Bachmann presidential campaign ended 2011 $447K in debt

Bachmann in Iowa
Rep. Michele Bachmann, seen here on the presidential campaign trail in October, may have the clout to turn her campaign debt into cash for her congressional re-election bid.
MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik

New Federal Election Commission records show Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign ended 2011 about $447,000 in debt.

While Bachmann has some work to do to clear up the books of her presidential run, some think her her failed campaign will only help her fundraising as she seeks re-election to Congress.

During the last three months of the year, Bachmann raised more than $1.7 million. According to a news release from her campaign the money came from almost 25,000 people, making her average contribution just under $50.

Bachmann's presidential campaign declined an interview request her finances. In a statement campaign manager Keith Nahigian said the campaign was in the process of "quickly retiring outstanding obligations."

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Bachmann ended her presidential campaign Jan. 4, the day after she finished dead last among the field of GOP presidential candidates competing in the Iowa caucuses.

Last week Bachmann ended speculation about her future, saying she would run for re-election to Congress.

For most politicians, launching a new campaign while having to pay off old campaign debt could be difficult. But Carleton College political science professor Steven Schier said Bachmann has proven she's not "most politicians" when it comes to fundraising.

"The main effect of the debt is that it puts her a bit behind in her fundraising for her U.S. House re-election campaign," Schier said. "Having said that ... she may well be able to overcome this campaign debt that remains from the presidential campaign."

According to FEC records, Bachmann raised more than $13.5 million for her last congressional campaign in 2010. That was more than any other candidate that cycle.

Since getting elected to Congress in 2006, Bachmann has built up a substantial national profile. She is better known nationally than almost every other member of Congress.

Schier said Bachmann's profile is even larger now and that should add to her demonstrated ability to attract a lot of money.

"One legacy of the Bachmann campaign for president is that she has a bigger nationwide network of contributors, most of whom have not given that maximum in this election year and can be tapped again for money for a U.S. House race," he said. "If anything, it's left her with a resource for fundraising that she didn't have before."

Schier said as Bachmann gears up for her congressional re-election, she is likely to appear often on conservative television and radio programs, which helped her raise her profile in the first place.

According on the new batch of FEC reports, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's failed presidential campaign ended the year about $50,000 in debt. Pawlenty dropped out of the race in mid-August and soon thereafter endorsed Mitt Romney.

In the previous campaign reporting period which ended in September, Pawlenty posted debt of more than $450,000.