Facing a myriad of investigations, a lawsuit from a former staffer, plus unsure prospects of getting reelected, 2011 Ames Straw Poll winner Michele Bachmann announced she will not seek another term in Congress. The Waterloo native, claiming none of those issues played a role in her decision, made the announcement via video on her website Wednesday morning.
“Be assured, my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being re-elected to Congress. I’ve always in the past defeated candidates who are capable, qualified and well-funded. And I have every confidence that if I ran, I would again defeat the individual who I defeated last year, who recently announced that he is once again running.
“And rest assured, this decision was not affected in many way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff. It was clearly understood that compliance with all rules and regulations was an absolute necessity for my presidential campaign and I have no reason to believe that that was not the case.”
The Federal Elections Commission, FBI and Office of Congressional Ethics have all opened investigations into allegations of campaign finance improprieties by Bachmann’s 2012 presidential campaign. Those investigations include alleged improper payments to Iowa Senator Kent Sorenson (R-Milo). The Iowa Senate Ethics Committee has requested that a special investigator look into those allegations.
Those investigations were spurred by complaints filed by former Bachmann campaign staffer Peter Waldron. Despite the allegations of misdeeds, Waldron expressed disappointment with Bachmann’s decision to not seek reelection.
“Congresswoman Michele Bachmann is a strong advocate for pro-life, pro-family, and traditional values,” Waldron said. “Her voice in Congress and in the public square will be sorely missed in the coming years. I pray for Dr. and Mrs. Bachmann and their plans going forward.”
Bachmann, Sorenson and other members of her presidential campaign are also facing a lawsuit from former staffer Barb Heki. On the same day Bachmann announced she would not seek a fifth term, a trial date was set for that suit. It is scheduled to begin May 14, 2014.
Congresswoman Bachmann reportedly visited Iowa earlier this month to negotiate a settlement. Heki’s attorney Jeff Wright told TheIowaRepublican.com on Tuesday that no settlement is pending.
The lawsuit stems from the Bachmann campaign’s improper use of a database of Iowa homeschooling families. Heki alleges Kent Sorenson illegally accessed the database on her personal computer and the campaign Heki become the scapegoat for the incident. The Urbandale Police Department is also investigating the alleged theft.
As for Congresswoman Bachmann, her political fortunes have taken a dramatic turn for the worse since that sunny day in August 2011 when she stood atop the political world. Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll and for a brief moment was considered the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.
By the next day, things began to take a turn for the worse. Less than four months later, Iowa Caucus voters overwhelmingly rejected the candidate who repeatedly told them she was also an Iowan. Bachmann garnered only 5 percent of the vote and dropped out of the race the next day.
She was reelected to Congress in November 2012, by a narrow margin. The Minnesota representative said Wednesday that she had considered not running last year.
“However, given that we were only nine months away from the election, I thought that it might be difficult for another Republican candidate to get organized for what might have been a very challenging campaign,” Bachmann said. “And I refused to allow this decision to put this Republican seat in jeopardy. And so I ran, and I won. And I felt last year the Republicans had a significant opportunity to win both the Senate and the White House and finally put our country back on the track of greatness and American exceptionalism.”
In hindsight, running for president was an ill-advised decision by Congresswoman Bachmann. She was a rising conservative star and darling of the Tea Party. However, the added limelight and scrutiny that goes with running for the nation’s highest office did not reflect well, at times, on the Minnesota congresswoman.
It was not entirely her fault. Bachmann received bad advice from her campaign team. Instead of having their candidate communicate with Iowa voters in a meaningful way, they turned every event into a photo op. There was nothing genuine about it and caucus voters saw right through the phony, pre-staged events.
Additionally, her team failed miserably at keeping Michele Bachmann on schedule. She rarely, if ever, showed up on time for events. A last ditch, whirlwind, 99-county tour was ill-advised and did not serve Bachmann well, either. Then, of course, her state chairman, Kent Sorenson, abandoned her five days before the Iowa Caucus and endorsed Ron Paul.
So, Michele Bachmann finished last out of the six candidates who campaigned in Iowa. The luster was gone. Her star faded significantly. And now, with early polls showing her vulnerable, Bachman is walking away from the 2014 elections
Iowans’ reaction to Bachmann’s announcement was mixed. State Senator Brad Zaun, who was co-chairman for Bachmann’s campaign, was disheartened by the news.
“Sad day for America, as we will lose one of the only true conservatives left in D.C.,” Zaun said.
“I am sad that we are losing such a great conservative voice in the House,” said Ken Crow, who voted for Bachmann in the caucuses. “Congresswoman Bachmann was a fabulous voice for what the Tea Party stands for and we are all sorry to see that she is not running again. I do wish her well in her future endeavors.”
Judd Saul, a Tea Party leader from Black Hawk County, where Bachmann grew up, had a different take.
“A conservative who gives up a position of power without a fight, is not a conservative at all,” said Saul, a Rick Santorum supporter. “Like most of the so-called ‘tea party leaders’, she will run around telling everyone the sky is falling, ask for money, then she like the rest of them, will do nothing with it while squandering what good political capital she has left.”
GOP State Central Committee member Wes Enos, who worked on Bachmann’s Iowa campaign, diagnosed her 8-minute video differently.
“Frankly, it looks like an effort to rebrand herself,” Enos said. “Her brand is currently tied to her Congressional seat, so to reinvent herself, she probably felt that not being in Congress was a means to that end. If you watch her video, she doesn’t say that she’s leaving public life. I don’t know, because I wasn’t ever exactly close to her, but I would bet that she has her eye on something else.”
Indeed, this might not be the political obituary of Michele Bachmann. If she somehow emerges from the FBI, FEC, OCE investigations and Heki lawsuit unscathed, Bachmann could conceivably return to public office someday. Knowing her penchant for saying controversial things, a gig as a political pundit is also a possibility.
“Looking forward after the completion of my term, my future is full, it is limitless, and my passions for America will remain,” Bachmann said. “And I want you to be assured that there is no political option or opportunity, be it directly in the political arena or otherwise, that I won’t be giving serious consideration if it can help protect and save our great nation for future generations.”
Photo by Dave Davidson
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