Bachmann starts presidential race with lots of cash on hand

WASHINGTON – It’s well known that Rep. Michele Bachmann is a legendary fundraiser. For her 2010 House re-election race against DFLer Tarryl Clark, Bachmann hauled in more than $13 million, a sum that’s unimaginable for most members of Congress.

Two days into her quest for the GOP presidential nomination, that money machine is in high gear. I’ve already received at least four fundraising emails from the Bachmann campaign.

As of March 31, Bachmann’s congressional campaign account held $2.8 million in cash after she raised an additional $1.7 million in the first three months of 2011.

All of that money can be transferred to Bachmann’s presidential campaign fund, according to campaign finance expert Anthony Corrado of Colby College, giving her a healthy start in the money race.

Bachmann has a second federally-regulated campaign fund, MICHELEPAC.

Those kinds of funds, known as leadership PACs, differ from traditional campaign committees in that they’re more loosely regulated, with higher contribution limits than regular candidate committees.

We’ll have more on this soon, but it seems that Bachmann was using MICHELEPAC to set up her campaign infrastructure before she officially declared her candidacy Monday night.

While leadership PACs can’t be used for direct campaign expenditures, such as advertising, they can pay for so-called indirect expenses such as travel, political consulting and polling.

In the first four months of the year, MICHELEPAC raised more than $700,000 and spent nearly $600,000, compared to total fundraising of nearly $650,000 and expenditures of less than $500,000 throughout the entire two years of the 2010 election cycle.

The PAC has hired a number of fundraising and direct mail consultants who appear to have helped Bachmann widen her already large email list and expand her fundraising base.

As of April 30, MICHELEPAC had $300,000 cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission filings. That money can’t be transferred to her presidential campaign fund but could still pay for some campaign-related expenses.

Candidates often use leadership PACs to raise money for their allies. In the last election cycle, MICHELEPAC contributed nearly $70,000 to Republican House and Senate campaigns according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

We’ll get more insight into the inner workings of the Bachmann campaign next month when it releases more fundraising and expenditure data to the FEC.

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