Michele Bachmann uses liberal super PAC attack to raise funds

Post-Citizens United, 'no member is safe,' says political watchdog

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 Updated:

Correction (Feb. 8, 2013, 2:00 a.m.): The 2012 spending numbers from the Center for Responsive Politics that were originally cited in this story combined Bachmann's expenditures during both her presidential run and her House re-election campaign. This story has been updated to reflect that fact that Bachmann spent only $12 million on her congressional bid, not $23 million.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., is one of the most prolific fundraisers in the U.S. House of Representatives, but the woman who founded the House Tea Party Caucus in 2010 knows it's never too early to ask for more campaign cash.

On the heels of being named one of the first 10 targets by Democratic-aligned House Majority PAC, Bachmann e-mailed supporters on Wednesday to ask for funds to replenish her war chest.

"The liberal Democratic attack machine never gives up," Bachmann wrote of being targeted by House Majority PAC.

"Your online donation of $25, $35, $50, $100 or more will go immediately towards funding my campaign's efforts to fight back," she continued. "Only with your immediate support can we show them that conservatives don't give up either!!!"

Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politcs, told the Center for Public Integrity that it is "standard operating procedure" for politicians on both sides of the aisle to turn "an attack into a fundraising appeal."

Bachmann, Krumholz continued, is "uniquely suited" to utilize attacks by liberal groups to "energize her base" because she is "a standard-bearer of sorts for the right flank of Congress."

Bachmann's congressional campaigns, as well as her failed 2012 presidential campaign, gained notariety for her success enticing supporters to make small-dollar donations — raising significant funds both online and through direct mail, which can be a high-cost, high-reward undertaking.

According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, she spent more than $12 million on her successful re-election bid in 2012, when she defeated Democratic challenger Jim Graves by a surprisingly narrow margin of 1.2 percentage points.

That sum ranked her among the top House candidates in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

And it roughly matched the $12 million she spent to fuel her 2010 re-election campaign, when she was the No. 1 spender among House candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Bachmann, who was first elected in 2006, headed into 2013 with $2 million in the bank, according to her most recent campaign finance report with the FEC. Individuals may now donate up to $2,600 per election to a candidate.

Krumholz added that in the super PAC age, when such committees may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, the pressure for lawmakers to build up their war chests has "rarely, if ever, been higher."

"No member is safe," she said.