay" clinic run by her husband, Marcus Bachmann, was hit with major violations by Minnesota health inspectors. In early February, state investigators reviewed 10 client records and found that all of them had failed to comply with state rules mandating clinics retain information about its clients’ developmental conditions. According to Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the clinic was cited for similar violations in 2005 and 2009.

Bachmann, however, defended her husband’s notorious camp that offers gay conversion therapy and claimed he was guilty of making only "minor clerical errors." 

The Tea Party firebrand, who claimed to be a foreign policy advisor to President Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, argued in January that his presidency would finally end the “evil” gay agenda that the State Department had pushed in other countries under former President Barack Obama.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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