Pawlenty’s big move (5×8 – 9/20/12)

Pawlenty becomes a player, rail riding, the night the Cincinnati Reds met Teddy, the art of recovery, and the crime lab controversy explained.


1) PAWLENTY BECOMES A PLAYER

The big banking industry is no longer toxic to politics, if it ever was. Politico reports today that Tim Pawlenty has been hired to run the Financial Services Roundtable. Many Americans have likely never heard of the organization, but it’s a huge move by the former Minnesota governor who’d like to be president. The banking industry and big politics are the best of friends and political campaigns are impossible without great connections and globs of money.

It’s a smart move — a huge move — for Pawlenty. As Wall Street’s voice in Washington, he becomes one of the biggest movers and shakers in the one sector of lobbying that often calls the shots. Pawlenty will get tons of face time on the business channels on television. Those are the kind of friends and the kind of exposure that can get you elected president, a position that’s easier to get from Washington than Minnesota.

But what the move shows is that even after a collapsed economy, largely spawned by the practices of the financial services industry, there’s no political stain to be had by throwing in with the industry.

The group lobbied — and lobbied hard — to kill the provision in the Dodd-Frank banking reform bill to limit how much banks can charge merchants when a consumer pays with a debit-card, for example. The Roundtable was run by a former congressman; the relationship between the Roundtable and the politicians who oversee the industry has been described as a “revolving door.” Let’s just say there are no candidates in flannel shirts trying to come off as a populist in the Roundtable.

It’s hard not to think of Charles Ferguson’s excellent documentary, Inside Job, which uncovered the industry’s infuriating role in the mess that faces the nation today.

The group has its detractors among some movers and shakers, too. In a report in February, it sought to assure its overlords that the industry has cleansed itself from its 2008 misdeeds.

Simon Johnson, former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, wasn’t buying it.


One of the roundtable’s core principles is: “We are committed to building long-term stability for the financial system, and our actions will emphasize long-term instead of short-term gain.” It is hard to see this report as a reflection of such principles.

The report reads more like a sophisticated propaganda campaign by a powerful lobby group demanding that its members continue to receive large subsidies. The people who run financial institutions definitely know what they are doing — picking the pocket of the American taxpayer. The question is: Will we fall for it again?

Obviously, that’s not how the Roundtable sees itself…

In his new job, Pawlenty will control a vast amount of political dough to sprinkle around the Capitol. Last year, for example, the Roundtable spent $7 million on lobbying.

It’ll also make the former governor rich. The man he’s reportedly replacing earned almost $2 million last year.

2) RAIL RIDING

Tyler Harmon, a Grand Forks native, hopped his first train 10 years ago. He was 10, then.

Now, he “tours” the country, staying at church shelters at night, riding the rails by day.

“It puts a butterfly in your gut,” Harmon said. “You’ve got almost 30 tons of steel moving 80 miles an hour down the track when it picks up full speed. Even when it’s going slow, it’s still scary.”

The Fargo Forum profiles him today.

3) THE NIGHT THE CINCINNATI REDS MET TEDDY

Teddy Kremer’s parents bid on an item at a school fundraiser last spring: a batboy for a night for the Cincinnati Reds. They wanted the experience for their son, who has Down syndrome. But it was the Reds that got the benefit of the deal. Cincinnati.com gives Kleenex some extra business with a wonderful story.


With two outs to go in the top of the ninth and the Reds leading 7-3, Teddy began to applaud at the prospect of certain victory. Joey Votto, in uniform but out of action with a knee injury, sat down next to Teddy.

“We wait until we get three outs before we count this one as a win,” said Votto, gently.

Teddy took the hint and waited for the final out.

And what did Votto tell you then, Teddy?

“He said, ‘I love you, Ted. Thank you for everything.’ “

(h/t: Jeff Shelman)

4) THE ART OF RECOVERY

An exhibition has opened in St. Cloud featuring the art of Minnesota’s victims of crime. They’re victims of arson, burglary, robbery, impaired driving, domestic abuse, sexual assault, kidnapping, incest, rape and murder, the St. Cloud Times says.

“They’re making a public statement; it’s healing for them,” said Lee LaDue, the gender violence prevention coordinator at St. Cloud State’s Women’s Center. “It’s also very healing for other survivors to see that kind of art … the courage of others speaking out about what happened to them.”

The State Arts Board, which underwrites the effort, has a gallery of images, and the compelling stories of the artists.

5) THE CRIME LAB CONTROVERSY EXPLAINED

I love radio, but sometimes it takes a video and a whiteboard to better explain a fairly complicated news story. MPR News’ Madeleine Baran explains the controversy over the handling of evidence in the St. Paul police crime lab…

Bonus I: Could Canada run the U.S. better than the U.S.?

Bonus II: The inside story of the assertion that Jesus was a married man. (Smithsonian)

Bonus III: Minnesota moments…

Explore Minnesota – St. Croix Park Timelapse from Grant and Nicky on Vimeo.

Bonus IV: Fact: A new version of Call Me Maybe is uploaded to YouTube every 37 seconds…

TODAY’S QUESTION

Electronic pull-tabs began making their first appearances in Minnesota bars and restaurants this week. The state hopes that revenue from the video devices will help pay for the new Vikings stadium. Today’s Question: What do you think of the introduction of electronic pull-tab games in Minnesota?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Veterans health issues.

Second hour: Why fathers matter.

Third hour: Hudson City Council rejects dog track rezoning.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): An America Abroad special, “The Next President: Foreign Policy Challenges.” Ray Suarez is host.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Americans around the world found themselves targets after an anti-Islam film sparked riots from Egypt to Indonesia. And it’s not just Americans. In China this week, protests and violence targeted Japanese. Working under fire. Plus, rethinking a general often blamed for fumbling away a chance to win the Civil War.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - NPR looks at the battle for the U.S. Senate in Wisconsin, which pits a seven-term Democratic congresswoman against a four-term Republican governor. Former governor Tommy Thompson is playing catch-up to the surging representative

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