Pawlenty quits Romney to help dismantle Wall Street regs

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is leaving Mitt Romney’s campaign to become the Financial Services Roundtable's new leader, replacing longtime head Steve Bartlett.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but at one point, Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, seemed to have a decent shot at becoming president. In a field of loons and crazies, Pawlenty’s biggest drawback was merely his extraordinary blandness.

But then came the disastrous third-place finish at the Iowa straw poll, and Pawlenty promptly quit the race. It’s hard to blame him — nothing says “loser” quite as much as getting thumped by Michele Bachmann. Not to worry, though, as he emerged not long afterward as a co-chairman of Mitt Romney’s campaign, with a potential chance of becoming the vice-presidential nominee or at least getting a juicy Cabinet position.

One thing we know about Tim Pawlenty: He is not afraid to quit! On Thursday the Financial Services Roundtable, Wall Street’s deepest pocketed and most influential lobbying organization, announced that Pawlenty is leaving Romney’s campaign to become its new leader, replacing longtime head Steve Bartlett. See ya later, Romney!

Twitter greeted the news with a million-and-one variations of rats-vacating-sinking-ships metaphors, but Pawlenty’s move is meaningful for much more than what it signals about the state of Romney’s foundering campaign. Think of it this way: As a consolation prize for not being nominated as president, Pawlenty gets a $2 million-a-year job defending a lobbying group whose fingerprints are all over the great financial crash crime scene. What more do we need to know about the corrupt state of modern American politics? Pawlenty could have been president — instead, his job will now be to dismantle and obstruct financial sector legislation.

A quick look at the resume of the man Pawlenty is replacing is instructive. Steve Bartlett, a former Texas congressman and mayor of Dallas, was hired by the Roundtable, according to his own account, in large part to lobby for the passage of Gramm-Leach-Bliley, the landmark piece of banking sector deregulation that repealed Glass-Steagall, and paved the way to the excesses that fueled the crash. Bartlett’s biography also includes, as his major achievements, the 2001-2003 tax cuts, class action reform, consumer bankruptcy reform and TARP. In the last couple of years, his No. 1 job has been to defang the Dodd-Frank bank reform act — or, as he likes to put it, to “reform the reform.”

In other words, Steve Bartlett was public enemy No. 1. His career as a lobbyist was devoted to loosening restrictions on banks, cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy, and simultaneously making it more difficult for individuals to sue corporations but  harder for individuals to declare bankruptcy. Steve Bartlett is one of the reasons why you can’t discharge your student loan debt in a bankruptcy filing but Citigroup can get $88 billion to avoid bankruptcy. And when everything blew up, not only did Bartlett help push for the biggest bailout Wall Street has ever received, but when Congress set about the crucial task of writing new rules that would restrain Wall Street recklessness, he fought them tooth and nail. That’s quite a record of success for him — if not for the country.

So that’s Tim Pawlenty’s new job: To be paid millions of dollars a year to fight against burdensome regulation of the banks. To represent the richest and most powerful players in the U.S. economy in their unceasing struggle to maximize their profits at the expense of everyone else.

Guess coming in third in the Iowa straw poll wasn’t so bad, after all, for Pawlenty. As for the rest of us, we can only hope that he is as successful in his lobbying efforts as he was running for president.

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Comments (10)

  1. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/21/2012 - 09:12 am.

    Just imagine how much damage Pawlenty could have done…

    …if he’d been elected President !!

  2. Submitted by jody rooney on 09/21/2012 - 09:17 am.

    Rarely does an author nail the sentiment so exactly

    I read the headline with horror but the last paragraph says it all and gave me a good chuckle to start the week end.

  3. Submitted by Buddy Robinson on 09/21/2012 - 01:23 pm.

    Pawlenty’s resume

    A feature of Pawlenty’s private resume that would be very attractive to the Financial Services Roundtable would read something like: “As MN Governor, I oversaw a total disregard and subversion of the regulations for the HMOs, and together we succeeded in defrauding the federal government of hundreds of millions of dollars.” The real credit for the expertise, however, belongs to his underlings. To the public, of course, T-Paw claims that he did nothing wrong or illegal.

  4. Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 09/21/2012 - 11:22 pm.

    Good News For American Consumers

    Mr. Pawlenty has a pretty sterling run of recent though earnest failure. A disastrous (for the people of Minnesota) two terms as governor, his presidential campaign, and his vice-presidential lobbying effort (twice). I am pretty certain that when he is forced out of this job, he will have turned the American public evern more decidely against Big Banking.

  5. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/23/2012 - 08:57 am.

    The Financial Services Roundtable knew exactly how this would look. And they knew that the embarrassment to the Romney campaign could be entirely avoided by a clause in Pawlenty’s employment contract stipulating that he not reveal his new job until after the election.

    They did not demand that clause. They did not muzzle Pawlenty, or tell him that if he went public early, he’d lose his job.

    Instead, the Financial Services Roundtable went right ahead and allowed their newest hire to give Romney a black eye. The Financial Services Roundtable pulled the plug on Mitt Romney.

    Pawlenty knows quite well that his market value will drop significantly if he waits until everybody notices the Romney campaign is a total, disastrous shipwreck. Thus, the timing. Makes sense.

  6. Submitted by Raj Maddali on 09/23/2012 - 10:04 am.

    Minnpost are you following your own guidelines ?

    “We will reject inflammatory and highly provocative comments that seem likely to hijack the comment thread — by making the discussion more about the commenter’s inflammatory view than about the story.”

    Following your own guidelines this author is basically making provocative comments. Mr. Pawlenty has not made a single statement in this regard and are clearly the commenter’s inflammatory views.

    I am not a Pawlenty supporter by any stretch.

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/23/2012 - 08:06 pm.


      …Mr. Maddali, but you need to read that rule again.

      The author is not a commenter, and can be as inflammatory as s/he wants to be. The story, by the way, is not from a MinnPost writer, but from, which is widely known as a left-leaning magazine/website. Provocation is part of their repertoire, just as it’s part of Rush Limbaugh’s repertoire.

      What the rule says is that you and I should not take the discussion off-track by focusing our attention on a commenter with whom we disagree, rather than the point of the story.

  7. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/24/2012 - 09:06 am.

    Mr. Pawlenty’s New Job Is Just His Reward

    for his faithful service in the Minnesota legislature, the governor’s office, and on the campaign trail.

    It’s always been clear that someone else (other than the citizens of the state of Minnesota or the public in general) held Mr. Pawlenty’s primary loyalty.

    Now we know who it was that was holding his leash.

    I join others in wishing him every bit as much success in his new job has he had as a presidential also ran (and hope that he’ll settle in, collect his $1 million+ salary and sink into the obscurity he so richly deserves).

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