Pawlenty did not focus on New Access after he approved the purchase in 2001, choosing instead to spend his energy on other projects within the company, according to his interviews with the Pioneer Press. While a subsidiary, New Access had its own leadership structure, so the NewTel board members played a hands-off role, Pawlenty said. He added that he did not know about the company's legal trouble until 2003, two years after he stepped down from the board. But the Pioneer Press investigation at the time disputed those claims. "Through almost all of 2001," The Pioneer Press reported, NewTel "owned between 60 percent and 100 percent of New Access; it made a significant financing decision on New Access' behalf; and New Access accounted for more than one-third of NewTel's $29 million in revenue that year."
In July 2003, Pawlenty told the Pioneer Press that NewTel's accusations of wrongdoing were "a leap."
"To the best of my memory, we never discussed it," Pawlenty told the paper. "You want to say, 'Pawlenty's on the board of NewTel, ergo he's responsible, or to blame, for these operational issues,' but I think that's a leap."
When Yahoo News asked for a response to the near decade-old story, Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung pointed to NewTel board records that show that Pawlenty was not made aware of New Access' alleged conduct and that any allegations against Pawlenty "have no merit."
"New Access was owned by NewTel," McClung told Yahoo News. "However and importantly, New Access was a separate company with its own board of directors. Pawlenty did not serve on the board of New Access. When Minnesota Democrats first raised this issue nearly a decade ago, the attorney for NewTel reviewed records of NewTel board proceedings and publicly certified in a letter that issues relating to allegations of "slamming" by New Access did not come before the board of NewTel while Governor Pawlenty was on the board of NewTel. So, these allegations have no merit."
Before Pawlenty ran for governor, he sold his shares for $10,000, using the 1,000 shares and 3,000 options given to him as a director of the company. In interviews with the Pioneer Press in 2003, Baer, president of New Tel, said he "deliberately paid less than market value because Pawlenty was about to become governor."
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.
Pawlenty addressed the issue in his 2011 memoir " Courage to Stand: An American Story:"