Monday, August 22, 2011
In the few seconds Michele Bachmann had to introduce herself at a Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire this summer, she promptly mentioned her credential as "a former federal tax litigation attorney.''
On her campaign website, too, the Minnesota Republican highlights her first career job as a U.S. tax lawyer in St. Paul, arguing that her experience on "hundreds of civil and criminal cases'' triggered her interest in tax simplification and adds to her qualifications for the White House.
But a review of judicial records from her tenure as an IRS attorney and interviews with some of Bachmann's former peers produce a more nuanced picture -- a set of credentials that is both more and less than Bachmann claims. ...
In her tenure as an IRS attorney in St. Paul, however, it appears that Bachmann seldom entered a courtroom and fully litigated only two cases in four-plus years, according to judicial records. Co-workers from the time describe her as pleasant and professional, but cannot recall one important case or criminal prosecution she handled. ...
Bachmann's legal career dates to the late 1980s, when in the span of about two years, she passed the bar exam, earned a master's degree in tax law from the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and went to work in St. Paul for the chief counsel for the IRS. Records show she worked there from 1988 until early 1993. ...
But in her signature job in jurisprudence, Bachmann never rose to any prominence and spent little time as a litigator, even though former colleagues describe it as a busy office where young lawyers had every opportunity to jump into the fray and make their mark with influential cases.
Five former IRS co-workers, who spoke on the condition they not be named, recall that Bachmann mostly stuck to lower-rung work -- settling taxpayer disputes before trial and handling her share of collection matters, refund cases and advisory work in potential criminal matters.
The co-workers said that, for whatever reason, Bachmann didn't participate in the most intense work of the office: tangling with corporations and other big taxpayers in precedent-setting disputes tried before a judge in U.S. Tax Court. ... Bachmann appears to have represented the IRS only twice in cases tried in U.S. Tax Court -- both small cases -- according to a search of judicial records. ... Colleagues from the IRS office say Bachmann was pleasant and never brought politics into her job. ...
- ABA Journal, Meet Michele Bachmann, Oral Roberts Law Grad and Former IRS Tax Attorney
- Above the Law, As a Lawyer, Bachmann Worked for the Tax Collectors
- National Journal, Bachmann Spins Tax-Attorney Experience in South Carolina
- Washington Post Editorial, Michele Bachmann's "War" on the IRS
- Washington Post, Bachmann on Why She Worked for IRS: “First Rule of War Is `Know Your Enemy’”