Though it's been 20 months since Michele Bachmann dropped out of the Republican presidential primary, she continues to suffer from the fallout from her unsuccessful campaign. The New York Times reports that Bachmann's campaign is the focus of yet another ethics investigation, this time a federal inquiry of allegations that campaign staffers illegally coordinated with a super PAC. Bachmann's brief campaign is costing her everything, including, it seems, her seat in the House.
The latest allegations come from Bachmann's ex-staffer Peter Waldron, a former Florida Republican operative who recently published a tell-all about the congresswoman titled Bachmannistan: Behind the Lines. Waldron filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission in February stating that during the campaign, he overheard "the president of [a] super PAC ask Brett O’Donnell, a senior campaign adviser, about radio and TV stations." While some communication between super PACs and campaigns is allowed under election rules, "substantial coordination" is not. Last week, the Justice Department demanded the super PAC's financial records as well as all of its communications with Bachmann, her husband Marcus, and former staff members.
Bachmann continues to be investigated by the House Ethics Committee for allegations that she improperly used her campaign staff to promote her autobiography, Core of Conviction. The contents of that book are very different from Waldron's Bachmannistan. He alleges, among other things, that Bachmann once fired a staffer pregnant with her eighth child on Christmas Eve. Another former staffer, her campaign chairman, is still under investigation by the Iowa Supreme Court, based on allegations that he was improperly paid.
Bachmann did recently settle one suit, which was filed by a Christian home-school coordinator who claimed Bachmann stole a mailing list of home-school families from her.
Bachmann was just a three-term member of Congress from Minnesota when she decided to run, but she's far from the first long-shot candidate to run for president, a move that often helps an ambitious politician raise his or her national profile. Joe Biden wasn't expected to come close to winning when he ran for president in 2008, and he did not surpass expectations. But he did end up Vice President of the United States.
In 2011, Bachmann was a frequent (if controversial) cable news guest, but she'd has been named to the prestigious House intelligence committee by Speaker John Boehner. And her campaign started out bright. She used her intelligence committee credentials to perform well on early GOP debates. She won a heavily-watched Iowa straw poll in August 2011, forcing Tim Pawlenty to drop out. She briefly led the pack of Republican candidates. Then came that infamous Newsweek cover, and then came the campaign fact-checkers, who called Bachmann on exaggerating her education level, her commitment to family, and even the number of foster children she raised. She dropped out of the race four months later after coming in last place in the Iowa caucus.
Now, Bachmann's left with two ethics investigations, Bachmannistan, and Fires of Siberia, a romance novel inspired by her career. She released a 9-minute video on her website on May 29, explaining her decision not to run for reelection in 2014. She said, "unfortunately, today I'm even more concerned about our country's future than I have ever been in the past." That's probably true of her own future as well.