The Politics of PACs

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, whose decision not to seek a third term as governor sparked immense speculation among Republicans about a 2012 campaign, announced today he will launch the “Freedom First” PAC in early November, granting him the opportunity to curry favor among the party faithful by raising and transferring sums of money to state and federal Republican candidates.

After launching a website last week describing Pawlenty as “extreme,” the Democratic National Committee today characterized the potential 2012 contender as a “part-time Governor” after news surfaced he was to launch a political action committee.

“Tim Pawlenty is quickly becoming the definition of ‘say one thing and do another’. Today’s news about Pawlenty starting a political action committee is just the latest in a series of broken pledges by the Governor – first breaking his pledge to not raise taxes on the people of Minnesota, and now breaking his pledge to finish his term ‘strong’ as Governor,” said DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan.

“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,” he said in an email to reporters this afternoon.

While the formation of PACs are indeed a signature of budding presidential campaigns, Democrats have not always been of the opinion they somehow represent a “broken pledge” or a dereliction of duty, as one political advisor close to Pawlenty noted.

Then-Senator Hillary Clinton filed a statement of organization for her leadership PAC, “HILLPAC,” on January 5, 2001, spending eight years as a “part-time” Senator before leaving her post in 2009.

On June 25, 2005, then-Senator Barack Obama announced the formation of “Hope Fund,” whose donations to politicians in key 2008 primary states raised questions of legality on the level of coordination between the PAC and the Obama campaign.

And four days after the official formation of Obama’s “Hope Fund” PAC, then-Senator Joe Biden filed a statement of organization with the FEC for his “Unite our States” PAC, in anticipation of his campaign for president in 2008.

The formation of political action committees is one of many steps in the logical progression of presidential campaigns. If Pawlenty is a “part-time” governor, he will find himself in the company of President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Clinton – all of whom formed PACs years before their terms in the U.S. Senate expired.

UPDATE: The DNC’s “part-time” missive seems particularly ill-advised when one considers the organization’s leadership. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine was installed as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee in early 2009 by President Obama, and has since weathered criticism for his absent governing. Keeping with Sevugan’s twisted logic, Kaine fits the bill of “part-time Governor” quite nicely.

Cross-posted at Skepticians.com.

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