Jan 16, 2013

Michele Bachmann's post-eleciton disasters

Michele Bachmann's ill-fated campaign for the GOP presidential nomination ended over a year ago, after a brutal loss in the Iowa Caucuses. Bachmann, who is now returning to Congress for her another term, had serious religious right bona fides, having been politicized by Francis Schaeffer in 1977, but couldn't rally the Republican faithful and couldn't manage the necessary transformation into a plausible national candidate.

Her campaign went from disaster to disaster.

Her campaign is still going from disaster to disaster, long after it's over.

A year after the campaign, Peter Waldron, the Bachmann staffer in charge of evangelical outreach is now saying the congresswoman is refusing to pay staffers for work they did. It's a relatively small amount of money. Bachmann ended her presidential campaign with more than $2 million in her war chest and reportedly raised more money in her congressional campaign than any other candidate, but is, according to the disgruntled ex-staffer, refusing to pay out on less than $5,000 of outstanding bills. Which seems like strange behavior.

Or, as Bachmann's one-time head of Christian outreach put it: "It is sobering to think that a Christian member of Congress would betray her testimony to the Lord and the public by withholding earned wages from deserving staff."

The official response has been accusations that Waldron is lying. Which he may be, though that only calls into question the Bachmann campaigns competency in another way. This man, after all, has a history that would have given another political team pause before making him a key part of its strategy.

There's been some speculation that this conflict stems from a separate post-campaign disaster, the ongoing investigation into the alleged theft of a list of homeschooler's e-mails. According to the Star Tribune, the Bachmann campaign eventually paid the homeschool group $2,000 for using or misusing the list, but the campaign is also being sued by the individual they got the list from and the criminal investigation into how that happened is still open.

Whether that's the source of the conflict or not, the public fight between Waldron and the Bachmann loyalists has now escalated, with the ex-staffer now making colorful accusations about unusual things going on in the campaign and the extreme extent to which Bachmann let her staff control her. Things were so bad, according to Waldron, that avid supporters didn't recognize the Bachmann they thought they knew, and "More than one staffer was grateful to God that she didn't win the nomination."

This isn't reliable information, of course, but there is a clear pattern of very bad judgment from this Republican leader of the religious right. Whether one believes the ex-staffer or thinks he's crazy or both, the conclusion would be the same: Bachmann lacks the ability to surround herself with reasonable, reliable people. A good number of her history of crises can be attributed directly to this fact, and she'll likely continue, despite her success at fundraising and winning the vote of her Minnesota district, careening from disaster to disaster.

Her fiercest supporters and critics hold that this is because of her strong ideological positions. It seems possible, though, that it's just incompetance.