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Political Notebook

Devoted supporters help Bachmann raise small fortune

Phyllis Hornung of North Massapequa, N.Y., has donated $350 to conservative Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Phyllis Hornung of North Massapequa, N.Y., has donated $350 to conservative Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann. (Seth Wenig/Associated Press)
June 25, 2011

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ST. PAUL — New York retiree Phyllis Hornung has never been to Minnesota and has no ties to the state, other than the steady stream of campaign donations she sends to Michele Bachmann.

Almost every other month last year, Hornung sent the conservative Republican congresswoman a check for $25, or sometimes $75.

“She captured my heart immediately,’’ said Hornung, a former commercial real estate broker who recalls first seeing Bachmann two years ago on television. “There was no question in my mind that she was a straight talker and I should support her.’’

The $350 that Hornung has donated is a tiny fraction of the $13.5 million Bachmann hauled in for her 2010 race — more than any other candidate for Congress. But donors such as Hornung are the main supply line for a fund-raising machine that is humming as Bachmann begins her campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll showed positive views of Bachmann climbing among Republicans. In May, 41 percent of Republicans held a favorable view of the Minnesota congresswoman. That percentage rose to 54 percent in the new survey. Among supporters of the Tea Party movement, her favorability climbed from 48 percent to 57 percent.

Bachmann isn’t the only candidate for president to generate enthusiasm — and money. President Obama set records four years after President George W. Bush set records, and some predict the Democratic incumbent will be the first presidential candidate to raise $1 billion.

But Bush and Obama depended more on thunderstorms of money, bundles of checks collected by big-money donors, each written for the maximum amount allowed by law. Bachmann’s accounts are instead filled with small contributions sent by devoted supporters. Many small donors meet her through television or Internet clips, and she stays connected with them through a well-honed system of phone calls, e-mails, and letters.

Each gets a personalized “Team Bachmann’’ membership card. The most recent bears her picture and a motto: “Fighting for common sense and fiscal sanity in Washington.’’

Of the nearly $12.9 million Bachmann raised from individuals in the last election, more than half came from people giving less than $200. While Obama was cheered for the legion of small donors who contributed to his campaign, only about a fourth of Obama’s $750 million take in 2008 came from such donors, according to a Campaign Finance Institute analysis.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, seen as the early leader on the GOP side, gathered about 80 percent of his campaign cash during his 2008 presidential bid from donors who gave $1,000 or more. (Romney has yet to file a campaign report for his 2012 bid, the first of which is due July 15.)

Conservative group has raised $3.8m in 2011 WASHINGTON — American Crossroads, a political group that intends to spend millions of dollars on advertisements against President Obama’s reelection, has raised $3.8 million this year, most of it from three longtime Republican donors, Federal Election Commission reports show.

That amount doesn’t include the donations to American Crossroads’ sister organization, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies. Crossroads GPS, which is organized under a different tax code and does not disclose its donors, said it will spend $20 million over the next two months on television ads criticizing Obama’s economic policies.

The largest donation to the American Crossroads, $2 million, came from a trust controlled by Jerrold Perenchio, former chairman of New York-based Univision Communications Inc. Robert Rowling, chief executive officer of TRT Holdings Inc., of Irving, Texas, contributed $1 million. Both gave more than $1 million apiece to the group last year.

Texas home builder Bob Perry, who gave $7 million last year, donated $500,000. Perry was a top donor in 2004 to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which questioned Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s war record.

The two groups intend to raise at least $120 million for the 2012 election cycle to counter what Crossroads President Steven Law called the “limitless’’ fund-raising powers of the president.

Republican strategist Karl Rove helped start the Crossroads groups last year after the Supreme Court ruled, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, that corporations and labor unions can spend unlimited amounts of money advocating the election or defeat of political candidates.

The two groups raised $71 million in 2010 and spent much of the money on ads attacking Democratic candidates for the House and Senate, an effort credited with helping Republicans retake the House and narrow the partisan margin in the Senate.

BLOOMBERG NEWS

Bill to legalize online poker introduced in Congress LAS VEGAS — Representative Joe Barton introduced a bill yesterday to legalize online poker, hoping to pull the estimated $6 billion industry out of the shadows at a time when its top operators face serious legal troubles.

The Republican lawmaker from Texas said the bill would let states choose whether they want to allow residents to play poker on the Internet, and operators would be required to have gambling licenses in at least one US state.

A law passed in 2006 barred financial institutions from processing illegal gambling payments, but many have complained that it did not explicitly outlaw playing poker and it did not define well enough exactly what is illegal.

In April, the Justice Department indicted executives and payment processors of online poker’s three biggest companies — PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. They are accused of tricking banks into processing the payments by disguising them as different kinds of transactions. Another indictment against those working for several smaller online poker sites came later.

Barton said he checked around informally with Republican leadership and felt good enough about the bill’s chances to move forward.

Barton said the issue has traction because the indictments spurred poker players to renew their push on the issue, lawmakers are looking for ways to relieve a budget crunch, and previous efforts led by, among others, Democratic Representative Barney Frank of Newton have laid the groundwork for a detailed, workable solution.

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