After reimbursing her husband more than $6,000 for travel expenses he incurred during her recent campaign, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has decided to repay her campaign committee the money it doled out to him.
Bachmann did not disclose the 18 months worth of charges until after Election Day, but she decided to repay the campaign account from her personal funds following an inquiry from a reporter.
“In an abundance of caution, the Congresswoman and her husband are going to reimburse the money,” Bachmann aide Brooks Kochvar said Friday.
According to Kochvar, Marcus Bachmann, like any loyal political spouse, campaigned tirelessly alongside his wife for more than a year before Nov. 7, 2006, knocking on doors, shaking hands and likely eating his share of casseroles.
And because Minnesota is a caucus state, Kochvar said, “you basically go from one house to another,” trying to shore up support for the campaign. It can be very a long, hard slog.
“You literally drive thousands and thousands miles going to one-on-one meetings with [Republican caucus] delegates,” Kochvar said. “And after the caucus was over, you continue to campaign across the district.”
And drive he did, according to Federal Election Commission campaign finance disclosures. The Congresswoman told the FEC in December that her campaign owed her husband roughly $6,000 for about 14,000 miles worth of driving. On average, Marcus Bachmann claimed he drove his wife around in the family’s 1995 Saturn nearly 30 miles per day, every day, for about a year and a half.
Bachmann won an overwhelming victory in the local GOP caucus and then won a narrow general election victory over Democrat Patty Wetterling.
Overall, House campaigns reimbursed staff, family members and candidates about $8.5 million in the 2005-06 election cycle for automobile-related travel, according to data provided by the Federal Election Commission, making the repayment to the Bachmann family hardly unusual.
But Marcus Bachmann was not the only one in the campaign burning up rubber. Through mid-December, Bachmann’s campaign, fighting to win a seat in a 3,200 square-mile, 64 percent urban district, also paid back staff and others an additional $26,000 in campaign-related gas and mileage expenses, according to FEC data.
In contrast, Rep. Bart Stupak (D), who represents a 27,000 square-mile district in Northern Michigan, paid himself, staff and others nearly $19,000 in gas and mileage reimbursements. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), whose district takes up all 147,000 square miles of Montana, paid out about $1,100 in mileage and gas reimbursements. And Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), whose mostly road-free district is about 663,000 square miles, reimbursed staff and others about $13,000.
Bob Biersack, a spokesman at the FEC, said Friday that generally speaking, campaigns may reimburse candidates, staff and others for all election-related travel. The agency generally does not comment about enforcement matters.
“Certainly it is the case that family members and spouses can travel with the candidates,” Biersack said. “And they can be reimbursed for travel expenses incurred for campaign purposes.”
Kochvar said the post-Nov. 7 disclosure was unintentional and said that the decision to reimburse the money was voluntary and not an admission that something improper had occurred.
Still, previous media reports have indicated that Bachmann has been criticized in the past over questionable reimbursements she took as a Minnesota state Senator.
Correction: Jan. 29, 2007
The article “Bachmann Will Repay Campaign” reported the incorrect figure for overall reimbursements paid out by House candidates for auto travel expenses during the 2006 election cycle. It was $3.7 million.