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December 20, 2006

PiPress: Bachmann should take "hard line" on ethics

A PiPress staff editorial praises Amy Klobuchar's pledge to be an ethical Senator...

Amy Klobuchar, elected last month as Minnesota's newest U.S. senator, aims to make good on the themes of her campaign in that regard. This week, she pledged to refuse any trips, meals or gifts from private sources. She wants to tighten up on no-bid federal contracts and create an independent body to enforce the ethics rules that bind lawmakers. And she wants to make the local spending projects that slide quietly into bigger bills more visible.
...and challenges Michele Bachmann:

May [Klobuchar] enjoy wild success at that — and in her effort to set an example. There's no reason why Sen. Norm Coleman, Rep. John Kline, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. Betty McCollum and others from Minnesota, despite their various differences, shouldn't team up with Klobuchar to make sure Minnesota glistens like Mr. Clean, or Ms. Clean, as the case may be.
Perhaps the PiPress editorial staff should have taken a look at the record of Bachmann's new chief of staff, who has a record of accepting lobbyist-sponsored trips.

December 19, 2006

Bachmann labeled "vulnerable" in '08

The Star Trib has the article:

The next elections could lure record amounts of money.

[...]

It's too early to tell what kind of dollars the House races will generate in two years, but the races in the First and Sixth districts could be a sequel to 2006. Both Walz and Bachmann will be vulnerable, [University of Minnesota political science professor Larry] Jacobs said.

So, who do you like to run against Bachmann?

December 11, 2006

Ah, memories

How cute! The Bachmann campaign is making their old boss a scrapbook! From an e-mail I got a few days ago:

Dear Friends,

Thank you again for all that you have done over the past twenty two months. The entire Bachmann campaign thanks you from the bottom of our hearts; it was such an honor to work with every single one of you. When Michele asked for help you stepped up to the plate an knocked the ball out of the park.

Now we want to ask you for your help one more time. Our boss is out in Washington D.C. this week and the campaign staff wanted to surprise her with a scrap book of memories from the campaign. If you have anything you would like us to include (newspaper clips, photos, letters, etc.) please email it to angela@michelebachmann.com or send it U.S. mail to:

Bachmann for Congress
Attention: Angela
6053 Hudson Road #360
Woodbury, MN 55125

Again, we thank you for everything you have already done, and you made the difference on November 7th .

Sincerely,

Bachmann for Congress
Anyone care to add anything to Michele's scrapbook?

Please be respectful.

Since nothing Bachmann's opponents send in will ever be accepted, unless it is very cleverly disguised, someone could make a parody Bachmann scrapbook if they'd like.

Commenter: Bachmann's campaign dysfunctional?

Although I was disappointed by her win, I'd say Michele Bachmann won pretty convincingly over Patty Wetterling. True, she received just barely over 50%, but she outperformed Wetterling by 8 points, in what was supposed to be a down-to-the-wire race. John Binkowski doubtlessly pulled more votes from Wetterling than he did from Bachmann (on many issues he was more liberal than Patty), he wasn't the deciding factor in the race. All other things being equal, with Binkowski out of the race, Bachmann still would have won.

However, over at the blog Residual Forces, Andy Aplikowski, aka "Triple A," who wrote occasionally for rival blog Bachmann v. Wetterling, thinks that Bachmann's 8-point margin was an under-performance:

“Bachmann underperformed terribly. She mustered only 50%, and fell tens of thousands of votes behind Kennedy’s previous performances in 04 and 02. The state party made it a sport of attacking the great St. Patty, as did the NRCC. I believe that was detrimental to the case that Bachmann was a better choice for voters.?

As I recall, Mr. Aplikowski was a gleeful participant in many of those "sporting" attacks on Patty Wetterling. But we'll let that pass for now. The really interesting stuff came in a comment by commenter "Jonathan," responding to Andy's assertion:

You can hardly blame the Bachmann race on the state party. The failure of the Bachmann campaign to win by a large margin was a result of having lackluster campaign management. The reason for their marginal victory was because the campaign manager didn’t work on weekends until the final weeks of the campaign, had two staff members working on yard signs months after they should have been distributed, didn’t even attend all of the candidate’s debates. And the list could go on and on.

Not being, obviously, involved in the campaign, I can't attest to the truth of any of this comment's assertions, but I do recall that, at the beginning of the summer, the Wetterling campaign had many more signs out in Stillwater and the surrounding areas than Bachmann did--in her home turf! Could this be due to a poorly-run Bachmann campaign? It sounds plausible.

I still don't think an 8-point win is an "underperformance," but could this be one reason why Mr. Andy Parrish is now relegated to purse-holder status? Of course, if it's true, the reason he's still around is because, for all his alleged shortcomings, he still has a bigger work ethic than Michele Bachmann.

Drop me a line if you have any "insider" info on either of the campaigns, or Binkowski's for that matter.

December 10, 2006

Bachmann's fundraising records are now up

Bachmann's campaign has filed their post-general report with the FEC. Head over to their website to see who Michele Bachmann will really be working for in Congress.

On the same wavelength, it appears the MN-06 Victory Committe has responded to the FEC's questions about the transfer of $115,000 to the Bachmann for Congress committee:

IN response to your letter dated November 8, 2006 regarding the 12 Day Pre-General Report please note that MN-06 Congressional Victory Committee is an affiliated committee with Bachmann for Congress.

Please contact me with any further questions. Thank you.

That response doesn't seem to answer the FEC's complaint:

Schedule B of your report ... discloses one or more contributions which appear to exceed the limits set forth in the Act. 2 U.S.C. 441a(a) prohibits a non-multicandidate political committee and its affiliates, from making a contribution to a candidate for federal office in excess of $2,100 per election.

I don't see the committee's response addressing the FEC's issue. Of course, I have no knowledge of election law. If someone could clarify this issue, that would be great.

December 6, 2006

Bachmann on the Iraq Study Group

Michele Bachmann: still spinning...

"I was pleased the Iraq Study Group recognized that it is not in the best interest of the United States to set arbitrary deadlines for withdrawal."

Bachmann is almost as confused and bewildered as George Bush looks in this picture:

bushiraqstudy.jpg

What the Iraq Study Group's report actually said:

The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army, which would take over primary responsibility for combat operations. By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force protection could be out of Iraq.

1Q 2008: is that an "arbitrary deadline"?

Read the comments of Reid, Pelosi, and Murtha for intelligent commentary from people who actually read the report.

Dump Bachmann has more on Michele's past statements on Iraq. Apparently Michele has set her own "arbitrary deadline" in the past. Our troops will withdraw, she said,
"When freedom reigns over terror."
That's a deadline as arbitrary as your definitions of "freedom" and "terror."

Kochvar's telecom junket

Some more digging on Brooks Kochvar turned up an additional lobbyist-funded trip, which I missed the first time because of a typo in the legislative trips database (he is listed as "Brooks Kochvas.") According to the American RadioWorks investigation, Kochvar took a trip to San Diego in April 2003 for a conference sponsored by SBC Telecommunications, with all expenses paid:

Destination: DEPART WASHINGTON, DC APRIL 22 AND RETURN APRIL 25 DESTINATION SAN DIEGO
Sponsor: SBC Communications Inc
Purpose: CONGRESSIONAL STAFF SEMINAR ON TELECOM INDUSTRY
Date: Apr 22, 2003 (3 days)
Expense: $1,684.90

Here's the original document in Kochvar's own handwriting (PDF.)

Interestingly enough, San Diego is the home turf of disgraced Congressman Duke Cunningham, for whom Kochvar previously worked. I can't find any evidence that Kochvar met Cunningham for some catch-up time while he was in San Diego, or that Cunningham was even in San Diego on those dates. I also can't find any indication that any of Duke Cunningham's staffers attended this SBC conference. Nevertheless, it is an interesting coincidence, because that April 2003 timeframe would put the trip smack dab in the middle of some of Cunningham's shady dealings:

Jan. 13, 2003: $3,000 and $30,000 checks deposited into his personal bank accounts in San Diego.

May 8, 2003: California registration of a 1999 GMC Suburban with altered title claiming he paid $18,000 instead of below-market price of $10,000.

May 14, 2003: $8,000 check he deposited into his personal credit union account in Washington, D.C.

June 20-22, 2003: $2,731.33 in checks to a resort for lodging and meals, $1,500 gift certificate used to purchase a set of earrings and $400 for a charm and necklace.

I can't find any specifics on the SBC Telecommunications conference, either, but the list of other congressional staffers who attended the conference contains some good clues. Some staffers disclosed the trip only as a "fact-finding mission" (very noble), "educational" in nature, or as just a "congressional staff seminar," without mentioning the telecom connection. However, some staffers were more explicit.

A staffer from ND Sen. Byron Dorgan's office described it as:

CONGRESSIONAL STAFF TRIP TO VISIT SBC FACILITIES IN CALIFORNIA. IT WILL BE INVOLVE SEMINARS AND DISCUSSIONS ON TELECOMMUNICATIONS POLICY

Other staffers' descriptions:

TO UNDERSTAND THE MARKETPLACE POST TRIENNICAL REVIEW
FURTHER EXAMINE FCC RULINGS IN REGARD TO TELECOMM INDUSTRY
CONGRESSIONAL STAFF TELECOMMUNICATIONS SEMINAR: TO LEARN AND DISCUSS THE 1996 TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT AND THE FCC'S RECENT DECISIONS, AND THEIR IMPACT ON REGIONAL BELL OPERATING COMPANIES, THEIR LONG-DISTANCE COMPETITORS, AND THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTR

A look at Michele Bachmann's FEC filings shows several contributions from telecommunications industry PACs:

*$2,000 from AT&T's PAC
*$8,000 total from Verizon Wireless' PAC, the "Good Government Club"
*$500 from the U.S. Telecom Association PAC

There are probably more, and this doesn't count her contributions from individuals in these industries. Nor did I examine the filings of the "MN-06 Victory Committee."

Given these connections, we should be on the lookout for any attempt by Michele Bachmann's office to give handouts to SBC or the telecom industry.

December 5, 2006

Bachmann's new chief of staff: ethically challenged

John Gizzi of Human Events has this tidbit:

Rep.-elect Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.) has turned to Brooks Kochvar,
chief of staff to defeated Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Ind.), to run her
office.
Looks like former Bachmann campaign manager Andy Parrish didn't get the position he was (supposedly) angling for. As a first-time campaign manager, I didn't see him getting a chief of staff position. I guess he'll still be working for Bachmann, though, considering the invaluable purse-holding work he performs for Michele.

We'll be watching the career of Mr. Parrish closely, because his ridiculous wingnuttery is so entertaining. But who is this Brooks Kochvar?

His current appointment, as the Human Events piece notes, is chief of staff to recently defeated two-term Republican representative and assistant majority whip Chris "the Count" Chocola of Indiana. There are quotes from Kochvar strewn across the internet--boilerplate Republican campaign stuff, but nothing too crazy that I've seen. However, he is not without controversy.

An investigation by American RadioWorks on the cozy relationships between special-interest lobbyists and congressional staffers reveals that Kochvar has accepted two lobbyist-sponsored trips, worth almost $2,000, from the Congressional Institute, Inc., a Washington "think tank." According to SourceWatch, CII is

a DC organization that conducts research and hosts seminars on topics
such as health care, taxes, energy, and the environment. The Institute
is a non-profit organization funded by corporate contributions and run
by top GOP lobbyists

Judge for yourself the trustworthiness of this organization and the appropriateness of their corporate-funded junkets to high-end spas and resorts.

After coming under the scrutiny of news organizations, the CII dramatically cut back its lobbyist-sponsored trips in 2006, dropping from a total of nearly 1,000 sponsored trips between 2002 and 2005 to just 17 in the first 8 months of 2006.

One factor in Chocola's loss were allegations of corruption against him. In his four years in Congress, he amassed tens of thousands in campaign contributions from tainted GOP lawmakers like Tom Delay ($40,000), Bob Ney ($8,000), Duke Cunningham ($6,000), and current leaders John Boehner and Roy Blunt (over $25,000 each.) Many believe that his close ties to Delay and the GOP leadership were factors in his rapid rise to position of prominence as assistant majority whip and key seats on the Ways and Means Committee and the Budget Committee, which resulted in millions of dollars in pork for his district. Also factoring into the loss were Chocola's close ties to the unpopular President Bush, who appeared with Chocola several times.

Going back further in Kochvar's career, it appears that, before coming to Chocola's staff, he worked for disgraced Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham, now serving over 8 years in prison for accepting over $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and for tax evasion. Kochvar is listed here as Cunningham's "Legislative Correspondent," and is also linked to Cunningham in this document from April 8, 2003. I can't find any specifics on Kochvar's time with Cunningham, and he doesn't appear to be explicitly linked to the Cunningham bribery scandal. However, Cunningham's corruption appears to extend back at least as far as May 2000, so Kochvar's time with Cunningham overlapped with the congressman's corrupt activities. Does that mean that Kochvar knew about it? Not necessarily... but if I were Michele Bachmann, I'd be concerned about the message sent by hiring a guy who's worked for one of the most corrupt public officials in history, who later worked for a key player in the GOP culture of corruption, and who himself accepted lobbyist-sponsored vacations.

With this background, it is clear that Kochvar has a history in the GOP culture of corruption, and, with his selection as her chief of staff, Michele Bachmann has made it clear that she wants to be a part of that culture.

Know anything more about Mr. Brooks Kochvar? Please add it in the comments.

December 3, 2006

More FEC troubles for Bachmann?

I hadn't looked at Bachmann's FEC filings since the election, and I found that the FEC has some issues with her campaign committees' reporting.

On October 10th, the FEC sent the Bachmann for Congress a "request for additional information" relating to her pre-primary filing. Bachmann's filing was apparently missing some information on some of the contributors. It appears these problems were rectified and the campaign filed an amended report on October 16th.

This seems like a pretty standard slip-up, though it does raise concerns about the professionalism of Bachmann's staff. It seems like a mistake that many campaigns could, and probably did, make. It could also be chalked up to mistakes made by the contributors rather than the campaign itself.

However, there is another request for additional information filed November 8th regarding a transfer of $115,000 from the "MN-06 Congressional Victory Committee" (an apparent name change) to the Bachmann for Congress Committee. The transfer occurred on October 18th, the last day covered in the pre-general filing. According to the FEC, this runs afoul of regulations restricting this type of contribution to $2,100-- in other words, the transfer exceeded limits by almost $113,000.

The FEC letter states:

Schedule B of your report ... discloses one or more contributions which appear to exceed the limits set forth in the Act. 2 U.S.C. 441a(a) prohibits a non-multicandidate political committee and its affiliates, from making a contribution to a candidate for federal office in excess of $2,100 per election.

The FEC indicates that Bachmann's committee must either justify the contribution under election law, or refund it. They indicate a deadline of December 11th for Bachmann's committee to respond to the request. If an adequate response is not received, the committee may be audited or made subject to an "enforcement action."

I am not an expert by any means in election law, but this contribution does seem illegal, and the FEC seems to agree. If you have any expertise in these matters, please leave a comment explaining what you think of the legality of this contribution.

Read more about past Bachmann conflicts with the FEC here.

By the numbers...

The Star Trib has a campaign round-up for the Sixth District:

$7.2 million

Amount raised by candidates for Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District this year (including Rep.-elect Michele Bachmann and Patty Wetterling), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

7th

Of the 435 races for the House of Representatives, rank of Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District in terms of amount raised by the candidates.

They also have some interesting stats on the absolutely terrible political coverage of Twin Cities news media:


In an average half-hour local news broadcast in the Twin Cities in the month prior to last month's election, number of minutes taken up by political advertisements, according to a study by the University of Wisconsin.

135

Percent by which the amount of political advertising exceeded the amount of news coverage of the election on those news broadcasts.

71

Percent of the election-related local television news stories that focused on the strategy and the horse race of the campaign.

14

Percent of the election-related local television news stories that focused on issues in the election.

There are many parties that bear some responsibility for Michele Bachmann's victory, but in my mind none more so than the media, which refused to cover Bachmann honestly and comprehensively.

Finally, they have this "statistic" about blogging:

1

Number of new blogs created each second of every day, according to Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

1

Number of readers that the average blog has, according to Schmidt.

So true.