Small checks drive Michele Bachmann's big bucks

By Brian Bakst

Associated Press

Published: Friday, June 24 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

In the 2010 race, Bachmann only had about 400 people who gave the $2,400 limit. Campaign reports analyzed by The Associated Press show that $5.6 million — about half of Bachmann's overall expenses during that campaign — was plowed back into fundraising. It went to fundraising consultants, credit card processing fees, telemarketing and mail solicitations, among other costs.

But there are also advantages to Bachmann's fundraising strategy. Fundraising consultants say that while making the first hit involves trial and error, there is a payoff when donors come through again and again. Jonathan Mantz, who was national finance director for Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 campaign, said the number of donors is as important to watch as a campaign's overall take.

"If you have a bunch of max-outs, at the end of the day they can't contribute anymore," Mantz said. Drawing in more low-dollar givers is "almost like a subscription program, where they are able to give because ideally they have room in their budget and you can take advantage of key moments."

Bachmann had almost $2.9 million in her congressional campaign fund through March that she's allowed to transfer to her presidential bid. She came out of the gate last week with a barrage of fundraising pleas, saying in one, "In these first few days of my campaign it is imperative that I have the funds necessary to reach out to conservatives in every corner of the United States."

In one letter to donors in May, she bemoans a federal deficit pegged at "a record-shattering $1.65 TRILLION!" and says she needs campaign money to combat forces trying to target her politically. Others are saturated with vivid language about values being "under assault like never before" and the nation trending toward "socialist policies."

Thousands of the Bachmann donors are described in her campaign reports as retired. Many others say they are self-employed or own businesses. Some contacted by the AP said they've previously given to Texas Rep. Ron Paul, Florida Rep. Allen West and unsuccessful Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle — all of whom are, as is Bachmann, revered by the tea party.

"I can tell generally who the good people are by how much the press hates them," said retired Louisiana electrical engineer David Kimball, who gave money to the others and just under $500 to Bachmann in 2010 in near-weekly donations that began in the summer. "My impression of her is she's telling the truth. She's patriotic. I don't think there's any guile about her."

Hornung, the retired Bachmann donor from New York, says she's rooting for a Bachmann presidential campaign even amid doubts about her actually winning. Those doubts, she said, aren't enough to stop her from writing Bachmann checks.

"If need be, I'll be a great deal more supportive than what I've been so far," Hornung said. "Whatever the maximum is, she'll get from me."

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