Perhaps the second time’s the charm. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is once again rumored to be on the vice presidential shortlist of a Republican presidential candidate, with Mitt Romney doing the honors this time around. After serving in the Minnesota House of Representatives, two terms as governor and making a brief run for president in 2011, Pawlenty is now working as a tireless advocate to help his potential boss get elected. His first brush with VP fame occurred when Republican presidential nominee John McCain started looking into Pawlenty’s record as a potential running mate in 2008.
1. While in the Minnesota House, Pawlenty served on the board of a corporation whose subsidiary was charged with scamming customers
While Pawlenty was majority leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives, he sat on the Board of Directors of a phone company, NewTel, for two years. During his tenure, Pawlenty approved NewTel’s purchase of a subsidiary called New Access Communications, which regulators in ten states accused of cheating its customers by deceptively signing them up for its services.
Regulators charged that New Access was engaging in “slamming,” an industry term that describes an illegal practice in which companies switch a customer’s phone service without permission. New Access reached a settlement and agreed to pay about $2 million in fines—$1.2 to the allegedly fleeced customers and $750,000 to regulators in the ten states where they were charged at the time. The company claimed innocence, but paid the money to avoid a legal battle.
2. Pawlenty’s first gubernatorial campaign had to pay $600,000 in fines for improper coordination with the state party
When Pawlenty ran for governor in 2002, the State Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board charged his campaign with “illegal collusion” with the state Republican Party after Pawlenty’s campaign provided them with footage for ads. The board fined the campaign $100,000 and forced it to pay $500,000 in ad spending originally picked up by the state Republican Party. The Minnesota GOP “purchased raw footage from the campaign media consultant and produced a series of supposedly independent ads,” the Star Tribune reported in November 2002.
The board ruled “that the interactions between the party and the campaign were too cozy and amounted to illegally acting in ‘cooperation and concert.’ …The law prohibits any coordination on spending or advertising with candidates who take state money and agree to the limits,” the Tribune reported.
3. Pawlenty’s campaign treasurer was charged with deceiving homeowners facing foreclosure
While Pawlenty was governor in 2004, his re-election campaign treasurer Ron Esau resigned after being charged with running a scheme that allegedly took advantage of families undergoing foreclosure on their homes. The “equity-stripping scheme…targeted families facing foreclosure by offering to buy their houses and sell them back for what they owed plus interest,” the Associated Press reported at the time. Instead of selling the homes to the families facing foreclosure with just interest included, the company involved with Esau sold it back to them at full market value plus equity instead. Esau ultimately settled and paid restitution over the charges.