Michele Bachmann Gave Back $14,000 from Ponzi-Scheming Donor

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Michele Bachmann is in the news for controversial financial ties ... again. This time the retiring Republican congresswoman is returning contributions from Frank Vennes, a man who lured people into one of the biggest Ponzi schemes this side of Bernie Madoff. "According to campaign finance reports, last quarter Bachmann's campaign committee paid $14,000 to a bankruptcy trustee for Frank Vennes, a former North Dakota pawnshop owner who was recently sentenced to 15 years in prison for aiding and abetting fraud," Mother Jones reports, explaining that it took Bachmann seven years to do so. Vennes vigorously donated to Bachmann's campaign in 2006.

When a politician is connected to someone serving prison time, it obviously doesn't look good. They should be held accountable. Bachmann has long been a leader in speaking out on this very issue.

Back in 2011, Republicans harped on the relationship between John Corzine and President Obama during the fallout of the MF Global bankruptcy, with the Republican National Committee calling on Obama to return $500,000 Corzine raised for him. And Bachmann was outspoken on that scandal too, explaining to students at Iowa State University how Obama's connection to Corzine meant he was a bad president who was not concerned with sovereign debt. "How many other money managers are there with Corzine’s beliefs on the omniscience of government who are also overly exposed to Europe. President Obama thinks we need more government control of free markets," she said.

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And Michele Bachmann was there again in 2011 to chime in on Solyndra and the evils of what she called crony capitalism. "It happens all the time in Washington, D.C., and it makes me sick. It's the idea that people can be bought, and in exchange, they use your money to pay off the political debts," she said at a campaign stop in Iowa. She also stated that the people donating to her presidential campaign were "real people." 

Bachmann has a history of demanding politicians answer for where their money comes from. If you hold Bachmann to the same standard she has prescribed in the past, then she's just as bad, if not worse than the insults she doles out. Mother Jones has a recap of all the stuff that Vennes did:

In 1986, federal agents investigating a drug ring in Bismarck came to suspect he was laundering drug money. Posing as Chicago businessmen, investigators began giving Vennes large sums of cash to smuggle out of the country. In one case, according to court documents, Vennes hand-delivered $100,000 to Geneva, where his associates either lost or stole it. ...

The following year, Vennes was convicted of money laundering—along with cocaine distribution and illegal firearm sales—and sentenced to five years in Minnesota's Sandstone penitentiary. ...

Vennes also helped set up a family of hedge funds that funneled more than $1 billion dollars into PCI—which, it turns out, was a Ponzi scheme. It's unclear whether Vennes knew this at the time, but the record shows he actively misled investors about PCI's business dealings.

Mother Jones mentions that there's no indication that Bachmann knew about Vennes's dealings, but she did do things like lobby for and then retract support for his pardon back in 2007 and 2008. But Bachmann is only returning the money now. "Bachmann's recent $14,000 payout covers roughly 80 percent of the contributions that Vennes and his wife made directly to her campaign, but not the $10,000 they gave to her joint fundraising committee or the thousands of dollars their family and business associates donate," the magazine explains. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.