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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published July 28 2012

Media probes Pawlenty’s past in anticipation of Romney’s VP choice

ST. PAUL – Tim Pawlenty could get his wish to join a national ticket in the next few days.

Although Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says he has not decided on a running mate, outside speculation puts the former Minnesota governor at the top of the list. And when a politician receives that much attention, critics surface.

Chris Moody of Yahoo News wrote a lengthy piece outlining three areas where the would-be vice presidential candidate is vulnerable.

Even most Minnesotans may not remember them:

• While in the Minnesota House, Pawlenty served on the board of a corporation whose subsidiary was charged with scamming customers.

• Pawlenty’s first gubernatorial campaign had to pay $600,000 in fines for improper coordination with the state party.

• Pawlenty’s campaign treasurer was charged with deceiving homeowners facing foreclosure.

The first charge Moody says Democrats probably will use against Pawlenty stems from when he was on the NewTel board of directors and the company bought New Access Communications. New Access was investigated in several states for scamming customers.

As a new governor, Pawlenty invited reporters into a conference room in 2003 and talked to them in depth about the situation, leaving as a bottom line that he never was informed of New Access problems.

On the campaign violation, Pawlenty again went public soon after the allegations surfaced and his campaign paid the penalties.

On the third incident, Pawlenty successfully distanced himself from his treasurer, saying the campaign and the treasurer’s private business were separate.

None of the three incidents appeared to hurt him in Minnesota.

Cities demand attention

Newly drawn legislative districts that reflect population movements within Minnesota give more power to suburbs in next year’s Legislature, but mayors from outside the Twin Cities area pledge to keep their communities’ needs at the top of lawmakers’ priority lists.

Leaders of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities say property tax increases especially hit the 80 communities they serve.

“Property tax increases are crippling our homeowners, businesses and farms, and Greater Minnesota is being hit twice as hard as the metro area,” said Worthington Mayor Alan Oberloh, who just left as coalition president.

The new coalition president, Cloquet Mayor Bruce Ahlgren, said the group will push for initiatives such as training programs and tax credits for investing in Greater Minnesota businesses.

Looking at Ritchie

Sen. Mike Parry continues his investigation into Secretary of State Mark Ritchie for what the Waseca Republican says is a violation of his duty as Minnesota’s chief elections officer.

Parry wants the Senate Rules Committee to approve issuing subpoenas requiring Ritchie and Attorney General Lori Swanson to appear in front of his committee. He also said he is looking into whether the Legislature can impeach Ritchie.

The issue upsetting Parry is Democrat Ritchie rewriting titles of two Republican-backed constitutional amendment proposals. Republicans say the new titles are meant to mislead voters, but Ritchie says state law requires him to write the titles.

Swanson is involved because her office approved Ritchie’s new titles.

Ritchie and Swanson were no-shows at a July 20 committee hearing Parry called on the matter, but he wants to hear from them at a future meeting.

Drought information

Parts of Minnesota remain in a drought, even though other areas have seen too much water.

For the dry areas, the Minnesota Agriculture Department opened a new Web page at www.mda.state.mn.us/drought. It has links to resources farmers can use to deal with the drought.

Bond decision coming

Gov. Mark Dayton said that the Department of Employment and Economic Development will hand him by Aug. 15 recommendations for spending $47.5 million on public works projects.

The funds, to be raised by the state selling bonds, attracted communities across the state to submit 90 proposals worth nearly $290 million.

Dayton said he will have final say on what projects are funded but did not say how long he will take to decide once he has the recommendations.

‘Ban the tar’

Coal tar-based pavement sealers should be avoided, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency says, because chemicals they contain may cause human cancer and harm fish and other aquatic life.

State agencies are not allowed to use the coal tar product and more than 20 cities have banned its use. The agency now is asking schools to stop using it.

Signing on the cheap

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton looked at Republican legislators at a ceremonial bill signing the other day, and it hit him that those GOP folks prefer tight purse strings.

“These are very inexpensive pens,” he said, holding up one of the pens he then used to put ink on the document.

Family feud

Headlines like this are not often, if ever, seen in a race between two candidates of the same party: “Allen Quist’s pants on fire.”

The headline came on a Mike Parry news release in the U.S. House primary election race in southern Minnesota between Republicans Parry and Quist. The race for the Aug. 14 primary has become the hottest in Minnesota, with accusations ranging from who has voted to raise taxes to whether Quist years ago investigated an adult shop in disguise.


Don Davis reports for Forum Communications