It’s never boring with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) around. I’m sure both fans and non-fans of the Republican presidential candidate would agree. One thing they might not agree on so much is her integrity. Critics especially like to point out major differences between the record of Representative Bachmann and the rhetoric of candidate Bachmann when it comes to the EPA.
Candidate Bachmann is a very vocal critic of the EPA and only last week promised that the EPA “will have doors locked and lights turned off and they will only be about conservation” when she will sit in the oval office. On the other hand a new report reveals that Representative Bachmann asked the same EPA for funding to assist local projects. So who is the real Michele Bachmann – the one asking the EPA for assistance or the one who wants to shut it for good?
First, let’s look at the facts. Sam Stein reports on Huffington Post that Bachmann made two requests to the EPA. The first one was in February 2007. Bachmann co-signed then a letter to the EPA
urging its officials to help fund technical assistance programs and rural water initiatives “in small communities across Minnesota.” The authors of the letter, which included nearly the entire Minnesota congressional delegation at the time, noted that FY 2006 funding for the National Rural Water Association had been set at $11 million. “We need to continue these efforts in 2007,” they wrote.
The second request was made in a February 2010, when Bachmann wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, asking the agency “to support a $270,806 grant application (filed with the EPA’s Clean Diesel Grant Program) that would help a St. Cloud bus company replace two older motor coach vehicles.”
Bachmann wrote in her letter: “Voigt’s Bus Service, with Community Transportation, Incorporated, is committed to bringing long-term benefits to the environment and the economy and they wish to accomplish this through the Clean Diesel Grant Program.”
Now, there’s nothing strange about these letters. They look like they have been written by a dedicated lawmaker who wants to help her constituencies. What’s strange is the fact that the same person said the following on the GOP debate last June:
What we need to do is pass the mother of all repeal bills, but it’s the repeal bill that will get at job killing regulations. And I would begin with the EPA, because there is no other agency like the EPA. It should really be renamed the job-killing organization of America.
The contradiction between Rep. Bachmann’s February 2010 letter and candidate Bachmann rhetoric is obvious. According to the letter the EPA actually has programs that benefit not only the environment but also the economy, helping businesses thrive and creating jobs. According to the rhetoric this organization is a job killer.
Some political observers would say this is just real politics and it’s only natural that candidates adjust their positions during a presidential campaign to fit their target audience. Therefore it’s not a big surprise to see Bachmann attacking the EPA to win points among Republican primary voters. Bachmann herself has tried in the past, according to Stein, to draw a distinction between the national message she imparts and her professional responsibilities as a representative from Minnesota.
Does it mean candidate Bachmann shouldn’t be held accountable for her record as congresswoman, including the EPA-loving part? Well, it depends who you’re asking. Candidate Bachmann, for example, has no problem holding other candidates accountable for their past record, especially when on environmental issues like supporting a cap-and-trade scheme.
Only last Thursday, on the latest GOP debate, she attacked Gov. Tim Pawlenty for his past support of a cap-and-trade program as the governor of Minnesota. “When you were governor of Minnesota,” Bachmann told him, “you implemented cap and trade in our state, and you praised the unconstitutional individual [health] mandate, and … you said the era of small government was over. That sounds a lot more like Barack Obama if you ask me.”
Michele Bachmann is not the first and probably not the last to make such contradictions between their rhetoric as candidates and their record. Yet, this case is a bit different because of the extreme stance she has taken against the EPA. Even if she doesn’t get elected, her rhetoric is already damaging the reputation of the EPA.
It is for the voters of course to decide if they believe to and trust Michele Bachmann. It’s also important that voters have all the facts in front of them, including those that candidate Bachmann would probably use as a weapon against other candidates if they had similar records.
Raz Godelnik is the co-founder and CEO of Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry in the digital age. He is also an adjunct professor in the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.