Minnesota Republican Michelle Bachmann made an odd Wednesday morning announcement that she will not seek re-election next year. She posted a nine-minute video on her campaign website and said, “I have decided next year I will not seek a fifth Congressional term.” She insisted, “This decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff.” According to a May 29 article in the New York Times, she faces ethics inquiries based on reports from some of her former staff members. The campaign funding irregularities allegedly went on during her ill-fated presidential campaign and she struggled to win re-election to her fifth term.
A May 29 LA Times report says that Bachmann narrowly won a fourth term when hotel magnate Jim Graves lost by only 4,200 votes. Graves recently announced that he would make another try for the seat. This and the ethics probe may have forced Bachmann to keep a lower public profile during the last six months.
There are questions about improper use of money from one of Bachmann’s House campaign political action committees. She may have used some of those funds on her presidential campaign. Her former chief of staff said he would testify before an Iowa legislative panel that her campaign made improper payments to Iowa’s Republican state chair. This allegedly occurred before the state’s presidential caucuses in January 2012.
Another Iowa campaign aide claims Bachmann stole a database with names and email addresses of Christian home-school families in Iowa. This may have resulted in a criminal complaint in Iowa. At this point, Bachmann’s troubles with her former aides combine with potential ethics investigations make her the rare individual who can embarrass the extreme conservative wing of the Republican Party.
The Office of Congressional Ethics is a quasi-independent agency that acts like a grand jury. This office deals with allegations of wrongdoing by House lawmakers and their staff members. The office’s jurisdiction is limited to the House of Representatives and excludes any political staff that is not on the government payroll. In other words, any investigations by the ethics office would apply only to Bachmann’s House campaign funds and to individuals on the government payroll.
The ethics office’s staff is supposed to have convincing evidence of wrongdoing before they make recommendations to the House Committee on Ethics. That committee has the power to review the allegations and to advocate punishment of lawmakers.
The ethics office has not referred the matter to the House ethics committee. Some speculate that the ethics office has not decided whether there is a reason for recommending a formal ethics investigation.
Bachmann’s lawyer, William McGinley said, “There are no allegations that the congresswoman engaged in any wrongdoing.” He thinks she will not have any negative outcomes from the ethics probe. After she leaves the House, her political career may not be over, either. Bachmann has plenty of energy and ideas for work as a political pundit or Tea Party gadfly.