For the second night in a row, Anderson Cooper opened his regular news cast Tuesday touting a story about Michele Bachmann's hypocrisy in benefitting from federal agriculture subsidies. Although his own network, which interviewed Bachmann Tuesday morning, did not report on the matter during that day, Cooper thought it important enough to put the issue as the lead story for the second straight night.
The issue at hand is that Bachmann was a beneficiary of a family farm that received funding from federal corn, dairy, and livestock subsidies – all while railing against federal intervention in the free market. Bachmann was a partner in Bachman Farm Family, LP, and did receive income from the farm owned by her father-in-law and later by others.
Cooper scrutinized Bachmann for "campaigning against big government" while she "personally benefitted over the years from one of the biggest of big government programs." Cooper himself admitted Monday that the overall amount of federal money she received was "relatively small." Nonetheless, he reported that she railed against the health care bill and the auto industry bailout but personally benefitted from federal subsidies – thus casting herself as a hypocrite.
Cooper failed to mention some facts, however. In opposing Obamacare and the auto bailout, Bachmann was fighting two large efforts by the government to regulate industries, and the amount of federal funds she received from the farm subsidies was minimal by comparison. He needed better examples to cast her as an anti-government hypocrite.
A senior Bachmann advisor also told Politico over the weekend that the congresswoman was listed as a beneficiary of the farm but that income actually went to her mother-in-law. Cooper failed to include that bit in reporting Bachmann's side of the issue.
Also, as Jonah Goldberg writes at National Review, one cannot expect a farmer to forgo receiving federal subsidies and compete with other farms that are. One can reasonably argue for eventually ending the subsidies for everyone, including himself, while receiving them as a matter of financial necessity.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on June 28 at 10:02 p.m. EDT, is as follows:
ANDERSON COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" now on a story we first brought you last night, a story that is not going away because it concerns Michele Bachmann, a leading presidential contender, whose answers to some important questions are either incomplete, mistaken or flat-out wrong. Now as you probably know, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has built her political career campaigning against big government, and it's a platform she's now running on. But according to her own financial statements, Bachmann has personally benefitted over the years from one of the biggest of big government programs. She denies it, despite what's written on her own congressional disclosure forms.
Now, we've noticed that when confronted with those facts, the congresswoman dodges the question or tries to change the subject. Watch what happened today when our producer Peter Hamby caught up with her in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Rep. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-Minn.), Republican presidential candidate: You know and again, we have answered that question so many times and everyone's tired of it, because at this point what we do know to be true is that my husband and I have never taken a dime. The farm belongs to my father-in-law. People are interested in big issues. This is a big campaign. And so that's a talking point for the Democrat Party, and there's nothing to it. We have never gotten a dime.
(End Video Clip)
COOPER: Never gotten a dime, she says. It's a talking point for the Democrats. It's basically the same answer she gave to Fox News over the weekend, although she said she didn't even get a penny, I believe it was. She said even less to CBS News. Yet on several accounts, her answers simply do not seem to square with her own financial disclosures. The farm in question belonged to her late father-in-law. But according to "The Los Angeles Times," records show Congresswoman Bachmann is a partner in the company Bachmann Farm Family LP – Limited Partnership.
They still own the land which is now being farmed by others. When her father-in-law was farming on it, records show the company in which Michele Bachmann reportedly was a partner of got more than $145,000 in corn subsidies between 1995 and 2007, more than $105,000 in dairy program subsidies for the same period, 7,300 in livestock subsidies; all of this according to the Environmental Working Group, which gets its numbers straight from the Agriculture Department.
So that's more than a quarter million dollars in federal subsidies, big government intervention in the free market. Perfectly legal, of course, and no different from many other farmers. But remember, the congresswoman opposed government intervention to bail out Detroit. She opposes the Affordable Health Care Act, Obamacare, as big government intrusion into the free market. Yet for years, she's been ok with government price supports and subsidies on the farm. Bachmann's own congressional financial disclosure forms reveal she received between $32,000 and $105,000 of income from Bachmann Farm Family LP between 2006 and 2009.
Now, we can't say for sure about 2007 because the form is illegible. And we don't know about any farther back because the disclosure form only covers her time in Congress. So, when the congresswoman says she has never gotten a dime from the farm, she's contradicting her own disclosure filings. It's possible her disclosure filings have been wrong year after year or maybe her recollection is wrong.
In any case, you saw what happened when we asked her about it this evening. We invited her on the program tonight. She declined. Did the same thing last night. She did, however, appear on all five network morning shows today, where not a single interviewer asked her directly about the family farm and her statements about it. Sunday, when CBS's Bob Schieffer asked the right question, he got even less of an answer than we did. Mrs. Bachmann simply changed the subject. Watch.
BOB SCHIEFFER, host, CBS's Face the Nation: What about farm subsidies? You benefit from farm subsidies on your family farm. Do you think we ought to think about cutting those back?
BACHMANN: Well, I think everything needs to be on the table right now, every part of government. I will tell you one thing that should be on the table. Under Barack Obama the last two years, the number of federal limousines for bureaucrats has increased 73 percent in two years. I can't think of anything more reprehensible than seeing bureaucrats on their cell phones in the backs – 73 percent increase in the number of federal limousines in the last two years, for heaven's sakes.
SCHIEFFER: But Congresswoman, you're not seriously saying that eliminating limousine service is anywhere equal to reducing farm subsidies?
BACHMANN: What I'm saying is that I think that's an easy one that we need to do. Clearly President Obama is not serious about cutting spending.
(End Video Clip)
COOPER: Joining us now is chief political analyst Gloria Borger and Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of RedState.com. Gloria, when it comes to income from her family's farm, the congresswoman says one thing. Her financial forms say another. They could be wrong or she could be wrong.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN senior political analyst: Right.
COOPER: Can – can she continue doing that or I mean, sort of dodging the questions, or will she have to explain the discrepancy at some point?
BORGER: She's going – at some point she's going to have to do it, Anderson. And we'll continue asking the questions, not because you want to play gotcha, but because when you're a presidential candidate, trust matters. And these things can come back to haunt you. People want answers to these questions. Voting for president is a very personal vote. And I think back to the 2006 campaign, when Barack Obama – when Senator Barack Obama was thinking about running, I should say, in 2006, he had a questionable land deal. He came out and said it was a bone-headed mistake.
And, Anderson, the 2008 campaign, it still came back to haunt him. Hillary Clinton asked about it. So you can be sure that other Republicans, if she gets a lot of traction, are going to also start asking her questions about this because it matters, because she's campaigned against big government. And if she is in fact benefiting from big government, she ought to tell people exactly what occurred. And if she has a good explanation for it, give it.
COOPER: Erick, do you think it matters? Because I mean, you could say, well, look, it's not a lot of money over the course of several years, and – and this is nitpicking.
ERICK ERICKSON, editor-in-chief, RedState.com: You know, I do think it matters. In fact, a number of conservatives I've talked to in the past year, when she first started hinting about this, this was the issue they raised. But, Anderson, I have got to tell you, listening to this report, when I was a lawyer, I dealt in some of these issues. And if it was a limited partnership and she was a limited partner, she couldn't have declined them if the general partner, who I assume was the father-in-law, wanted them. And also it's not a well-known fact, but it is, in fact, a fact, that if the limited partnership was renting land to another farmer who took AG subsidies, those AG subsidies were attributed to the owner of the land, not the – not the person leasing the land. So that could be it. She's going to have to explain what the issue is. There may be no "there" there.
ERICKSON: She did vote to end AG subsidies, even though she apparently was getting money for them, which is commendable. But she definitely needs to do a detailed answer on this.
COOPER: Yes. I believe the time in question is when her father-in- law was actually operating the farm. I think it's now operated by somebody else. But Gloria, Bachmann's former chief of staff said today that she's not qualified to be president and endorsed Tim Pawlenty instead. How much stock can you put in a former employee saying something like that? Or I mean do we know the track record of this person? Did they end badly?
BORGER: Well, yes, he's a – he's a Pawlenty guy. And you can always come out and say, as Sarah Palin did of those former McCain aides, well, they just didn't like me and that's why they're saying these things about me. But he's not just saying that Tim Pawlenty is more qualified on the issues or I agree with him on the issues. He was quite specific about it. He called her campaign offices wildly out of control and said that she was without any leadership experience or real results from her years in office.
Experience is really an important issue this year for Republicans, because they claim that Barack Obama's problem was that he had no experience. And so they say they need to run somebody who can show that they have the experience to lead that Barack Obama did not have. So, this is a – this is a pretty strong criticism.
COOPER: And Erick, do you think she could be the Republican nominee?
ERICKSON: You know, if I had to call the race today, Anderson, probably not. But she's making some impressive gains in places I wouldn't think she would make gains. There's a poll out today she's ahead of Romney in Oregon. I think ultimately what's going to happen is what so often happens with meteoric rises, is there [sic] also going to be a meteoric crash when the other candidates decide to pile on her. It's going to happen to Romney. It will happen to her. There will be a huge pile-on not by the media, but by Republicans.