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.
But should he receive the call this time, Democrats will be ready to pounce. For months, campaign arms and liberal super PACs have been gathering opposition research files on the possible Republican vice presidential contenders. American Bridge, a liberal super PAC, released more than one thousand pages of documents on three of the rumored candidates earlier this month. Pawlenty made the cut.
So what kinds of attacks would the former governor face should Romney choose him as his second fiddle? Here are three stories from Pawlenty's past that Democrats have surely looked into. And these just might re-emerge before Election Day:
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.
A Saint Paul Pioneer Press investigation unearthed the connection between Pawlenty and the New Access buy in July 2003. In interviews with the Pioneer Press, NewTel President Elam Baer, who advised Pawlenty's gubernatorial campaign, defended the company, saying that customers had misread the written Terms of Agreement. "We do not think that we are in any way outside the norm of the industry," Baer told The Pioneer Press at the time. "I'm not saying there was never a customer who was wronged, but it's unprofitable and we do what we can to correct it."