Tim Pawlenty

The Two Faces of Tim Pawlenty


Tim Pawlenty

Tim Pawlenty

Presented by: The Religious Freedom Coalition of the SouthEast

Tim Pawlenty

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Tim Pawlenty has always supported a Conservative Christian position especially when it comes to Church and State issues.  It is apparent from the data collected, that the first amendment may be in danger from his past and future actions.

Upon calling his office we find that all religions but Christianity are suspect "Islam isn't a "Real" religion."  What is a real religion, Mr. Pawlenty?  What you have been practicing?  Read the following and remember: "By their Works may they be known."

(Remember it is best to investigate on your own when looking at allegations about anyone.    Don't believe us, think for yourself and investigate for yourself!  And remember, the First Amendment Coalition does not represent any political party nor do we recommend any political candidate, nor are we involving ourselves in the political process.


Extremist Republicans are selfish, power hungry, hateful of the poor, disloyal to the nation and its people, dishonest, avaricious, scornful of the nation's history, the dignity of its institutions, its standards of political morality, and its vision of advancement for all the people. The Republicans love war as long as they and theirs do not have to put on helmets and carry guns into the fighting. They use lies to start wars that kill hundreds of thousands of innocents and thousands of our own military service people. They love massive war-time profits, unavailable to their rich masters if war is absent.

Those Extremist Republicans hate the rest of us, which they must, in order to pass away from themselves and onto us, the financial burdens and losses their crimes, schemes and thefts cause. They are prolific, incessant, and destructive liars. They are blasphemers for they insist that their hateful and destructive deeds are the work of God. They are apostates for they gleefully attack the poor, the immigrants, the old and the sick, of whom God has commanded all of us to be mindful.

There is no reasoning with them, for all their logic is built on false premises. There is no appealing to them for honor's sake for they have lost all sense of shame and have no honor, there is no appealing to them for the nation's sake for that it what they hate the most.

Extremist Republicans are the enemy.


Tim Palenty Opens Up (Sort of)

Gay Man Confronts Pawlenty: 'Do You Think I'm a Second Class Citizen?'

Tim Pawlenty Funded Planned Parenthood

Minnesota Government Shutdown Puts Tim Pawlenty In Spotlight

Tim Pawlenty's Honesty?

Tim Pawlenty Has Ties to "Swift Boat" Bob Perry

Tim Pawlenty's Economic Plan is Fact-Checked

Tim Pawlenty Used "Magick" Book Keeping to Balance Books and Left a Tremendous Deficit for his Successor

The Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann and Frank Vennes Scandal 

Pawlenty's Education Committee: Kindergarten Sharing Is "Socialist"

Excerpt from an article on huffingtonpost.com Speculatron June 24, 2011

Tim Palenty Opens Up (Sort of)

"Hey guys? Guys?" Tim Pawlenty asked. "Mitt Romney's not hanging around, is he? You see him out there?"

"No," came the response.

"You sure? He's not standing behind a door or something? He's really nowhere to be found?"

"Yeah, Tim. Mitt Romney's not anywhere nearby."

"All right! Then I'mma about to SET IT OFF!" yawped Pawlenty.

Yes. The
Shy Ronnie of the 2012 campaign season went on the attack this week just as soon as he heard the person he was attacking wasn't in close proximity. Obamneycare? You are going to hear it from Tim Pawlenty!

"Well, I don't think you can prosecute the political case against President Obama if you are a co-conspirator in one of the main charges against the president on the political level. And so, it really puts our nominee -- if that's who it turns out to be --in a very difficult spot. And I understand Governor Romney's arguments, that it's different at the state level. But when you look at these two plans, with only modest variations, they're very similar, and nearly identical."

Yep, Pawlenty is back to trying hard, and making an attempt to demonstrate some political courage, if that's okay with everybody. And for what it's worth, Pawlenty is starting to get back something that looks like "momentum," even if it's largely coming his way because of Newt Gingrich's ongoing, slow-motion implosion.

Pawlenty is out
courting Christian conservatives and Wall Streeters -- moneylenders, Tim Pawlenty's got a place for you in the Temple. And he made news this week with a modest ad buy in Iowa, as well, so the state's teevees will soon rock with his thrilling Michael Bay-style homages.

Next week, he'll head to the Council on Foreign Relations
to give a "major speech" on foreign policy. (SPOILER ALERT: He wants to stay in Afghanistan way past 2014!)

And, as Jon Ward reports,
he's "out-hustling" this week's belle of the ball, Michele Bachmann:

But while Bachmann has the buzz, Pawlenty "is diving for loose balls," according to one Iowa Republican. "In a state that demands organizational prowess, that kind of hustle may make the difference."

Apparently, this is all part of some "Field Of Dreams" campaign strategy:
"In fine Iowa fashion, he's taking a 'Field of Dreams' approach," said Robert Haus, a veteran Republican strategist. He's watched Pawlenty's "grind it out" approach to constructing a campaign and wooing fickle Republicans in the first states to hold nominating contests. "If you build it, they will come," Haus said.

So far, it's an open question what Pawlenty's one-voter-at-a-time approach has earned him.

In polls nationally and in early nominating states, he trails better-known candidates who haven't put in nearly the hours Pawlenty has in New Hampshire and Iowa. He acknowledges that he will raise less money than front-runner Mitt Romney and perhaps others when fundraising reports are released next month.
If T-Paw builds it, they will come. And, by the looks of things, they will then go on to vote for someone else.

Gay Man Confronts Pawlenty: 'Do You Think I'm a Second Class Citizen?'

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Republican presidential candidates are having a tough time on the "Soapbox" at the Iowa State Fair this week.

A flustered Mitt Romney told an angry crowd Thursday that he wouldn't raise taxes on big companies because "corporations are people."

Tim Pawlenty took to the very same stage Friday where a gay man named Gabe confronted him about his stand against marriage equality.

"I want to address one concern of mine and this is you have not had the courage to stand for me and my friends," Gabe told Pawlenty. "As a member of the GLBT community, you have not stood for us and that is really hard for me. As someone who supports the [anti-gay] National Organization for Marriage, someone that stands for the definition of marriage between one man and one woman, I thought our country was about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for everyone. No exceptions. So, Tim Pawlenty, I want to know, when will you stand up for me?"

"That is what I want to know from you today because you are discriminating against me and it hurts. It really does."

"I understand we have a difference of opinion on this issue," Pawlenty replied. "The relationship between a man and a woman in a traditional marriage is important to our country, our society, our culture. I think it should remain elevated, not just in our words but under our laws. And that's why I have supported laws -- in fact, have authored laws -- to maintain marriage as between a man and woman."

"I support that you have your moral values," Gabe said, not backing down. "But that is something that is hurting my future and how I get to live my life. And that is something that someone that talks about government getting out of your lives, why does government get involved in our marriages?"

"We're just going to have a respectful disagreement," the candidate said.

"Do you think I'm a second class citizen?" Gabe asked.

"We're just going to have a respectful disagreement, sir," Pawlenty repeated.


Excerpt from an article on motherjones.com by Andy Kroll  Jul. 7, 2011

Tim Pawlenty Funded Planned Parenthood

Photo by

Why the presidential candidate's pro-life record is messier than he'd like GOP primary voters to believe.

Is GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty the most pro-life candidate in the 2012 field? That's what the editor of LifeNews.com, the pro-life movement's flagship media publication, suggested in a March op-ed, and it wasn't hard to see why: As Minnesota governor, Pawlenty embraced the shaky notion of "fetal pain" during abortions, threw up hurdles to women seeking abortions, and even declared April "Abortion Recovery Month." But a closer look at Pawlenty's time as Minnesota governor reveals that his record on reproductive rights isn't as perfectly right-wing as his supporters claim.

First, some background: In 1978, the Minnesota legislature created the Family Planning Special Projects grant program, which doled out money several times a year to family-planning clinics throughout the state that served mostly rural and low-income people. Among those recipients were various Planned Parenthood branches, county health centers, and other local clinics. By the late 1990s, the grant program was the envy of public-health experts, having grown in size to $5 million a year. That money funded outreach, public health education, and both medical and non-medical family planning.Then, in 2002, Tim Pawlenty moved into the Minnesota governor's mansion, and by the start of his second term, the state's family-planning money pot had dwindled to $3.8 million a year. The Minnesota legislature responded by voting to pump $1.15 million into the program. Despite his evangelical bona fides and staunch opposition to abortion, Pawlenty approved the cash infusion for Planned Parenthoods and family-planning clinics statewide. One local newspaper called the bill a "dizzying increase" in funding and a big step toward "greatly expanding contraceptive care to Minnesota women."

Connie Lewis, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, says her organization was "very pleased" with the increase in family planning funding approved by Pawlenty. Lewis adds that funding for the Famil Planning Special Projects program in fact increased over the entirety of Pawlenty's governorship, up to about $5 million a year by the time he left office.

Pawlenty's decision broke with pro-life outfits such as the Minnesota Family Council, an ally of the governor's. But while the decision may have irked social conservatives, it made perfect sense to the fiscal conservative crowd: Health experts have estimated that every dollar spent on family planning saves nearly four dollars down the road on pregnancy-related spending. (A spokesman for Pawlenty did not return a request for comment.)

Pawlenty's million-dollar boost for women's health clinics including Planned Parenthood isn't the only blemish on his record as a diehard social conservative. Near the end of his second term as governor, Pawlenty backtracked on his previous positions by quietly rejecting federal money for abstinence-only sex education in Minnesota. Instead, the state only funded programs that took a more rounded and proven approach to teaching young people about sex, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections.

Turning down the abstinence-only money marked a shift for Pawlenty. For the first six years he was governor, Pawlenty kept conservative and religious groups happy by accepting funding for abstinence-only sex education; in 2004, the state took as much as $2 million for abstinence-only programs. But, according to Brigid Riley of Teenwise Minnesota, a non-profit that supports comprehensive sex education, it became increasingly clear during Pawlenty's time in office that abstinence-only education was ineffective and a waste of money. In 2007, Pawlenty took the advice of the state Department of Health and quietly rejected $500,000 in abstinence-only funding for the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years. The way Riley sees it, Pawlenty finally faced up to the scientific reality. "The health department knew that this [abstinence-only] money was supporting programming that wasn't making a difference," she says.

Like Pawlenty's Planned Parenthood support, his sex-education decision might have angered the Christian right, but it made sense financially. Accepting federal money for abstinence-only sex ed required the state to pony up hundred of thousands of dollars in matching funds; federal funding for comprehensive sex ed came with no strings attached. That match was key in his 2008 decision, Riley says.

Pawlenty's rejection didn't last long. In 2010, he doubled down on his original position and resumed taking federal money for largely debunked abstinence-only sex ed while declining money for comprehensive sex ed—a move that perplexed public health advocates and pleased Pawlenty's social-conservative base. "It's better to spend no money on sex education if it's going to have a condom message," Tom Prichard, head of the Minnesota Family Council, told the Star Tribune. "You are pouring fuel on the fire."

Family planning groups condemned Pawlenty's flip-flop-flip as nonsensical in the midst of an "epidemic" of sexually transmitted diseases among young Minnesotans. "It defies logic that the governor of a state in a budget crisis would turn away nearly a million dollars in federal funding for services that are profoundly needed across Minnesota," Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood for Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, said at the time.

Teenwise's Riley saw Pawlenty's second flip as a purely political decision. Pawlenty's campaigning with John McCain during the 2008 presidential race had boosted his national profile, and rejecting federal funds from the Obama administration might have bolstered his GOP credibility. "He's a master of this political stuff," Riley says. "It's scary."

Of course, the bulk of Pawlenty's record on reproductive rights speaks for itself. As governor he signed legislation requiring a 24-hour waiting period for women wanting to get an abortion. And after approving an increase in family planning funding, he later proposed slashing $2 million from the Family Planning Special Projects program. In other words, Pawlenty pivoted like an NBA point guard on key reproductive rights issues throughout his tenure as governor.

The question is which direction will Pawlenty take as a presidential candidate. Will he be the fiscal conservative who takes his cues from what science and the data say? Or will he tell social conservative and evangelical Christians what they want to hear?

Andy Kroll is a reporter at Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. Email him with tips and insights at akroll (at) motherjones (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter here. Get Andy Kroll's RSS feed.


Minnesota Government Shutdown Puts Tim Pawlenty In Spotlight

Minnesota's government shutdown could be a make-or-break moment for Tim Pawlenty.

Tim Pawlenty speaks at an event. | AP Photo
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Excerpts from an article posted on politico.com by Alexander Burns on 7/1/2011

Finally, America is paying attention to Tim Pawlenty.

The underdog presidential candidate has spent more than a year trying to gin up interest among Republican primary voters, so far with little to show for it. Now, Pawlenty’s home-state budget crisis has won him the kind of national spotlight that he has rarely earned on his own.

It’s a potential make-or-break moment for the former two-term governor, who has faced mounting questions in recent weeks about whether he’ll catch on in a GOP field that features flashier and better-known candidates. Pawlenty’s poll numbers continue to languish in the low single digits and his campaign announced Friday that it raised only a modest $4.2 million in the second quarter of the year.

The most valuable asset Pawlenty has left is his reputation as a solidly conservative governor who balanced budgets without raising taxes. Now, that reputation is drawing new scrutiny amid the spending showdown in St. Paul.

Pawlenty advisers contend that the shutdown will allow Pawlenty to highlight his record of holding the line on spending in a liberal state, contrasting that with the approach of his successor, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, as well as President Barack Obama.

“One of the challenges for Gov. Pawlenty so far has been that the country’s just not familiar with his record in Minnesota. He did not govern in Minnesota under the national media’s spotlight,” said Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant. “The more we discuss his record and the more that the national press looks into his record, the better off we are, because it’s a great story to tell.”

As it happens, Pawlenty’s political opponents agree – but their version of the Pawlenty record is a dramatically different and darker one.

Even before the Minnesota government shut down at midnight Friday, Democrats were already pointing to Pawlenty as a prime culprit in the $5 billion deficit that stands between Dayton, the Republican legislature and a balanced budget.

Throughout the day, Democratic Party committees and independent groups pummeled the former governor, using the shutdown to intensify a favorite line of attack: that Pawlenty managed the Minnesota budget through a long string of gimmicks and short-term fixes that have now come home to roost.

Former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton, who heads pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA, trumpeted the state deficit as a sign of “the folly of Pawlenty’s economic case,” blaming him for “the shutdown that great state is experiencing today.”

“His record is terrible and his strategy for the national economy was basically laughed into submission,” Burton wrote in an email.

Nathan Daschle, who led the Democratic Governors Association through the 2010 cycle, said the shutdown gave Pawlenty foes an opening to make the same argument DGA used against Pawlenty’s would-be Republican successor last year.

“The argument that we were making was that Tim Pawlenty came into office with a $4 billion deficit, left office with an even bigger $5 billion deficit,” Daschle said. “It wasn’t even that hard for us to make the argument. There was just a widespread opinion that he was not a good steward of Minnesota’s finances.”

The details of Pawlenty’s fiscal stewardship are complicated, resulting from years of legislative gamesmanship between a governor who signed a no-new-taxes pledge and a legislature still stocked with Hubert Humphrey liberals.

But Pawlenty critics have more than a few exhibits in their range of evidence, starting with a 2010 report from the National Conference of State Legislatures showing that Minnesota used one-time budget tricks to close 41 percent of its spending gap in that fiscal year.

Over Pawlenty’s term in office, the state used stimulus funds to patch budget holes, shifted education funding responsibilities from state to local government and cashed out money from a tobacco settlement fund. In 2005, Pawlenty helped work his way out of Minnesota’s last government shutdown by imposing a new tax on cigarettes that he called a “user fee.”

It’s not just Pawlenty’s national critics – or even just Democrats – who say his administration is at fault in this year’s shutdown.

“What we’re seeing now is the culmination of eight years of doing patchwork solutions without fixing the underlying problems. We haven’t addressed a tax system that doesn’t work very well and we haven’t addressed a spending system that doesn’t work very well,” said former gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner, an ex-Republican who ran for governor last year on the Independent Party line.

Former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson, a vocal Pawlenty critic who endorsed Horner in 2010, said Pawlenty was responsible for “everything” about the deficit.

“Of course it’s his fault. You can’t blame the new governor or legislature. They inherited this,” Carlson said. “He would be the classic example of kicking the can to the future.”

Pawlenty and his allies push back hard on that argument. The current deficit, they argue, is in large part a result of spending increases that are built into the state budget plan – and that Pawlenty would have opposed if he were still in office.

What’s more, a good chunk of the deficit comes from spending that Pawlenty had cut on a temporary basis, and that’s now scheduled to return. Those cuts could have been made permanent if Pawlenty had had a Republican legislature to work with, or if the current GOP-held state House and Senate had a governor other than Mark Dayton.

Pawlenty held a news conference Thursday night to rebuff criticism of his handling of the state finances.

“The last budget for which I was governor ends tonight at midnight and it’s going to end in the black,” Pawlenty said. “As to the next budget that has a projected deficit, it’s based on a massive increase in spending that I never would have allowed.”

Former Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Ron Carey, who has endorsed Pawlenty for president, said if Pawlenty keeps getting his message out “this can very well highlight his fiscal responsibility and unwavering nature in not letting government grow faster.”

“I think once the truth is known about the shutdown, Pawlenty will come out a winner,” Carey predicted. “The $5 billion shortfall is the fact that Democrats are proposing a lot of increased spending and saying we don’t have a revenue stream to support that.”

Given that the current budget imbalance sank in only after Pawlenty left office, some strategists question whether the crisis in Minnesota will register with Republican primary voters over the long term.

“Last I checked, he is not the governor today, and efforts to blame the impasse on him won’t sell very much,” said Curt Anderson, a GOP consultant who is unaligned in the 2012 race. “His campaign has some very real challenges – debate performance, Michele Bachmann, fundraising numbers – but this government shutdown is not going to hurt his campaign.”

To the extent that the shutdown poses a threat to Pawlenty, it’s largely one of the candidate’s own creation. Most governors use some fiscal sleight of hand to keep the books straight. But most governors don’t run for president and, as Pawlenty did in his May announcement speech, hold themselves up as examples of “how you lead a liberal state in a conservative direction.”

Having set that bar for himself, Pawlenty has to clear a higher standard than most in arguing that his approach to budgeting got the job done right and didn’t dodge structural budgeting decisions that would have been more painful.

“That’s the legitimate criticism of Pawlenty,” Horner said. “He dealt with it as a year-by-year math problem, not a long-term strategic plan of, ‘How do we create a prosperous state?’”

One thing Pawlenty has going for him is timing: Thanks to the July 4 holiday weekend, he likely has a few days to get his message straight, and Minnesota pols have at least a few more days to negotiate toward a solution, before the national audience tunes back in to the ongoing shutdown.

Pawlenty, for his part, says there’s no rush in getting things sorted out, and even suggested that the government shutdown he weathered in 2005 may have been too short.

“I think it was nine days at that time,” Pawlenty said Thursday. “I think we could have gotten a better deal if we had allowed that to continue for a while and the people of Minnesota would have seen the issues play out a little longer.”

James Hohmann contributed to this report.


ST. PAUL, Minn. July 13, 2011 -- Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is seizing on a state government shutdown in his home state to try to spark a flagging presidential campaign. The Republican is reminding voters that he too presided over a partial state government shutdown, and he even cut a campaign commercial saying he "won" that one.

The truth is more nuanced: Pawlenty was eager to end the 2005 shutdown and agreed to a hefty fee on cigarettes to do so, a blot on his otherwise clean anti-tax record in the eyes of conservatives.

In his 2012 stump speech, Pawlenty holds up the shutdown as evidence he would wage the tough fights in Washington. He wrote an opinion piece making that case Tuesday in Iowa's biggest newspaper. Just before the current Minnesota shutdown started, Pawlenty expressed regret about not letting the state's last government closure go on longer. That shutdown – far less extensive than the current one – ended on the ninth day, when Pawlenty and lawmakers struck a deal.

"I think we would have gotten a better deal had we allowed that to continue for a while and the people of Minnesota would have seen the issues play out a little longer," Pawlenty said on the eve of the current shutdown, which is nearly two weeks old with no end in sight.

In his memoir published early this year, Pawlenty wrote, "To this day, I still wrestle with whether I should've let that shutdown run longer."

Those who were there with Pawlenty six years ago remember things a little differently.

"During the shutdown of '05 he was lamenting as much as the rest of us, and now he's almost wearing it as a badge of courage," said former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, who sat across the bargaining table from Pawlenty that year. "The attitude was, we need to get this fixed and we need to get this fixed now, as opposed to letting government struggle and not work."

Republican state Sen. David Senjem remembered Pawlenty coming to a Senate GOP caucus meeting seeking support for the deal he had made.

"How did he say it – that he didn't like it, that we wouldn't like it, but for the good of the state of Minnesota we needed to move ahead, end this shutdown and that the road home, so to speak, was going to be the health impact fee," Senjem said.

The "health impact fee" – Pawlenty's carefully considered name for the cigarette charge – was the linchpin to ending the shutdown. It brought in enough money to preserve subsidized health care for the working poor, a top goal of Senate Democrats.

It was Pawlenty who brought the proposal into budget negotiations shortly before the mandatory end of the regular legislative session in May that year, outraging conservatives. As a candidate in 2002, Pawlenty had signed the Minnesota Taxpayers League's no-new-taxes pledge, and the head of that group took the cigarette proposal three years later as a betrayal.

"It sure sounds mighty cute to me. Knowing what I know right now it sounds a heck of a lot more like a cigarette tax increase than a health impact fee," said David Strom, the group's head, said at the time.

Pawlenty, though, seemed more focused on avoiding the shutdown and once it started, bringing it to a conclusion.

"It would be very unsettling and unfortunate and inconvenient and problematic to thousands and thousands of Minnesotans and their families," he said a few days before parts of state government closed.

Johnson recalled walking into Pawlenty's office days into the shutdown with a Democratic offer to raise cigarette taxes to help pay for public health programs.

"I remember him, in pencil, crossing out `cigarette tax' and writing down `health impact fee.' That was telling," Johnson said in an interview Tuesday. "It was something he did not want to do but at the same time he knew that for the good of the order, for the good of Minnesota, that some kind of revenue needed to occur. That's what broke the stalemate, and a few other things along the way."

Dan McElroy, Pawlenty's chief of staff at the time, didn't dispute Johnson's account.

McElroy said Pawlenty was hard at work at negotiations during the shutdown, trying to hammer out a resolution. McElroy said Pawlenty had valid policy reasons for defining the cigarette charge as a fee because there was already a wholesale cigarette fee in law and a direct tax would have exempted cigarettes sold on Indian reservations, giving casinos a major price advantage. The Minnesota Supreme Court eventually agreed that the charge was properly defined as a fee.

On the day the partial stoppage ended, Pawlenty compared the budget deal to a late teenager: "I'm glad that they're here safe, but I'm mad it's late."

He also acknowledged the political price of the shutdown: "We're all going to take our lumps – as we should – for this."


Tim Pawlenty's Honesty?

Tim Pawlenty

Photo by Jay Mallin/Zuma

The (now-official) GOP presidential candidate says his campaign is all about truth. Lets examine his campaign.

This page contains excerpts from an article by David Corn in motherjones.com Tue May. 24, 2011  David Corn is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief. For more of his stories, click here.

Tim Pawlenty has a new campaign motto. In a slick video officially announcing his bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, Pawlenty notes that he could unveil his candidacy with a big speech replete with balloons ("red ones, white ones, and blue ones"), pass out cupcakes, and promise to eliminate a $14 trillion debt, create jobs for 10 million Americans, and restructure Social Security and health care "all without making any tough decisions." Or, he says, "I could try something different. I could just tell you the truth." What truth? That "our country is in big trouble," with too much debt and too few jobs. And to emphasize that Pawlenty is the truth-telling candidate, his campaign attached this slogan to the video: "A time for truth."

This is clearly a consultant's concoction: Let's position you, Governor, as a guy who tells it as it is. In the two-minute video, Pawlenty repeatedly bangs this drum, saying that he will launch "a campaign that tells the American people the truth." But do voters want truth or do they want action—more jobs, say? In the personal integrity department, President Barack Obama tends to rate well in public opinion surveys. In a recent NBC news poll, 51 percent rated Obama "very good" when asked if he is honest and straightforward. Only 29 percent granted him a "very poor" rating on this front. Obama has scored higher in the past; 64 percent dubbed him honest in an April 2009 survey. But his personal reputation has not been much of a political problem. CNN polling director Keating Holland noted in January that a survey conducted for the cable network "tested Obama on a variety of personal characteristics, and he gets high marks for honesty, sincerity, leadership skills, and compassion." Americans, the poll found, could disagree with Obama's policies and still think of him as honest and stalwart.

By trying to depict the former Minnesota governor as a truthier guy than the man in the White House, Pawlenty—and his aides—might be attempting to exploit a problem that doesn't exist. (Though they may also be aiming at Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney, who has a history of flip-flopping on issues important to social conservatives, including gay rights and abortion rights.) Emphasizing straight talk as the critical matter also comes with a potential cost. It inevitably invites greater scrutiny of the candidate who's boasting of his honesty, and Pawlenty is hardly more truth-loving than the average presidential candidate.

Factcheck.org, a nonpartisan outfit that vets the statements of politicians, reports that in recent months "we have found [Pawlenty] straying from the facts." The group provided several examples:

  • In January, Pawlenty told Fox News that he "never did sign a bill relating to cap and trade" climate action when he was governor. But he did sign legislation in 2007 to set up a task force that would produce recommendations for how his state could implement a cap-and-trade regimen. He also signed a multi-state compact to "develop a market-based and multi-sector cap-and-trade mechanism." As Mother Jones reported, at a Republican presidential debate earlier this month, Pawlenty claimed—falsely—that while governor he merely backed the "study" of cap and trade. He went on to apologize to Republican voters for his support of this policy.
  • Earlier this year, Pawlenty said, "I don't think the government should bail out Wall Street or the mortgage industry or for that matter any other industry." But in 2008, he asserted that he did endorse these sort of interventions when necessary: "If you allow those entities to fail, the consequences are so severe for innocent bystanders, namely average Americans who rely on the markets, rely on those mortgages, you know, the consequences are too severe...[T]hey are too big, the consequences are too severe for innocent bystanders to allow them to fail."
  • In blasting Obama's economic policy, Pawlenty, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in December, declared that "local, state and federal governments added 590,000" jobs in the previous two years, while private sector employment had dropped by millions. Pawlenty was wrong: Government employment had actually fallen by 118,000 jobs. (PolitiFact.com, another fact-checking shop, dubbed this statement a "pants on fire" lie.)

PolitiFact.com also slapped Pawlenty with a "barely true" verdict for declaring in his book, Courage To Stand: An American Story, that in 2009 he cut government spending in Minnesota "in real terms for the first time in 150 years." It turns out the state only keeps fiscal data dating back to 1960, so it's not possible to compare Pawlenty's action to the previous 150 years. Also, spending had dropped in years prior to 2009, including 1986 and 1983. And here's the kicker: State spending in 2009 dropped partly because Pawlenty used money from Obama's stimulus to put off some of the state's own spending that year.

In an announcement speech in Iowa on Monday, Pawlenty repeated this first-time-in-150-years claim. (The staffers on his time-for-truth campaign obviously didn't check with PolitiFact.com.) That speech also included another familiar GOP whopper; Pawlenty maintained that Obama "promised that spending $800 billion dollars" on the stimulus bill "would keep unemployment under 8 percent." PolitiFact.com has charitably called this accusation "barely true." (As PolitiFact points out, the Obama administration's early use of the 8-percent figure "was a projection, not a promise. And it was a projection that came with heavy disclaimers.") The prepared text for Pawlenty's speech mentioned the word "truth" 16 times; the word "economy" just six times.

Pawlenty's "A Time for Truth" video looks and sounds great. His speech was full of sharp lines: "Politicians are often afraid that if they're honest, they might lose an election." But do Pawlenty and his campaign handlers believe he can run from his own record of non-straight talk on such grand matters as bank bailouts and cap and trade? It's far too early to handicap the GOP race, but Pawlenty's use of such hollow spin suggests his campaign team is not strong on strategic creativity—even though it is indeed creative to claim Pawlenty is more honest than the competition.

Excerpt from an article posted by Delal Pektas and Kelsey Sheehy of Center for Public Integrity for iWatch News at huffingtonpost.com  on June 30, 2011.  The Center for Public Integrity is a non-partisan, Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to producing original investigative journalism on issues of public concern.

Tim Pawlenty Has Ties to "Swift Boat" Bob Perry

Tim Pawlenty may not have great name recognition but he does have one very important thing for a presidential candidate: a hand in the pocket of Texas billionaire Bob J. Perry.

Perry, a homebuilding tycoon with a $600 million fortune, is a high roller among Republican donors.

  • On Sept. 23, 2010 Perry and his wife gave $60,000 to Freedom First, Pawlenty's state-based political action committees in New Hampshire and Iowa.
  • Perry has given nearly $38 million to candidates and political groups outside Texas since 2000, according to records analyzed by The Texas Tribune.
  • In that same time frame, Perry has contributed $28 million to more than 400 candidates and political committees in his home state.

Perry also has a reputation for financing negative ads. He made national headlines in 2004 with his mega contributions to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which ran a controversial ad campaign that questioned Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's service in Vietnam. Perry contributed $4.45 million to underwrite the attack ads that helped sink Kerry's presidential bid.

Less well-known is a similar attack ad campaign that Perry bankrolled in Minnesota in 2006, when Pawlenty was in danger of losing his office as Minnesota governor.

Pawlenty's challenger, Mike Hatch, maintained a small but consistent lead over the incumbent governor going into the final weeks of the race. Pawlenty "needed a Hail Mary," said Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor party and Hatch's campaign manager in 2006..

Perry tossed the pass Pawlenty was looking for -- a $500,000 check that directly funded a flood of attack ads against Hatch in the final days before the election. Pawlenty won by a mere 21,108 votes, just under 1 percent.

"It clearly had a huge impact in that election," Martin said. "If it wasn't for Bob Perry, Tim Pawlenty's political career would be over -- before it started."

The negative ads focused on an ethics investigation Hatch was later cleared of. The narrator intoned, "You're Mike Hatch, and you've got problems. You're under investigation for influence peddling and threatening a judge. You've told the press, 'Sometimes you've got to make deals with the devil.'

"Now that he's running for governor, don't let his problems become ours."

Minnesota voters were unaware of who financed the anti-Hatch ads until well after the election because Perry's donation to a group called A Stronger America fell between state-required campaign reporting deadlines.

"I've often wondered, why did he care so much to see Pawlenty win? Why did he care so much?" Martin said.

The negative ads spurred the Minnesota legislature to revise state campaign finance laws in 2007, requiring new donors to register with the state no later than 24 hours after they begin spending in the state. Candidates in Minnesota are also required to report any large donations that come in between reporting periods, said Gary Goldsmith, the nonpartisan executive director of the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.

Both changes were a direct result of Perry's last-minute donation, Goldsmith said.

What Bob Perry Looks For In Candidates

Five years later, Perry maintains a keen interest in the Minnesota politician.

Perry's spokesman declined to comment on the relationship, but political analysts in Texas said the homebuilder looks for three key things in the candidates he backs:

  • A history of pro-business policies that limit government regulation and oversight.
  • A commitment to tort reform, restricting the type of costly lawsuits consumers can bring against businesses like Perry's own company, Perry Homes.
  • A legitimate chance of crossing the finish line first.

The last one is perhaps the most important to Perry, said Bruce Buchanan, political science professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

"He wants to be a king maker," Buchanan said. "That's why he doesn't choose candidates on the far right, even though they may be closer to his true preferences."

A fiscal and social conservative, Pawlenty checks all the right boxes, said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. Pawlenty "is a fiscal conservative who can be counted on to restrain spending and to block tax increases," he said. "Pawlenty is also a social conservative. He didn't really play that up when he was in Minnesota."

Pawlenty supported tort reform to limit excessive awards and created a low-regulation environment favorable for businesses and job growth while at the helm of Minnesota politics, said Charlie Weaver, who was Pawlenty's chief of staff in 2003 and is now executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership.

"He was a strong defender against those who wanted to raise taxes, particularly job-killing taxes," Weaver said.

The former governor's evangelical faith is also attractive to donors and voters, Weaver said.

Raised Catholic, Pawlenty began attending Wooddale Church, an evangelical mega church, with his future wife, Mary. The senior pastor, the Rev. Leith Anderson, officiated at the couple's wedding in 1987. Since 2006, Anderson has also been president of the National Association of Evangelicals, a group that recently ranked Pawlenty at the top of an informal survey of its members

"His faith is something that gives him a strong rudder, and that's really important when anyone is sizing up presidential candidates," Weaver said.

Texas politicos familiar with Perry doubt his donations to Pawlenty are motivated by religion.

"Pawlenty, certainly from the perspective of Minnesota, he might look like and evangelical, but from the perspective of Texas, he doesn't," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas. "The presentation of evangelicalism in Minnesota is likely to be less aggressive than it would be in Texas or much of the South."

Pawlenty's appeal in the presidential race is that he hasn't embarrassed himself, according to Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman.

"So far, Pawlenty hasn't impaled himself on any silly issues, made himself a laughingstock at the White House Correspondents' dinner, or been exposed as a weathervane," Chapman wrote in May.

Or, as Jacobs put it, "He doesn't have the fatal flaws that everyone else seems to have."

The whys behind Perry's donations are not important -- the donations are, said Andy Wilson, a Texas-based campaign finance policy analyst for the nonprofit group Public Citizen.

"Trying to figure out why Bob Perry is spending is like asking why the Grinch wanted to steal Christmas," Wilson said. "I mean we can try and guess what his motivations are, but what's more important is what he's actually doing."

Perry's History Of Negative Ads

In addition to direct contributions to candidates, Perry has been systematically financing attack ads.

Best known is the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign in 2004. The ads accused Kerry of lying about his service and betraying fellow Vietnam veterans with accusations of war crimes. They also questioned the validity of the service medals awarded to him, including his Purple Heart.

At the time, even Republican Sen. John McCain condemned the ads, saying "I think the ad is dishonest and dishonorable." The ads gave birth to a new phrase in political lexicon: "to swift boat" with attack ads. Factcheck.org found that the ads' accusations were "contradicted by Kerry's former crewmen, and by Navy records."

Perry was involved with many more negative campaigns. In 2008, he donated $95,000 to Empower Texans PAC, which aired an attack ad against Democrat Joel Redmond, who was running for an open House seat in the Texas legislature against Republican Ken Legler. Critics said the ad had racist undertones. It featured a photo of Redmond with minority lawmakers including presidential candidate Barack Obama, and a caption that read, "Bad company corrupts good character."

Perry donated $9.7 million to 527 political groups in 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. According to CRP and Texans for Public Justice, his donations included:

  • $5 million to the Economic Freedom Fund for negative ads against Democratic congressional candidates across the country.
  • $3 million to Americans for Honesty on Issues for ads accusing Democratic candidates of sponsoring legislation to give taxpayer money to illegal immigrants and taking money away from soldiers in Iraq.
  • $1 million to the Free Enterprise Fund, whose ads attacked Democrat Jon Tester for his opposition to banning gay marriage by portraying Montana Democrats as gay cowboys, à la the film Brokeback Mountain.

In 2010 Perry joined forces with fellow Texan Karl Rove, donating $7 million dollars to the 527 group, American Crossroads. Advertisements sponsored by Crossroads attacked a slew of Democratic candidates across the country.

In April, Pawlenty's 2012 campaign announced Alison McIntosh would spearhead his fundraising efforts in the Lone Star State. McIntosh raised $42 million as the Texas finance director for McCain-Palin 2008. She also was a key fundraiser for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Taking money from a donor with a lengthy track record of dirty politics speaks to Pawlenty's character, said Martin, whose candidate was "swift boated" in 2006.

"It really calls into question his integrity. ... It's easy to travel to another state and put on this aw-shucks mask," Martin said. Pawlenty "tries to paint the picture of being Minnesota nice. ... The fact of the matter is he associates with people who fund his campaign who are pretty classless characters."

Perry's money may help Pawlenty build a much needed national presence. Even as he formally announced his candidacy on May 23, and followed it with a national media blitz, only 50 percent of Republicans surveyed by Gallup knew who he was. Against other GOP candidates, he consistently pulls single-digit support.

Pawlenty gained some national attention in 2008, when he was on the short list of those being considered for a running mate to McCain. McCain ultimately chose Sarah Palin, but Pawlenty earned a political ally in McCain by leading the Arizona senator's presidential exploratory committee in 2008 and bringing in more than $500,000 in contributions.

Pawlenty may have competition for Perry's attention, especially if Texas Gov. Rick Perry decides to compete for the GOP presidential nomination. Bob Perry gave $2.5 million to Rick Perry (no relation) between 2000 and 2010.

While Perry's campaign donations are substantial, they can also be fickle -- just ask Mitt Romney. Perry helped finance Romney's last bid for the White House.

Pawlenty's campaign did not respond to eight requests for comment from iWatch News, made by email, text message and telephone.

Delal Pektas and Kelsey Sheehy are reporters for Medill News Service, a graduate program of Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Tim Pawlenty's Economic Plan is Fact-Checked

Photo by Flickr/marcn

On Tuesday, Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty delivered the first major economic speech of his campaign, a plan to slash taxes, create jobs, and rev up America's economic engine. He dubbed it "A Better Deal." But, as the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler points out, Pawlenty's plan had more holes in it than a slice of Swiss cheese.

In his "Fact Checker" column, Kessler picks apart Pawlenty's more sweeping statements. Like this one: "Our health care system, thanks to ObamaCare, is more expensive and less efficient." It doesn't take an expert to know that President Obama's health care reform bill doesn't fully go into effect until 2014, so how can Pawlenty lay the blame on Obama for today's problems? (Answer: He can't, at least not truthfully.) What's more, Pawlenty's own campaign cited a PricewaterhouseCoopers report (PDF) to support this claim. But as Kessler notes, that same PwC report says, "The law will have minimal effect on the cost trend in 2012." In other words, Pawlenty's own evidence directly contradicts his claim.

Then Kessler takes apart this Pawlenty claim:

"Five percent economic growth over 10 years would generate $3.8 trillion in new tax revenues. With that, we would reduce projected deficits by 40 percent. All before we made a single budget cut."

Earlier in the speech, Pawlenty said that Ronald Reagan in the 1980s and Bill Clinton in the 1990s enjoyed near-five percent economic growth. So why, Pawlenty's thinking goes, can't he do the same?

Well, as Kessler points out, the average GDP growth enjoyed by both Reagan and Clinton was actually 3.5 percent, a more modest target. What's more, in Clinton's case, the booming '90s came after Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy. Pawlenty advocated the exact opposite in his "Better Deal" plan, calling for massive tax cuts. Kessler writes:

The last president to achieve consistent growth above 5 percent was John F. Kennedy a half-century ago, when the baby-boom generation was on the verge of entering the workforce. Now, that generation is heading into retirement, leaving fewer workers to carry the burden.

Simply on the basis of economics, ...Pawlenty is close to not passing a laugh test, especially if he also proposes to slash the federal budget and taxes.

Another bogus Pawlenty claim: "The fact is federal regulations will cost our economy $1.75 trillion this year alone. It’s a hidden tax on every American consumer." In an earlier column, Kessler gave this statement two "Pinocchios" out of four possible, a disingenuous statement.

In the end, Kessler awarded Pawlenty's speech two Pinocchios, saying the Minnesota governor "pushed the envelope to make eliminating the budget deficit and boosting the economy sound much too easy, while relying on dubious facts and assertions." That doesn't bode well for a candidate  who's campaigning on the message "A Time for Truth."

Also see:

Andy Kroll is a reporter at Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here.

Tim Pawlenty Used "Magick" Book Keeping to Balance Books and Left a Tremendous Deficit for his Successor

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A no-new-taxes philosophy guided Tim Pawlenty's budget approach as Minnesota governor. Accounting tricks, a well-timed infusion of stimulus money from Washington and word games kept the Republican mostly on that course.

The newly minted presidential candidate hopes Republican primary voters will see him as an economic pro accustomed to dealing with red ink and capable of confronting the nation's colossal fiscal problems.

"We balanced the budget every two years in my state without question," Pawlenty said Wednesday at a conservative think tank in Washington. "We have a constitutional requirement, as almost every other state does. It must be balanced, it has to be balanced, it always will be balanced. In fact, the last budget that I finished ends this summer, here in about two months. And it's going to end in the black."

On the campaign trail, the Republican eagerly highlights his many tax-increase vetoes. And he boasts of enduring a partial government shutdown as well as a workers' strike to contain costs.

But his record also carries vulnerabilities for foes to exploit.

There's the carefully crafted "health impact fee" on cigarettes. It's a euphemism for a tax increase in the eyes of some allies and most opponents.

Minnesota lurched from one deficit to another under his eight-year tenure. The state's books technically balanced when he left office in January, but by then a mammoth deficit was forecast for the first budget his successor would need to craft.

When asked about that legacy, Pawlenty said the analysis is off-base: "It's based on a big increase in projected spending – 20-some percent increase – that I never would've allowed."

Pawlenty distances himself from that projected $5 billion shortfall, but it's partly attributable to temporary fixes he either proposed or consented to. Schools are owed more than $1.4 billion in state IOUs, one-time stimulus dollars used to prop up ongoing state expenses are drying up and short-lived spending curbs Pawlenty first enacted using his executive powers are expiring.

His defenders, including former Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum, say Pawlenty had to work within the confines of a politically split state government and wanted to be more aggressive than Democrats in the Legislature would permit.

"It took some patchwork, no doubt," Sviggum said. "But the fact is, we were able to meet the constitutional charge of balancing the budget without raising taxes."

Taxes did rise in the Pawlenty era, although his fingerprints aren't on them.

His veto of a gas tax increase was overridden and voters raised the sales tax through a ballot measure. Property taxes shot up in the Pawlenty years, mostly those enacted by city, county or school governments as they coped with stagnant or falling state aid. The year he entered the governor's office, Minnesota land owners paid about $5.1 billion in property taxes; the total take topped $8 billion when he departed.

"Tim Pawlenty consistently passed the buck – onto local governments, onto the Legislature, onto anyone he could," said state Rep. Paul Thissen, the top House Democrat. "His budgets were filled with shifts, tricks and gimmicks that created perpetual state deficits and set Minnesota behind the rest of the nation."

Then there are fees.

The state slapped higher surcharges on everything from speeding tickets to marriage licenses. None was more controversial than the 75 cent-per-pack levy on cigarettes, which helped break the stalemate that pushed Minnesota to a government shutdown in 2005.

Pawlenty insists the cigarette "fee" is directly linked to health costs attributable to smoking, and the state Supreme Court vouched for that terminology when tobacco companies sued to block it.

Anti-tax groups, including the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, regard it as clear blemish on Pawlenty's record.

"I still call it a tax increase even though the Supreme Court blessed it as a fee, not a tax," said Phil Krinkie, the league's president and a former Republican legislative colleague of Pawlenty.

GOP primary voters looking for a Pawlenty scorecard will find a mixed appraisal from conservative groups.

The conservative Club for Growth gave Pawlenty a less-than-flattering review Tuesday, saying his ideological moorings may not be as strong as he's projecting.

"A President Pawlenty, we suspect, would fight for pro-growth policies, but would be susceptible to adopting `pragmatic' policies that grow government," the group concludes in a report it prepared on him.

But the Cato Institute, which advocates for smaller government and hosted him, gave Pawlenty one of four "A" grades for governors in its latest rankings.

He wasn't always in the group's good graces.

Chris Edwards, Cato's director of tax policy studies, said Pawlenty's frequent vetoes, ready use of executive budget-cutting powers and advocacy of corporate tax cuts account for his high marks now.

"In the last four or five years, he has followed very much of a small-government approach on fiscal policy," Edwards said. "Perhaps he knew he was going to run for president."


Excerpts from an article at motherjones.com by Tim Murphy  Tue Apr. 19, 2011

Tim Pawlenty's tenure as governor of Minnesota was largely devoid of the kind of polarizing episodes that give campaign managers migraines. If anything, the knock on the GOP presidential contender seems to be that, with a few exceptions, he's a little too ordinary. One of those exceptions came in 2003, when the newly elected Republican governor selected Cheri Yecke, a little-known Bush administration veteran, to produce new educational standards for what students should—and shouldn't—learn.

The battle that followed put Pawlenty at the center of a culture war conflagration. Members of Yecke's handpicked standards committees dismissed sharing and cooperation as "socialist" ideas, suggested replacing "We Shall Overcome" with "Dixie" in a unit on protest songs, and advocated downplaying the impact of slavery on the nation's antebellum economy—lest it sour students on the virtues of the free market. As Pawlenty's education commissioner, Yecke's main job was to produce new standards in core subject areas, which could be used to track student performance under the just-passed No Child Left Behind Act. "We need to regain the edge that we have lost as an education innovator," Pawlenty explained at the time. "Dr. Yecke is precisely the right person to lead that change." In the meetings, conservatives successfully argued that sharing was an inappropriate concept for kindergartners because of its creeping "socialist" implications.

Pawlenty's pick got off to a rocky start. For one thing, No Child Left Behind faced significant opposition among teachers' unions, which viewed Yecke's proposals as an affront. Yecke, who came to Minnesota from the federal Department of Education, was viewed by opponents as too close to the Bush administration. But the opposition ramped up when Yecke convened a committee to study US and world history standards.

Sara Evans and Lisa Norling, both history professors at the University of Minnesota, were dismayed by the process from the beginning. They began attending committee meetings, which were open to the public, and taking notes on the proceedings. What they heard stunned them.

Yecke formed a committee of educators, parents, politicians, and businessmen, and set them to work drafting the standards. But as Evans and Norling later explained in an article (PDF) they wrote for the Organization of American Historians' newsletter, the meetings seemed overrun by conservative activists, some of whom did not reveal their affiliations. One member, identified simply as a parent and former teacher, was on the board of directors of the conservative Claremont Institute, a right-wing think tank that's been described — by a supporter—as a "training ground for a lifetime campaign in the trenches of political warfare." (Christine O'Donnell and Andrew Breitbart are both alums.) Private religious academies and homeschoolers were well-represented, even though the standards would have no impact on their curricula.

The resulting circus put Minnesota on the front lines of the culture wars. In the meetings, conservatives successfully argued that sharing was an inappropriate concept for kindergartners because of its creeping "socialist" implications. "In response to another critique noting the absence of organized labor from both the US History and the Economics standards," Evans and Norling noted, "a different committee member sputtered, 'unions! Don't even go there!'"

Yecke, who did not attend the committee meetings, says she would not have tolerated such remarks if she had been aware of them at the time, and emphasizes that those discussions were a vital part of the process. "These committees had a serious purpose, and they were no place for flippant and inappropriate comments," she said in an email to Mother Jones.

The initial draft standards promoted ideological positions—such as the notion that post-Cold War conflicts were defined by a "clash of civilizations"—as fact, and focused almost exclusively on European history (Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa combined for just 8 of the more than 170 world history "benchmarks"). The women's rights movement was pushed to the sidelines; Ronald Reagan was credited with almost singlehandedly winning the Cold War.

"I strongly disagree with President Obama’s remarks when he proclaimed that America was no longer a Christian nation," Yecke says.

There was also an evident emphasis on the centrality of faith to the American story: Students were supposed to be taught, for instance, that the four references to the Creator in the Declaration of Independence inspired the separation of powers doctrine in the Constitution. In an interpretation common among Christian conservatives, the four references establish God as a legislator, judge, executive, and founder, while asserting that only in His hands can those powers be unified. In other words, separation of powers isn't just a constitutional requirement; it's a Biblical one, too.

Ultimately, Evans and Norling, along with 30 other University of Minnesota history professors, signed a letter to Yecke, outlining a list of "inaccurate" and "misleading" assertions in the proposed standards. The curriculum, they argued, represented a "comprehensive rejection of several generations of historical scholarship." Two separate petition drives, led by active and former public school social studies teachers, collected thousands of signatures protesting the commissioner's actions. Dissenting members of the committee released their own report, calling on Yecke to start over.

"There was a real emphasis on the role of faith as a motivator for the actions of historical figures," remembers Democratic State Rep. Jim Davnie, himself a former social studies teacher. "Certainly faith as a motivation is part of the America story, but it was disproportionately large and it squeezed out a lot of other references to social movements."

Many of the most controversial benchmarks were phased out in two successive drafts over the next few months, and the finished standards won praise from the likes of New York University professor Diane Ravitch (PDF), an influential advocate for education reform (Ravitch had called Minnesota's old social studies standards "among the worst in the nation"). But the damage had been done. The state Senate commissioned its own set of standards to counter those initiated by Yecke and approved by the GOP-controlled House, and a compromise agreement was ultimately reached. Yecke didn't do herself any favors on the public relations front, accusing her critics at the University of Minnesota of promoting "the hate-America agenda."

When it came time for the Senate to hold hearings on Yecke's formal confirmation, which had been put off for a year, she was rejected on a party-line vote.

Years later Yecke isn't backing down from her views. "I strongly disagree with President Obama's remarks when he proclaimed that America was no longer a Christian nation," Yecke said in an email. (Obama actually said "we are no longer a Christian nation—at least not just," alluding to the country’s range of religious traditions.) "From the writings of our Founding Fathers, to cases settled by the Supreme Court, the evidence shows that [the] opposite is true. Our nation was founded on Christian principles, and primary source documents make this very clear."

After a brief run for Congress and a stint as K-12 chancellor under Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Yecke now teaches and serves as dean of graduate programs for Harding University, a conservative Christian school outside Little Rock, Arkansas. She says the attacks on her record were motivated by politics, not substance. "Strong conservative women seem to anger them," she explains, referring to her opponents and drawing a parallel to another Pawlenty appointee, Carol Molnau, who was ousted as transportation commissioner in aftermath of the I-35W bridge collapse.

"I am very proud of the work we accomplished," she says, touting efforts to bring Minnesota into compliance with No Child Left Behind. "I might have been a casualty in the battle over the standards, but Governor Pawlenty won the war and his policies live on."

If elected president, Pawlenty would have the challenge of shaping the nation's education policy—and thanks to No Child Left Behind and President Obama's own efforts, he'd oversee a Department of Education with a greatly expanded role in public schools. His record in St. Paul, and his appointment of Yecke in particular, raise questions about what direction he'd take the department.

In his travels around the country trying to decide whether he will run for president or not, Tim Pawlenty plays it safe. His speeches are short and peppered with applause lines and well-worn, call-and-response moments.

“Have you had enough of big government and big unions and big bailout businesses, scratching each others' backs and asking you to get your wallet out to pay for their recklessness and stupidity?” Pawlenty asked a Tea Party crowd during a rally outside the state capitol in Concord. The audience yelled back in the affirmative.

“Let’s send them this message: ‘Don’t tread on me.’”

It would be hard to be more predictable. But Pawlenty is trying to embrace the Tea Party, to become the candidate they turn to after giving up hope on several lesser-known options like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) or Herman Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO.

The Tea Party carries weight in New Hampshire. Grassroots organizers claim they can bring out up to 50,000 voters in a primary that will consist of 250,000 to 300,000 voters total, and some in the political establishment agree.

Pawlenty will quickly cater to Tea Partiers. He has said for months that Congress should not raise the debt ceiling when the federal government hits its $14.3 trillion limit. He also doubled down on his criticism of Boehner’s budget deal in Nashua.

“They’re having a debate over whether they should spend $3.5 trillion or $3.6 trillion, or somewhere in between. It doesn’t even make up any difference in the pie chart to speak of,” Pawlenty said, though he pegged the deal as Obama’s. “The nonpartisan congressional budget office comes out today and says, ‘That’s not going to cut $38 billion out of the budget this year.’

“You know what the number was? $362 million. So we got a lot of work to do.”

At the Nashua event, Pawlenty’s staff passed around a clipboard to collect email addresses from attendees. The Minnesotan hopes to recruit new supporters and volunteers at larger events, building momentum virally through online channels -- a model perfected by Obama’s 2008 campaign team. Pawlenty’s high-flying approach has yielded some results. Admirers flocked to him after both events, and supporters waited long after his Nashua speech so he could sign copies of his book, “Courage to Stand,” and pose for pictures.

"He’s evolving from a policy-type candidate to being more of ... a leader in terms of emotion and policy,” said Ovide Lamontagne, an ascendant political figure here who narrowly lost the GOP Senate primary last year and is expected to run for governor in 2012. “That’s important to show that."

According to the famous “Buckley Rule,” Republicans should vote for the most conservative Republican candidate who has the best chance of winning. Pawlenty, the man with the least baggage who hews most closely to the conservative grassroots party line, may prove to be that candidate.


It’s still early for most voters, and Pawlenty has some time to hone their approach. But with the primary process beginning much later than it did last cycle, a significant course correction would be more difficult than it was for John McCain in 2008.

Many conservatives find him wanting.

However, a new bullishness exists on the right that may put Obama in a more vulnerable position. After a few good months, the president’s approval rating is once again under water -- below his disapproval rating -- similar to polling numbers around the midterm elections that ushered Republicans into Congress.

So for a candidate like Pawlenty, essentially a blank slate, New Hampshire may be a chance to capitalize on what matters most to voters.

BUT “The main issue is still the economy.”



Tim Pawlenty

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