Why Michele Bachmann Is Quitting Congress

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 29 2013 9:30 AM

The Forces Pushing and Pulling Michele Bachmann Out Congress' Door

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Michele Bachmann won't run for re-election next year. The four-term Republican congresswoman from Minnesota made the news official in a lengthy video she posted online overnight. The announcement comes as somewhat of a surprise given that less than a week ago she began running ads in and around her home district hyping her candidacy, but doubts about her congressional future had been swirling for weeks.

In the nearly nine-minute-long video, Bachmann never specifically explains exactly why she's deciding to call it quits now, although she does offer up some hints by denying the obvious forces that are pushing her out the door. "My decision was not influenced by any concerns about my being re-elected," she said, clearly in reference to recent polling that shows her trailing Democrat Jim Graves, a hotel chain founder, whom she narrowly defeated last year and who is running again next year. By retiring at the end of the term, she avoids the possibility of going out a loser—a title that's never good for a politician's brand.

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The Tea Party favorite also denied that her decision was "impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign." Her failed 2012 bid for the GOP nomination had already drawn the attention of the Office of Congressional Ethics, the Federal Elections Commission, and an Iowa state Senate ethics committee, which are probing allegations that Bachmann's campaign paid an Iowa state senator directly from her leadership PAC (MichelePAC) and other possible violations of campaign law.* The FBI joined in on the investigatory action last week, according to the MinnPost. While retirement won't make her immune to those charges, it will likely keep them farther from the front page.

Of course, as much as those forces may have been acting as the stick to spur her 2014 exit, there's also a carrot: As a high-profile and controversial conservative, Bachmann is all but assured of a high-paying gig after she finishes out her term. She could go the obvious route and take a spot as a talking head/professional pundit. Or she could follow the example set by fellow conservative Jim DeMint, who left the Senate earlier this year to join the payroll of a think tank. Either way, she can count on a hefty payday in her future. (Yglesias has a little more on this over on "Moneybox.")

Predicting that reporters would read between the lines, Bachmann went on the defensive before she was even finished with her retirement announcement. "I fully anticipate the mainstream liberal media to put a detrimental spin on my decision not to seek a fifth term," she said.

*Correction: An earlier version of this post mistakenly referred to the PAC in question as a super PAC. It is not. It is a leadership PAC.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***

This post has been updated with additional information.

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