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Why the Bachmann 'Revolution' Is a Grassroots Phenomenon

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Heads turned last week upon the release of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann's impressive Q1 2009 fundraising data - outpacing all her Gopher State colleagues by nearly $100,000. Eyes rolled on some liberal blogs yesterday after Smart Politics characterized Representative Bachmann's fundraising efforts as a sign of her success at tapping into grassroots support, coinciding with her recent string of high profile national media appearances.

Delving deeper into the FEC data, Smart Politics maintains this 'grassroots' characterization is indeed warranted, at least, if such a label is to be bestowed upon any member of the Minnesota U.S. House delegation. For, at the 1/8th mile mark, Bachmann is leading the way among small donors by a wide margin.

A Smart Politics analysis of Q1 2009 fundraising data finds Representative Bachmann by far raised the largest percentage and net amount of individual contributions of $200 or less among the eight U.S. Representatives. Nearly one-third of Bachmann's Q1 2009 individual contributions, 31.8 percent, were comprised of such "small donors" with 68.2 percent coming from donors contributing more than $200.

Bachmann's ability to raise money from small donors dwarfs that of the 2nd leading "small money" fundraiser in the Gopher State U.S. House delegation - Tim Walz, 22.7 percent of whose individual fundraising efforts came from donations of $200 or less. Longstanding DFL D.C. fixtures Representatives Collin Peterson and James Oberstar raised only 4.0 and 6.0 percent of their individual contributions in Q1 2009 from small donors respectively.

Q1 2009 Small Donor Individual Contributions to Minnesota's U.S. Representatives

Rank
Representative
% Small Donors
% Large Donors
Small Donors
Large Donors
1
Bachmann
31.8
68.2
$80,138
$171,930
2
Walz
22.7
77.3
$20,650
$70,150
3
Ellison
21.2
78.8
$7,048
$26,165
4
McCollum
20.6
79.4
$7,653
$29,500
5
Kline
11.5
88.5
$10,494
$81,115
6
Paulsen
10.8
89.8
$15,762
$138,415
7
Oberstar
6.0
94.0
$3,840
$59,742
8
Peterson
4.0
96.0
$882
$21,353
Note: FEC data compiled by Smart Politics.

In fact, Bachmann raised more in small contributions by individuals ($80,138) than all itemized and unitemized individual contributions received in Q1 2009 by DFL Representatives Peterson ($22,235), Keith Ellison ($33,212), Betty McCollum ($37,153), and Oberstar ($63,582).

Secondly, Bachmann received by far the lowest percentage of her fundraising from political committees, such as PACs, among the 8-member Minnesota U.S. House delegation. At just 19.6 percent, the Congresswoman was the only member to receive less than 30 percent of her funds from PACs.

While Minnesota's three GOP Representatives received the largest percentage of their contributions in Q1 2009 from individuals, four of the Gopher State's five DFL U.S. Representatives received more than half of their funds from PACs - led by Peterson (77.8 percent), Oberstar (67.0 percent), McCollum (64.5 percent), and Ellison (57.0 percent).

Q1 2009 Individual vs. PAC Contributions to Minnesota's U.S. Representatives

Rank
Representative
% Individuals
% PACs
1
Bachmann
80.4
19.6
2
Paulsen
69.6
30.3
3
Kline
64.5
35.5
4
Walz
57.8
42.2
5
Ellison
43.0
57.0
6
McCollum
35.5
64.5
7
Oberstar
33.0
67.0
8
Peterson
22.2
77.8
Note: FEC data compiled by Smart Politics.

Among the subset of large donors - individuals giving more than $200 - Bachmann ranks in the middle of the pack among the state delegation in terms of the largest average itemized contributions. At $751 per contribution, the Congresswoman trails GOP Representatives Erik Paulsen ($1,173) and John Kline ($1,067) and DFL Representative Tim Walz ($797) in receiving the biggest average individual contributions from large donors.

Q1 2009 Average Individual Contribution Among Large Donors to Minnesota's U.S. Representatives

Rank
Representative
Average
1
Paulsen
$1,173
2
Kline
$1,067
3
Walz
$797
4
Bachmann
$750
5
Peterson
$561
6
Ellison
$556
7
Oberstar
$477
8
McCollum
$440
Note: FEC data compiled by Smart Politics.

At just over 80 percent, Bachmann is also receiving the third largest percentage of her itemized individual campaign donations from Minnesotans, trailing only Walz (92.8 percent) and Paulsen (92.4 percent).

In sum, Representative Bachmann has been:

a) Getting her message out, with the aid of the national media (and her unwitting partner, the left-wing blogosphere),
b) Receiving, by a wide margin, more small contributions (and a larger percentage of small contributions) than any other Minnesota U.S. Representative,
c) Receiving the vast majority of her large donations from Minnesotans, and
d) Receiving a smaller percentage of funds from PACs than any Minnesota U.S. Representative.

Whether such a campaign strategy is labeled 'grassroots' or not, all signs suggest the Bachmann Revolution is coming.

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Previous post: Bachmann's Media Blitz Increasing Statewide, Not National, Fundraising
Next post: Pawlenty's Political Future: When Will We Know?

25 Comments


  • I wouldn't put too much stock in fiscal reporting from Bachmann's office. They may be shifting monies obtained in one quarter into the next. For example, money received from MN Teen Challenge (in October '08, according to the director) weren't credited until 2009. See article here:

    http://minnesotaindependent.com/32798/dirty-money-mn-teen-challenge-returned-bachmanns-contribution

    "Rep. Bachmann failed to report the money being returned to her campaign until her first quarter 2009 campaign filing, a possible violation of Federal Election Commission rules."

  • How much of Bachmann's Minnesota money comes from her district and how much from wealthy individuals outside of her district?

    As for "unwitting partners," it appears Smart Politics is playing "unwitting partner" in getting Bachmann's spin out on her money machine.

  • Did you take this self-serving spin directly from Bachmann's blog communications person? Or did you do independent analysis?

    Bachmann's campaign will report PAC contributions as individual contributions sometimes. You can't just look at the reported totals, but look at all the contributions, and flag them yourself.

    I'm curious about how many of these small contributions are coming from home schoolers. She's had "generation Joshua" out there taking school days off to campaign for her before both elections.

    Bachmann is a lightning rod, so she will be able to raise money from her talk radio fringe base. If you look at her PAC fundraising, she's got a high percent from Ideological/Single Issue PACs like Eagle Forum and Susan B Anthony List.


  • > Did you take this self-serving spin directly from Bachmann's
    > blog communications person? Or did you do independent
    > analysis?

    Re-read the first sentence of the 3rd paragraph and the source notes under every table in the blog. (It's an independent analysis).

  • Eric, Thanks for drilling into the numbers. But the data still doesn't tell us why Bachmann is so focused on raising money and hackles instead of doing her day job.

    I would hope, also, an independent analysis would note that PACs would not be interested in contributing to a totally ineffective legislative extremist.

    Finally, you cite "national media" and "her unwitting partner, the left-wing blogosphere" but no mention of the witting and primary partner, the right wing rage machine.

    Independent, sure. Now go for deep.

  • It seems the anti-Bachmann comments are trying to have it both ways:

    1. Eva/Lloydetta claims above that Bachmann is hiding PAC contributions as individual contributions (and thus artificially inflating the apparent high percentage of donations from individuals).

    2. Meanwhile, Charlie / Across the Great Divide claims PACs are not interested in Bachmann because she does not wield much power as a legislator.

    OK - so, which is it?

  • Yeah, anti-Bachmann commenters! Next time get together and get your story straight before you come around.

  • Eric--

    This shows how looking at the bald numbers can lead to a really, really bad headline and strange conclusion by a reporter.

    Eric--this is the money that came in from people *after* Bachmann called for a media investigation of anti-Americans serving in the Congress and the Senate--what kind of people would send a congresswoman making that statement *more* money--after she made a charge like that, then denied making it, and then made more charges like that against the elected government?

    Would you describe such contributors as "grassroots," as you did above, or as "nutroots?" It is hardly surprising that she would get money from people who believe that the elected government is part of a socialist conspiracy to end US sovereignty impose "tyranny"--her words, her charges. People around the country who do believe that, have very little representation in Congress for the same reason that people who believe they're Napoleon have very little representation in government. So I'm not surprised that they send money to someone who says the American government is now un-American and is filled with anti-Americans.

    But people who think "that," are "grassroots" in your opinion?
    Since when is that kind of thinking "grassroots?"

  • > But people who think "that," are "grassroots" in your
    > opinion? Since when is that kind of thinking "grassroots?"

    "Grassroots" is a short-hand, Cliff's Notes word to capture the undeniable fact that the contributions coming in to Rep. Bachmann are not largely a) large contributions (compared to other candidates), or b) special interest PAC money.

    While you might not share much ideological ground with those giving money to Rep. Bachmann, the fact that she has built her recent fundraising surge in great part through a large number of small contributions, to me suggests she is tapping into a 'grassroots' (non-corporate) movement of sorts.

    As to Rep. Bachmann's controversial statements, some of those news stories have been broken on this very blog:

    http://blog.lib.umn.edu/cspg/smartpolitics/2009/03/michele_bachmann_on_dc_im_a_fo_1.php

  • I got out two dictionaries, Webster's and Oxford American.

    Webster's: 1. Ordinary citizens, especially when contrasted with the leadership or elite.
    Oxford: 1.the most basic level of an activity or an organization. 2. ordinary people regarded as the main body of an organization's membership.

    Dictionary definitions like the ones above are where I got the idea that "grassroots" implies "widespread popular support"--the idea that the "grassroots" is from the "ordinary citizens."

    I don't think the people who support Bachmann's worldview *are* "ordinary" citizens. I think the people who are sending her money--this time around and in light of her conspiracy theory of government views--are *not* "ordinary citizens" or "ordinary people", I think they are right wing paranoids reacting to transparently false statements that confirm their worldview. I don't think these are the "grassroots" views of the American public, and that's why I don't think the press should be telling people that the "Bachmann 'Revolution' is a grassroots phenomenon." The people who are sending her money in small donations do *not* represent "grassroots" political views on American government, thank God.

    A second problem with looking at "just the bald numbers" is this: yes, the number of small contributions is impressive--but because the contributions are small, you seem to assume that a "leadership or elite" is not involved. That is almost certainly not the case here.

    I haven't looked at the names of small contributors in the latest report yet. But I have looked at names of people who sent in small individual donations in one of the earlier FEC reports. If look at those names and are familiar with national conservative politics--you will recognize of the names of the small donors. Some of those names are quite famous in American politics. Two names I remember off the top of my head are Phyllis Schlafly and Howard Phillips. They're members of the right wing evangelical/political organization called the Council for National Policy. They're not sending the money in under the name of that extremely powerful entity; they're sending it in as individuals.

    But the CNP and Focus on the Family/Family Research Council and other right wing groups *do* organize fundraising for their proteges--and often the fundraising filters in through small individual donations to the candidates. This is a way that powerful political lobbies can fund proteges.

    To know what you claim to know--that the donations are truly "grass roots" and not being made or directed by the encouragement of a powerful political elite--you have to know something more about the names on the list than just the amounts of money they gave. When I looked over Bachmann campaign reports in the past, I noticed that a very large number of the names of individual donors were individuals residing outside the Sixth District. Which is odd, because why would people in Florida or Georgia or Colorado be interested in the result of a backwater 2006 congressional race in Minnesota? I conclude that some "political elite" was telling them to "get interested in it": telling them that this candidate was the candidate of the religious right, that winning that 2004 would create another evangelical conservative seat in Congress, and telling them to donate.

    And lo and behold, in October of 2006 Bloomberg News reported the following:
    "In Minnesota, (Dr. James) Dobson (of Focus on the Family, the CNP and the Family Research Council) is trying to engineer a win for Michele Bachmann, a candidate for the House seat being vacated by Republican Mark Kennedy, who is running for the Senate."

    There is a big story here about the people who contribute to Bachmann's campaign funds, but to tell that story you have to do something more than look at the numbers and the fact that a lot of the money is coming in from individual donors. You look at the names and learn something about who the individual donors are, why they donate, and what organizations are telling them to donate.

    As for your use of the word "grassroots" to describe the Bachmann "revolution" phenomenon--I'm going to refer to this article in an upcoming book that I'm doing on Bachmann. I'm also going to refer to Star Tribune D.C. correspondent Kevin Diaz' recent description of her extremist rhetoric as "populist." I've never understood exactly why, but the Minnesota media has always done this elaborate rhetorical dance--for ten years!--to avoid reporting the fact that Bachmann is an extremist, supported by extremists and theocrats. The local media and their "don't look behind the curtain" reporting on Bachmann is one of the chief reasons that a closeted extremist got into Congress where she could make bizarre, Turner Diaries style charges about elected government.

    Surely the people who support that kind of politics aren't "grassroots."

  • all signs suggest the Bachmann Revolution is coming.

    I don't have the foggiest idea what such an event would look like, but I promise I'll eat my hat if it happens. Whatever it is.

    There's no question that really nutty, proudly uniformed politicians can gin up a great deal of excitement among nutty, proudly uninformed citizens. (cf. Gov. Palin) I've yet to see that translate into widespread electoral or policy successes.

  • jkruse makes another good point--what exactly does Eric's last sentence mean?

    "all signs suggest the Bachmann Revolution is coming."

    What exactly does that refer to? What is the Bachmann Revolution, in Eric's mind? Is it a donations/fundraising kind of thing, or is it a real revolution against the current federal government, or what?

    The headline and the final thoughts here are very provocative. Unfortunately, "provocative" and "thought-provoking" aren't the same thing. Isn't this some kind of academic site? I assumed so, because the U's name is featured prominently. I expect more clarity and less sensational language from an organization that pretends to academic seriousness.

    What about a headline like "Bachmann leads Minn Congress in small donations and small donors"--boring, but more accurate, less suggestion of popular support for her conspiracy charges. "The Bachmann revolution is coming" is both vague and dire, as a closer--about this instead: "The small donations and small donors show that Bachmann's support isn't just "special interests." There are people in her audience who agree with her charges against the government, and are willing to put their money where her mouth is."

    Really, Eric--what do you and Smart Politics mean when you refer to "the Bachmann revolution?" It's important, because you and Smart Politics are telling us that this (whatever you think it is) is coming.

  • > Really, Eric--what do you and Smart Politics mean when
    > you refer to "the Bachmann revolution?"

    It is a playful reference to the infamous quote made by Representative Bachmann last month about her views on President Obama's cap-and-trade proposals. Smart Politics broke the story (see 3rd to last paragraph of the following post):

    http://blog.lib.umn.edu/cspg/smartpolitics/2009/03/michele_bachmann_on_dc_im_a_fo_1.php

    The story made national headlines at Politico, Huffington Post, and several other publications.

  • Oh. Yeah, I know that story, of course. We did a piece on it at Dump Bachmann. I didn't get that you were referring back to that specific quote (or any of the other references she's made to "revolution" and rising up.) I didn't get that from your context. I don't think that any other commenters knew that you were referring to that particular quote, either--I don't see how they could know that, until you explained it.

    Thank you for explaining that--you were making "a playful reference." I didn't get that you were being "playful." I understand know that that was your intent, because you have apprised me of this. I thought that your "Bachmann revolution" allusion might be referring to some particular "event" that you know is going to happen--in the future. Some "grass roots" "revolution" involving Michele Bachmann. I mean, you could see her on C-Span the other day, applauding the wisdom of Americans who stocked up on guns because of the new government in Washington. It's none of my business how you want to write your column, but I'm avoiding making "playful" references to her calls for revolution these days--the charges she's making against her fellow elected officials are quite serious and may very well result in violence.

    One more piece of advice that you didn't ask for: the headline and the last line of your piece, pulled out of context, would make excellent "pull quotes" for Bachmann's press people. For example:

    Narrator: "Michele Bachmann is standing up for ordinary people, fighting to change business as usual in Washington. And the people are standing up for her. Look:

    Smart Politics says the numbers show that: "...the Bachmann 'Revolution' Is a Grassroots Phenomenon."

    Narrator: And her fight for your rights is starting to pay off! Look what Eric Ostermeier of Smart Politics had to say:
    "...All signs suggest the Bachmann Revolution is coming."

    Just sayin'--the most memorable parts of your article are not the numbers, or the narrow thesis you set out to prove. The most memorable parts of the article are you being "playful" and your "she's a grassroots phenom" charge.

  • I hope she kicks a**!!! LOVE her! I'm going to go make a small conribution to her campaign right now! She's one to watch.

    On a shallow note, I love how the Republican top contending women like Palin and Bachman (you know, those absolutely detested by left wing wackos) are hot! They're beautiful, feminine and they love God. ...Unlike the liberal women who are... well, not hot. at all. Ever. Name one.

  • Another thing. It really warms my heart when I see so many left wing wackos on these sites. Keep it up folks! If you weren't so worried and frightened I would be more concerned. As it is, you're time is short.

  • Palin and Bachmann in 2012. And Liz Cheney for Secretary of State. (There's even a Facebook page www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=76983786111.)

    It takes two women to clean the House and the Senate.

    While we're at it, let's repeal the 16th Amendment and institute a Fair Tax and repeal the 17th Amendment and reinstate Article 1, Section 3 of the US Constitution.

    That'll drive the Liberal-Progressive-Socialist Democrats up the proverbial wall.

    Hope some of you Bachmann supporters will be in Washington, DC, July 4 and/or September 12.

  • After reading the comments, I will definitely be making a contribution to the nutty, proudly, informed politician even though I am just a ordinary grassroots citizen from Nebraska! Go Michele!

  • The FEC hasn't found any thing illegal pertaining to the financial statistics published herein. Soooooooo I say the negative postings herein displays the fear of those who wouldn't know a good thing or person if they met one. Although I'm from Southwest Missouri , she is supported by Mark Levin. That is good enough for me.
    He is a Champion for the conservative movement, as well as talk radio. The Fairness Doctrine is a clamp on free speach and a violation of the First Amendment. Would putting duct tape over the mouths of all Acorn workers be O.K.?
    I also support 1MoreCarol's posting 1001 % Pass The Fair Tax Plan H25/S1025, including all other suggestions.
    Only a left-wing idiot wouldn't want to keep all of the money they worked for and pay as they go when they spend to control their taxes being paid, included in the price of all NEW goods and services only.
    Hey 1MoreCarol "the Liberal-Progressive-Socialist-Democrats" are already standing on the "proverbial wall". If a Palin/Bachmann campaign were to become a winning ticket with Ms. Cheney as Sec. Of State they'd jump head first. I'd vote for that any day. I guess it wouldn't hurt them too much, they're already brain dead anyway. You can educate ignorance, but never complete stupidity for those who refuse think and investigate the truth for themselves. Just plain simple facts of human nature,
    There isn't a democrat anywhere, an adverage citizen who could debate You or I on the facts of the Fair Tax Plan. They'd loose hands down. You know it, I know it. They'd never admit it or refuse to debate it. All they know is demagoguery , lies, spin, anything. other than a Plan to save theselves from themselves. They couldn't get out of the rain, unless of coarse the taxpayers paid for the unbrella and a set of flash cards on how to use it. As Forest Gump said. "Stupid is as stupid does", and the democrats fit that to a Tee.

  • Thank you Michelle for standing up for all of us. I am one of those individuals who gave $100.....I live in MN but not in her district. Unfortunately, My rep is a big government spender.

    So I choose to support a rep with a future..she is arguably the most recognized Reagan conservative in the country right now, and with that, she has more than a chance at a presidential win in her future.

    Go MB!

  • Just made a donation to Michelle Bachmann. Only the second donation I've ever made to any political candidate.
    Sarah Palin was the other. If Begala is so worried about her, then she must be as accomplished as I think she is.

  • I am from Oklahoma, Michelle Bachmann can have all of my money, support, and best wishes for success!

    President Bachmann?

  • Bachmann's stand against the carbon tax and her stand against the new U.S. Census show a real understanding of the dangers to American liberty of this new era of massive federal government over-reach. She is showing the kind of leadership that has been lacking and the kind of leadership that we need. Her leadership is getting peoples' attention, even all the way out here on Maui.

  • I love to read the elitist liberal/socialist's blogs. They just can't accept the fact that there are still people in America who believe in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights instead of the Obamanation. I guarantee you I'll be sending Rep. Bachman a donation and it will be small, a little is better than nothing. I live in the 6th district in Indiana. Ever hear of mike Pence?? Look out you liberal/socialists, the Americans are coming.

  • I want to thank you for all you are doing for us "right wing people". May God continue to bless all that you do!

  • Leave a comment


    Remains of the Data

    No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

    Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

    Political Crumbs

    Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

    Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


    An Idaho Six Pack

    Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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