GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann often brings up her experience as a “former federal tax litigation attorney,” on the campaign trail, referring to her four years as a litigator for the IRS in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But when New Yorker reporter Ryan Lizza talked with some of her colleagues at the IRS for his excellent recent profile of the candidate, they said she spent much of her time there there on maternity leave. Oooh, burn!
“Basically, the rest of us that were here were handling Michele’s inventory,” griped one colleague, who gallantly refused to let Lizza use his name. “In her four years, she probably didn’t get more than two, two and a half years of experience. So she was doing lightweight stuff.” Another anonymous coworker said, “She was an attorney here, but she was never here.”
That’s a tidbit that feels like a good scoop — Bachmann exaggerates her claims of tax-law experience! — but the tone of those complaints bugged me. Bachmann gave birth to two of her five children while working for the IRS. That’s what maternity leave is for. There should be no shame in taking it, even if she ended up not keeping the job for a long period of time.
But here’s something else that’s frustrating: As a blogger for the progressive site ThinkProgress reports, Bachmann “voted twice (in 2008 and in 2009) against measures that would provide four weeks of paid parental leave to all federal employees.” Bachmann was completely justified in taking advantage of the IRS’s policy, which allowed her to take unpaid time off — a hit she could afford because her husband earned a good income, a luxury that many others don’t have. But she still voted to deny other federal employees paid leave.
That’s a funny stance for a family values candidate — especially one with personal experience of the importance of family leave policies.