Minn.'s Pawlenty forming PAC; possible 2012 stepST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is preparing to launch a national fundraising committee, another signal that the Republican may be positioning himself for a possible 2012 presidential run.
By: Brian Bakst, The Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is preparing to launch a national fundraising committee, another signal that the Republican may be positioning himself for a possible 2012 presidential run.
The 'Freedom First' political action committee will be formalized in the next few weeks, Pawlenty adviser Alex Conant said Tuesday. He described it as a logical step for the governor, who has been giving speeches and campaigning for Republicans around the country.
While forming such committees is a typical step for politicians who aspire to higher office, Pawlenty downplayed any link between his new PAC and a 2012 presidential run.
``I haven't ruled anything in or out. I'm not focused on 2012,' he told The Associated Press. ``The formation of this PAC under law and as a practical matter is geared toward supporting and helping other candidates. It's not geared or designed, nor can it be, a vehicle for me to run for something else.'
Such committees, though, allow politicians to build a fundraising network and generate goodwill among party officeholders and candidates who receive donations from the PAC.
Pawlenty joins other possible 2012 candidates with leadership committees. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has the Huck PAC, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin formed SarahPAC and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney started the Free and Strong America PAC. They are distinct from the political funds each would need to pay for a run for president.
Pawlenty, who was vetted for the vice presidential slot on John McCain's 2008 ticket, is in the final 15 months of his term. He said the PAC is a way to stay involved in the 2010 campaign, when he won't be on the ballot.
``It's going to be a historic election,' he said. ``It will be a measurement of whether the country is going to recalibrate back toward Republicans or not.'
Web site addresses for the Freedom First PAC were registered last week, and a kickoff fundraiser in Minneapolis is planned for Nov. 4. An invitation seeks donations of up to $5,000 per person and said those who raise $100,000 toward the event will be part of a ``private dessert reception' with the governor.
Pawlenty, 48, was a state legislator before his successful 2002 run for governor. He narrowly won a second term in 2006 and announced in June he wouldn't try for a third.
Political pundits are taking note of the moves he's making — stumping for 2009 gubernatorial candidates in other states, taking on a leadership role at the Republican Governors Association, addressing state Republican Party dinners and increasing his criticism of President Barack Obama.
Pawlenty appeared over the weekend at the annual Values Voter Summit, along with others who may seek the GOP nomination. He finished in a nearly four-way tie for second in the summit's straw poll, which was won by Huckabee.
The Democratic National Committee criticized Pawlenty in response to news of his PAC.
``This is just more evidence that Pawlenty is, at best, a part-time governor who cares more about his national political ambitions than the people of Minnesota,' said DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan.