Tim Pawlenty’s XFL moment

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.

  • David W.

    Call him Governor PayPal-enty I guess…

  • Nate

    GREAT STORY!! I have been wondering why no one has mentioned this up until now… It has be obvious he is in pursuit of a “higher” calling he is just too much of a slimy politician to admit it.

  • CHS

    So I guess that Mayor RT Rybak should be giving a check to the city of Minneapolis to reimburse for the time he is devoting to running for Governor while he should be focusing on that cities problems? Minneapolis is facing a huge budget crisis, I’m sure that the returned salary would be welcome and could possibly bring another cop back on the street during a year that has seen more homicides in the first month than last year.

    Maybe President Obama should have relinquished his senate seat while campaigning for president in those early days of his PAC and fundraising. Frankly I’m sure that he stopped devoting full time attention to Illinois after the DFL convention speech that propelled him to the prominent place that gave him his chance to run for the White House.

    If these comments irritate you, ask yourself why? What is it about particular politicians’ campaign activities while in office that causes you stress? The odds are you feel that way simply because their political party affiliation is not your own.

    Get over it people, every politician uses time in office to devote to the next election whether that be re-election or a higher office, that’s the way the system works. Let’s try to forget the partisan antics for a moment and breathe a deep sigh of reality and common sense.

  • David W.

    CHS, given what Gov. PayPalenty said about Gov. Ventura in the past, this is about hypocrisy, not partisanship.

  • Bob Collins

    CHS, you realize you’re arguing with Tim Pawlenty, right?

    Minnesota got pretty worked up about Jesse Ventura and the XFL and one of those people who got worked up was Tim Pawlenty.

  • Patrick from Anoka

    Oh, Bob.

    There is a big difference between moonlighting as a football commentator, and what Pawlenty does.

    Helping Republican candidates across America and being vice chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association helps build the one true party in America, the Republican Party. Further, by building his standing within it,.Gov. Pawlenty is helping Minnesota’s prestige by being a national leader. That’s good for Minnesota.

    Sure, all that is exactly the same as being a football commentator, Bob.

  • Bob Collins

    //Sure, all that is exactly the same as being a football commentator, Bob.

    Again, this is a case of Tim Pawlenty v. Tim Pawlenty.

    “I think when people elect a governor, they more or less expect him or her to be around full-time.”

  • :sigh:

    Another case of IOKIYAR (Its okay if you are a Republican)

    Some days, I think if a Republican office holder was accused of cannibalism, the media (especially the right leaning outlets) would cover it as “Republican, Democrats differ on dietary preferences.”

  • Alison

    It certainly is hypocritical, but there may be more. I doubt that Ventura was making statements while calling football games that undermined his ability constructively work with members of other political parties in his job as governor. I also doubt Ventura’s decisions as governor were made with an eye toward pleasing the producers of the football game broadcasts.

  • Ben

    It is not just the hypocricy that gets me, but moreso his dogmatic pursuit of agendas here in MN that he follows so rigidly to allow him to have a platform on which to run for president. He has eviscerated our social programs in the name of balancing the budget, and not allowed any taxes, especially progressive taxes, to be raised. He has no problem nickle and diming the masses with increased fees and fines, as this does not get in the way of his alternative agenda and has an equal effect (or moreso) on the middle and lower income groups. He has meanwhile pandered to the evangelical crowd, promoting and endorsing the evangelical Day of Prayer. Many politicians have side jobs or attempt to further their political career while in office, but TPaw is hurting our great state in his dogmatic pursuit of what he will never attain.

  • CHS

    I disagree that Governor Pawlenty’s previous comments about former Governor Ventura’s moonlighting are hypocritical. Looking at his statement, he stated that he felt the moonlighting was ‘over the line’ and bad judgement. The key is that the activity was of no benefit to the state or had no relation to the political process. Whether we like it or not the types of activities that Governor Pawlenty are engaging in are part of the political process in our country. My comment attempted to point out that peoples’ perception of the value or appropriateness of the activity most often coincides with political affiliation. Do I agree with all of Governor Pawlenty’s actions and policies, certainly not, but his activities in the political sphere are certainly acceptable and appropriate if we hold him to the same standard we hold other politicians. Now if Governor Pawlenty were to begin commentating hockey games on the weekends, or entering into large personal business ventures I would roast him on this one, but as it is the activities are just a part of our political system for better or worse.

  • Bob Collins

    But why does a guy in Texas need to give cash to a governor from Minnesota to give to a guy in Alabama?

    Why doesn’t the guy in Texas just give the money directly to the guy in Alabama?

  • CHS

    Certainly the Texas donor didn’t need Governor Pawlenty to deliver the check, and it could have been sent directly. Should it have been sent directly rather than having it delivered? Personally, I don’t care, and don’t think it matters. Asking a member of the party to participate in party fundraising efforts and events is a “normal” part of the party political system in this country. In fact the current political climate makes fundraising activities more important than policy matters when it comes to getting elected. The first hurdle to running for office is convincing enough people to give you enough money to do it, not convincing people your policies are better. Either that or you are already wealthy enough to do it yourself. Maybe the real question is what does this event say about the party system in our country, where money is needed to get elected, and inherently those with money have more influence. Both the DFL and the GOP are equal players in this area, no one who runs for office escapes the need for fundraising activities or is outside of the influence that money has on campaigning. If Governor Pawlenty is even remotely considering a run for President, we will see much more of this type of thing happening in the months to come. Whoever else is going to make a run will be doing similarly. We in MN are not used to seeing these parts of the political process play out so close to home, but unfortunately that is the nature of the political landscape in our country, if you want to follow the future trends follow the money today.

  • CHS

    Bob- a more direct response to the question on why the donor in Texas needs to have Governor Pawlenty deliver a check:

    The donor in Texas didn’t need this at all, but Governor Pawlenty definitely does. Any candidate considering a run for a higher office needs to demonstrate within the party that he is capable and successful at wooing donors, especially large ones. In addition, the appearance of being able to “deliver” for the party is absolutely necessary to earn the support of the delegates needed to secure a nomination. Earning the nomination is likely to be more difficult than winning the general election, just ask Sec. of State Clinton. Intra-party politics are much more dynamic and cut-throat in my mind than the partisanship we are seeing today between the parties. I feel a lot of partisanship we see between the DFL and GOP currently has it’s roots in intra-party politics. The people who have power and influence within the party are who dictate the direction and platform, and the tone. Power comes from money, and a lot of money is tied to special interests or issues. Governor Pawlenty is and will be struggling for his position within the GOP going forward, and to watch that fight unfold just follow the money.

  • David W.

    CHS, you’re still arguing with Pawlenty. If it was so important back in 2002 for Pawlenty to say being governor is a full-time job, he could just resign now and let Molnau do the job.

  • Alison

    There are many politicians of all stripes who use enormous amounts of the time they were elected to serve in office to run for other offices. The point here is the hipocrisy of criticizing someone else for moonlighting when you should have the forethought to realize you would probably do it too.

    And CHS, I couldn’t disagree more that Pawlenty travelling to Alabama to give a speech and deliver a check is part of his job as governor of MN. This will benefit the Republican party. It will certainly benefit Tim Pawlenty. These speaking engagements are not, however, embarked upon to help the governor gain valuable insight on how to solve our budget woes or any other problem facing MN.

  • CHS

    My point was was that these activities by Governor Pawlenty are not comparable to the actions of former Governor Ventura. Commentating on the XFL or taking part in WWF events is clearly outside of the scope of what would be devoting full time energy to the governorship. Taking part in party politics and engaging in political activities however distasteful you may find it is part of our system.

    David & Alison-

    If you want to hold Governor Pawlenty to that standard are you willing to apply that across the board to all members of the legislature? Should we recess government during the election cycles so all of our elected representatives do not need to devote portions of their time to campaign activity or party activities? I don’t believe the nuance of my point is coming across. It is not hypocrisy because these activities are directly related to the political system in our state and country.

    I never argued that the activities of Governor Pawlenty were part of the job of being the governor. What I have been arguing is that the activities are an integral part of our political system, which ALL of our politicians engage in by necessity.

    If you read closely I don’t think you will find that I have endorsed these activities or been openly a fan of the Governor, what I’m trying to point out is that this is the system as we have built it.

    I’m not a Republican as I’m sure many of you suspect, and I’m not defending Governor Pawlenty because of my political leanings. I’m defending this to make a point: This is our political system at work, and this is how power and influence are consolidated in our system. I believe that many of the critics of Governor Pawlenty’s actions are critical out of a dislike for his governorship and policies, and are unwilling to apply the same critiques to political figures they support or whose agendas are more in line with their own.

  • Alison

    No, CHS, you miss my point. I said “There are many politicians of all stripes who use enormous amounts of the time they were elected to serve in office to run for other offices.” I tend to criticize those of my own political leaning as well when they do things I think are distasteful. I didn’t think Obama or Clinton or McCain were able to be productive senators while running. I think Margaret Anderson-Kelliher would make a fine governor, but I wish she would drop the House Speaker position during the campaign. I don’t think campaigning while in office should be illegal, I just wish those running would have enough sense to step aside for a bit because campaign messages are often at odds with doing the actual business of governing and legislating.

    I just think it is a huge stretch to say that because Pawlenty is doing politics somewhere in some form that it is related to his job. These extra political actions aren’t related to his job. I understand you disagree, CHS. We have different ideas about what makes a good political system.

  • RW


    Would you then argue that Sen. Reid or Rep. Pelosi should step aside from their positions while seeking reelection? We need to accept that for at least part of their time in office our elected officials spend time securing their current or future job in the upcoming election.

    It looks like you would argue instead for term limits, which would negate the necessity to campaign while in office.

  • CHS


    I never said that it was a good political system, I said it’s the one we have. It’s an unfortunate reality that we live in, and while it may be an ideal situation to have people running for office take time off from being a part of government, that isn’t practical. The government gets next to nothing done as it is, imagine if every other year half of it takes 8 months off to campaign for re-election.

    You also bring up an interesting point regarding someone such as Speaker Andersen-Kelliher. If she were to give up her position as Speaker, and lose the election, she has effectively removed herself from having any future influence in our political system. That would create a paradigm in our system where only those that have either so much confidence in victory or have nothing to lose would run for an office higher than the one they currently possess. Those aren’t the type of people I want in higher offices.

    Of course that paradigm could be eliminated if people that had no previous political experience could effectively campaign for office, but with the current status of party politics that is impossible.

  • Alison

    I wish Reid and Pelosi would step aside for the good of the country. Their ultra-partisan leadership isn’t doing anyone any good.

    I’m disgusted with our current system of party politics. I don’t have any reasonable solutions, but I know what I don’t like. I don’t like campaigns that last longer than pregnancies. I don’t like politicians who make decisions in office in order to set themselves up for future elections.

  • CHS


    I couldn’t agree more with everything you just said. Campaigns lasting longer than pregnancies, never thought of that angle but it’s very poignant.

    How about Maj. Leader Reid’s stunt yesterday? Quite the move to work out a bi-partisan jobs bill then say you’re not putting it to the floor……

    I do like the idea of term limits, certainly motivates one to focus on the things that got you elected in the first place if you know you’ve only got so long to get it accomplished. That would also turn the whole idea of junior and senior senators on it’s head, making irrelevant much of the power brokering and pay-to-play activities that go on currently.