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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Bachmann’s Fundraising Whopper

In several urgent fundraising appeals, Rep. Michele Bachmann falsely claims that biased “liberal judges” redrew her congressional district “in retaliation for repeatedly standing up to President Obama.” The truth is that only two of the five judges were Democratic appointees, and Bachmann’s Minnesota district has become even more Republican than it was before.

It’s true that a bipartisan panel of judges redrew district lines and placed the town where Bachmann lives in an abutting district represented by a Democrat. But she has chosen to again run in the 6th District, the one she has represented since 2007. And she doesn’t even have to move to do that.

Bachmann has sent out several appeals that carry the same message:

Bachmann email, May 11: A major development has just occurred in my race for the U.S. House of Representatives and I’m asking for your immediate help…

…You see, in retaliation for repeatedly standing up to President Obama on the national stage, liberal judges have redrawn the lines of my Minnesota Congressional District to try and wipe me off of the political map once and for all.

Their bias was so obvious they even gerrymandered my home — where my wonderful husband Marcus and I live –- entirely out of my District and placed it into one held by a six-term Democrat incumbent!

In the email, sent to national supporters of her failed presidential bid, Bachmann writes, “You and I must NOT allow the courts to defeat me by moving me out of my district at such a pivotal election. To hand the Obama Democrats this victory now would be to destroy all we have built over these last six years.”

The email goes on to ask donors to make “a commitment to my campaign in the amount of $2,500, $1,000, $500, $250, $100, $70, or $35 today.”

Let’s start with the bogus claim that the new district lines were redrawn by “liberal judges.” As Mother Jones reported on May 9, the redistricting was done by a five-judge panel selected by Minnesota’s chief justice, Lorie Gildea. Gildea was elevated to chief justice by former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty (the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote about it in an article headlined “Pawlenty’s picks keep high court tilting right“). Only two of the five judges on the panel Gildea selected were Democratic appointees. One was appointed by Gov. Jesse Ventura, who was a member of the Independence Party of Minnesota; one was appointed by Pawlenty. And one by former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson.

Contrary to Bachmann’s assertion that the development “just occurred,” the panel issued its redistricting decision on Feb. 21.

It’s true that the newly drawn plans moved Bachmann’s home in Stillwater into the 4th Congressional District. The decision to move Stillwater into the 4th District was perfectly logical, said David Wasserman, a political analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. The 4th District, which takes in St. Paul, simply had not grown as fast as the rest of the state and needed to pick up population. And the 6th District had grown so quickly, it needed to lose population, he said.

“This was not a partisan map,” Wasserman said. “Her assertions are baloney.”

Bachmann’s home now lies in the 4th District, which is considered a safe Democratic district. But Bachmann isn’t running in the 4th District. Per the U.S. Constitution, a congressional candidate doesn’t need to actually live in a district to represent it (though the candidate does have to live in the state). Immediately after the redistricting plan was unveiled, Bachmann announced she would run to retain her seat in the 6th District.

“It may be a nuisance to her that her home was carved out of the 6th District, but the 6th District actually got more Republican,” Wasserman said. “She’s even safer than she was before.”

By the Cook Report’s estimation, the 6th District was 7 percentage points more Republican than the national average before the redistricting, and now it is 8 percentage points more Republican than the national average.

The redistricting actually “strengthened her position,” Wasserman said.

But that’s certainly not the impression Bachmann leaves in the email when she states: “As the TEA Party Caucus Chairwoman in the U.S. House and one of President Obama’s sharpest critics, the Democrats are licking their chops over Minnesota’s new political map and will spend MILLIONS to defeat me.”

Perhaps that kind of opposition is mounting, but if it does, Bachmann appears well-positioned to fight back. Bachmann’s campaign fundraising is far outpacing that of her chief Democratic opponent, hotelier Jim Graves. Graves announced recently that he had donated $100,000 to his own campaign, but according to Federal Election Commission reports, Bachmann raised nearly $580,000 for her congressional campaign in the first quarter of this year alone. In all, the latest FEC report shows that Bachmann has raised nearly $5.2 million this election cycle.

— Robert Farley