In the wake of MPR reporter Tom Scheck’s story that Gov. Tim Pawlenty acted as the delivery man for a big campaign contribution from a Texas Republican to someone in Alabama, it’s possible that some Jesse Ventura-style attention will now be focused on where/when a sitting governor stops being a governor during the course of a week.
Up until now, Pawlenty’s role as both a governor and a likely presidential candidate/courier have gone largely unexamined from an ethical/appropriateness standpoint.
Why is a governor from Minnesota, picking up a check from a donor in Texas, and delivering it to someone in Alabama? Pawlenty told Scheck that he was acting in his capacity as vice chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association.
Can you be both? Is it unseemly to have a state’s governor being a courier for campaign donations?
When Jesse Ventura was in office, Republicans and Democrats upbraided him for spending weekend time as a broadcaster of the XFL football games.
Former congressman Tim Penny, who was a Ventura ally, tried to alert us to the double standard in a September article in his hometown paper:
In contrast, the media was routinely and extremely tough on Governor Jesse Ventura for his out-of-state trips. For example, Ventura left the state – only occasionally – to show up on the David Letterman or Jay Leno shows (and for a few Saturdays to announce games for the fated and short-lived XFL football league). But without exception on each of these occasions, the Minnesota media loudly blasted Ventura!
My question is this: How are Ventura’s out-of-state excursions any different – or any worse – than Pawlenty’s purely political travels? In both cases these trips have NOTHING to do with our state’s business. Yet, the Minnesota media seem to write only glowingly about Pawlenty’s trips (apparently because they believe the trips are evidence that he is a contender on the national scene). Whether he has the potential to be a presidential contender (a disputable assumption), is also largely beside the point.
What matters is this: There are serious challenges to be dealt with here at home (like honestly balancing the state budget rather than burdening the next Governor with cleaning up the budget mess). Yet, Pawlenty, instead of providing leadership and solutions, is essentially using the time remaining in his current job to seek another job. Most people would at the least have their pay deducted for the days they don’t show up for work. In contrast, the Minnesota media provide Pawlenty with flattering headlines. Go figure.
Let’s go to the Wayback Machine. It’s March 2001, and not-yet-governor Tim Pawlenty is on CNN talking about Jesse Ventura’s extracurricular activities.
Well, I think that our governor is a media supernova, and I think when people elected him, they knew they were signing up for something unusual. The moonlighting, though, perhaps was a step over the line, and I think it’s not a technical conflict of interest or anything like that, but it is bad judgment. I think when people elect a governor, they more or less expect him or her to be around full-time.
… as a general proposition, if you’re going to be governor, it’s probably a full-time job, and we think you should full-time time and energy to it.