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First They Came for the Lightbulbs...

The conspiracy theory behind Michele Bachmann's war on energy efficiency.

| Thu Aug. 4, 2011 5:00 AM EDT

Bachmann's penchant for asking conspiratorial questions didn't go unnoticed by her colleagues. Her Democratic opponents in the state senate came up with a nickname for Bachmann and her followers: "Black Helicopter Republicans"—a nod to fringe types who believe the United Nations is running covert missions in their backyards.

In the state Senate, Bachmann took up another favorite issue of Agenda 21 opponents—mass transit, which they believe will prompt the displacement of citizens into confined areas and the elimination of privately owned automobiles.

As the Minnesota Independent reported, Bachmann bashed "impractical and expensive" public transit in her campaign literature and called light rail a "black hole" for funding. She voted to cut off funding to a commuter rail project connecting St. Cloud to the Twin Cities—a line that cut through the heart of her future congressional district—and cosponsored a bill to abolish the regional rail authority.

When the state was pouring millions of dollars into a new light-rail line in the Twin Cities, Bachmann set out to undermine it. She and a colleague rode the rails, equipped with a video camera (audio), in an attempt to catch passengers riding without paying their fare. They set the video to the Star Wars theme song and invited colleagues from both chambers to watch the results. A few dozen of them, some supportive, some simply curious, showed up. "In the course of the film, they asked a very poor—potentially homeless—person on the platform 'Couldn't you ride for free?'" recalls Democratic state Rep. Alice Hausman. "And he said, 'Well, yeah, you could, but the fine is $250, so who'd be so stupid to do that?' It was almost like they didn't get that it disproved their point."

Bachmann is not the only Republican politician to raise concerns about the nation's commitment to sustainable development—Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) has been a regular at the annual Freedom 21 conference, which promotes "property rights and free markets" as an alternative to Agenda 21. But Bachmann has helped bring the issue closer to the mainstream—at least within the conservative movement.

Last May, when American Policy Center held its annual Freedom in Action Conference in northern Virginia—a gathering dedicated exclusively to "connecting the dots" on "sustainable development and Agenda 21"—Bachmann recorded a welcome message. The congresswoman thanked attendees for their vigilance and sounded the alarm on the tyrannical nature of climate change legislation and the job-killing policies of the Environmental Protection Agency. And then, although she hadn't formally announced her candidacy for president, she all but asked them for their votes.

"We have to win the White House with a constitutional conservative for president who is committed to America as the indispensable nation," she told them. "I know we share those goals and that's why you're gathered here today, and I just want to encourage you: Keep fighting!"

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