With a new Iowa poll putting her in a dead heat with the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, Rep. Michele Bachmann deflected allegations that she and her family had benefited from government assistance programs and said that hundreds of thousands of dollars to her family farm and a counseling clinic went instead to her employees and her in-laws. "My husband and I did not get the money," she said, appearing on Sunday news talk shows as she prepared to officially open her campaign in her original hometown of Waterloo, Iowa.
The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that Bachmann, a congresswoman from Minnesota and "tea party" favorite, portrayed herself as a fiscal conservative while also benefiting from government funds and federal farm subsidies. An examination of her record and finances showed that a counseling clinic run by her husband received nearly $30,000 from the state of Minnesota in the last five years, with part of the money coming from the federal government. And a family farm in Wisconsin, where she is listed as a partner, received some $260,000 in federal subsidies.Bachmann and her staff declined to talk to about the government assistance for the L.A. Times article. But asked about the issue on "Fox News Sunday," she insisted that she and her husband had not benefited at the expense of federal and state taxpayers. "First of all," she said, "the money that went to the clinic was actually training money for employees. The clinic did not get the money. And my husband and I did not get the money either. That's mental health training money that went to employees." As for the farm, she said it belonged to her father-in-law. "It's not my husband and my farm," Bachmann said. "And my husband and I have never gotten a penny of money from the farm." As the Los Angeles Times reported on Sunday, however, in financial disclosure forms, Bachmann reported receiving between $32,503 and $105,000 in income from the farm, at minimum, between 2006 and 2009. Bachmann also repeated her stance that she was opposed to federal earmarks that sponsored pet projects for politicians back home and said she believed "the states have to build roads and bridges," not the federal government. But asked whether that was an inconsistency given that her family appeared to be benefiting from government aid, she said the clinic money was spent to train employees when they otherwise would have been there working. "It actually took away from the clinic because these were training hours where employees were not able to bring more income in," she said. "This is onetime money that came in from the federal government, and it certainly didn't help our clinic. It was something that was additional training to help employees." Bachmann also was asked about the farm subsidies on CBS' "Face the Nation." She suggested the public instead should be more outraged about a sharp increase in government limousines in the two years since President Obama took office. She also said she had been a Christian since she was 16 and that God often steered her political course. "When I pray, I pray believing that God will speak to me and give me an answer to that prayer," she said. "That's what a calling is. If I pray, a calling means that I feel like I have a sense from God." Bachmann emerged Sunday in a new Iowa poll by the Des Moines Register of likely caucus-goers showing her with 22%, just under the 23% for front-runner Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts. "Part of it is because I was born in Iowa," she said on Fox. "In Iowa, I have a distinct advantage there, I think. And also, I think, since the debate" earlier this month with other Republican contenders, "people have paid attention, and they've recognized that I am very serious about what I want to do. "The country is on the wrong track," she said. "My goal is to turn the economy around and have jobs created. People recognize I'm serious." Asked at the end of the show by Fox interviewer Chris Wallace whether she was a "flake" because of a "history of questionable statements" and "gaffes" she had made, Bachmann was clearly irritated. "I think that would be insulting, to say something like that," she said, "because I'm a serious person."