Watchdog seeks probe of Michele Bachmann health care rally

1:42 PM, Nov 18, 2009   |    comments
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Rep. Bachmann at Nov 5 rally

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- An ethics watchdog group is asking Congress to investigate a Capitol rally organized and promoted earlier this month by Rep. Michele Bachmann.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asserts that the 6th District Minnesota Republican broke House rules by using her official Web site and staff e-mails to drum up support for the Nov. 5 rally, which was in opposition to health care reform.

The group, known as C.R.E.W. for short, also complained that Bachmann and fellow members of Congress skipped the necessary steps of getting permits for rally, and mislabeled the event as a press conference.

Bachmann had promoted the event as a "house call on Washington" and "bringing the town hall to the Capitol" in interviews, web site messages and press releases.

Thousands of conservatives converged on the Capitol for the event to speak out against the health care reform. They also fanned out to find their members of Congress and lobby them personally.

According to the Associated Press a spokesman in Bachmann's office referred questions to the House Administration Committee. A spokesman for the committee chairman didn't immediately respond to an e-mail message from the A.P.

C.R.E.W. is asking for the Office of Congressional Ethics to probe the circumstances surrounding the event. The group's petition includes transcripts of the rally and interviews Bachmann gave leading up to it as evidence of her political objectives.

Rep. Bachmann promoted the event widely on talk radio and cable talk shows, urging voters to come to the Capitol to stop the reform efforts. She dubbed the legislation a "government takeover of one-fifth of the U.S. economy" and "gangster government at its worse." 

However, in  Bachmann's November 2nd news release, sent by Congressional staff to the media, she referred to the event as a "Washington press conference."  A press conference technically falls within the range of events members of Congress can promote using staff and other taxpayer financed resources.

Dr. Maureen Reed, one of the Democrats seeking to replace Bachmann on Capitol Hill, welcomed the ethics complaint.

"It appears once again that Michele Bachmann has forgotten that she was elected to represent the citizens of Minnesota's 6th district," Reed's campaign manager Jason Isaacson wrote to reporters.

"Instead, Bachmann is desperately attempting to keep pace in a race with Sarah Palin as the darling of the conservative movement."

(Copyright 2009 by KARE and the Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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