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Stimulus critic Bachmann requested federal stimulus funds for her district

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks to the Values Voter Summit, held by the Family Research Council Action, Friday, Sept. 17, 2010, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Despite vocal criticism of the federal stimulus package and a re-election campaign that trades heavily on her opposition to it, Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann sought stimulus funding on at least seven occasions last year.

The requests, which came in August and September of 2009, were released Sunday by the investigative journalism site Center for Public Integrity.

They include a request for funding for a $150 million expansion of the Northstar commuter rail line to St. Cloud - something Bachmann had declined to back just months earlier.

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan Washington-based group, said Bachmann was among almost 2,000 GOP and Democratic stimulus opponents who wrote behind-the-scenes letters requesting funds for projects.

Bachmann defended her request for money from the $787 billion stimulus package, even though in her latest ads she refers to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as "the failed (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi trillion-dollar stimulus."

In a statement, she continued to attack the package, which she voted against, saying it has been misspent.

"It is my obligation as a member of Congress to ensure stimulus dollars are spent on the most worthy projects," Bachmann said in a statement. "I did just that when I supported applications for the (stimulus) grant program."

In early 2009, Bachmann declined to support a request for Northstar funding under a federal transportation spending package,

and her position often has frustrated local officials working to complete the line, which now runs from Minneapolis to Big Lake.

"We have not had a lot of support from her, from the beginning of Northstar through the entire process of getting it completed," said Anoka County Commissioner Dan Erhart, a Democrat who supports Tarryl Clark, Bachmann's DFL rival in the Nov. 2 election. "She has never been a big fan of rail. We know that."

Bachmann supported several requests for projects in her 6th Congressional District made under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, and sought funds for Northstar, a new St. Croix River bridge and road expansions and improvements.

None of the 6th District projects received TIGER funding, with the state only receiving money to help renovate Union Depot.

The federal government turned down a $300 million Minnesota Department of Transportation request to help fund a new bridge over the St. Croix River near Stillwater, a project that suffered another blow last week when the National Park Service said it would adversely affect the scenic and recreational values of the river.

Bachmann also made an August 2009 request for broadband funding under the stimulus bill.

Bachmann was certainly not alone in Minnesota or across the country in requesting funding under the stimulus package. DFL Reps. Collin Peterson, Jim Oberstar, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison and Tim Walz all did, as well as DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

But so did Republican Reps. Erik Paulsen and John Kline, two critics of government spending.

Clark said her opponent's requests are evidence of hypocrisy, citing several other examples, including Bachmann slamming Clark for supporting the 2008 Legacy Amendment even though many say Bachmann herself supported it, as well attacking the Farm Bill even though her husband's family farm received subsidies through it.

"I think her actions speak louder than her words -- or her inaction, most of the time," Clark said. "Which is it? Is she for it or against it?"

The letters, obtained through a public records request, were released barely two weeks before the November elections, a potentially uncomfortable moment for Bachmann.

Her wide popularity comes partly because of outspoken opposition to Pelosi and President Barack Obama, and her re-election campaign trades on that position, linking the pair with Clark.

This report includes information from the Associated Press.