By Mike Kaszuba
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has been out of public office for six years. Late last year, the former Republican governor told a radio interviewer that he was “politically retired,” even though his name is still occasionally floated as a possible contender in political races.
While no longer involved in electoral politics, Pawlenty has stayed connected to the national political scene – and has made millions in compensation – in his current role as the head of the Financial Services Roundtable. Through its political action committee, the organization lobbies congress on a raft of regulatory issues, and contributes to numerous political campaigns. In 2015, Pawlenty had $2.63 million in total compensation, according to the most recent federal tax forms for the organization.
The Financial Services Roundtable
The Financial Services Roundtable features representatives of some of the leading banking, insurance, asset management, finance, and credit card companies in the United States. Its board of directors includes – among others – Ajaypal Banga, the chief executive officer of Mastercard, Brian Moynihan, a leading executive of Bank of America, Amer Sajed, the chief executive officer of Barclaycard International (a global consumer payments business), David McKay, the president of the Royal Bank of Canada, and Ted Mathas, the chief executive officer of the New York Life Insurance Company.
The group describes itself as “the leading advocacy organization for America’s financial services industry,” and provides “strong legislative and regulatory advocacy for our members and our industry, from communications to government relations.”
On its 2015 federal financial form, the Financial Services Roundtable listed $20.4 million in revenue, and $16.6 million in assets. It also listed $17 million in membership dues income during the same year.
Pawlenty serving as CEO
Tim Pawlenty began serving as the roundtable’s chief executive officer in 2012. In describing Pawlenty, the roundtable’s website states that “as Governor, his education, healthcare, and energy initiatives were widely viewed as among the most innovative in the nation.” It adds that Pawlenty “is a nationally respected policymaker who combines his depth of subject matter knowledge with a unique ability to communicate on complex issues.” The website also describes the former governor “as one of the foremost thought leaders in the country” who “brings peerless credibility to [the roundtable] and its members.”
Chief among Pawlenty’s tasks is tracking and promoting legislative initiatives supported by roundtable members. For instance, in June, the former governor praised the Republican-led House passage of the Financial Choice Act, calling it an effort to “modernize the financial regulatory system to advance the goal of boosting the economy without sacrificing important consumer and taxpayer protections.” Some critics, however, viewed the legislation as a scaling-back of major parts of the Dodd-Frank Act – the set of banking regulations passed during the Obama Administration, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
Disclosures filed by the Financial Services Roundtable PAC – the group’s political action committee – provide a picture of its political influence.
From January 2015 through December 2016 – a period that includes the recent American presidential race – the group’s PAC made nearly $379,000 in political campaign contributions, according to Federal Election Commission reports.
The recipients included Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate, a former Republican presidential candidate, ($2,500), Ben Sasse for US Senate Inc., the Republican senator from Nebraska, ($5,000), Portman for Senate Committee, a committee representing Ohio Republican U.S. Senator Rob Portman, ($9,000), and the Richard Burr Committee, on behalf of U.S. Senator Richard Burr, the North Carolina Republican who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that is investigating possible Russian influence in the 2016 U.S. elections ($5,000).
Other campaign contribution recipients include U.S. Senator Mike Crapo, a Republican from Idaho who chairs the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, which according to Crapo’s website has “jurisdiction over efforts to promote the stability of the financial system and responsible lending to families and businesses. This includes oversight of federal policy concerning public and private housing, insurance, financial institutions, securities markets, equity investment, urban development, mass transit, foreign trade promotion and economic policy,” ($10,000).
The roundtable’s PAC also contributed to Team Ryan, a political group affiliated with House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republican Congressman from Wisconsin, ($2,500).
Another recipient was Kelly Ayotte, the former Republican U.S. Senator from New Hampshire who was reportedly considered by President Trump to be the FBI’s new director following the president’s firing of former FBI head James Comey, ($5,000).
Minnesota politicians receiving campaign money from the roundtable’s PAC include Jason Lewis for Congress Inc., the newly-elected Republican Congressman and former conservative radio talk show host, ($1,500), Friends of Erik Paulsen, another Republican Congressman, ($5,000) and Emmer for Congress, representing Republican Congressman Tom Emmer, ($2,500). Friends of Stewart Mills, the unsuccessful Republican Congressional candidate in northern Minnesota, also received money, ($1,500).
The roundtable did not give money solely to Republicans. It also contributed to Friends of Schumer, a group representing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, ($5,000), and Kaine for Virginia, which represented U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, the vice-presidential running mate selected by Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, ($2,000).
Pawlenty’s CEO income eclipses governor salary
Federal tax documents for the Financial Services Roundtable show that the former Minnesota governor is earning much more than he ever did as governor.
The organization’s 2015 financial disclosure form listed Pawlenty as receiving $2.633 million in total compensation. The figure included $850,000 in bonus and incentive compensation.
Pawlenty’s overall compensation package in 2015 had increased from $2.506 million in 2014, and from $1.647 million in 2013. In 2013, the former governor received a $20,000 housing allowance and $25,000 for a travel allowance, according to the forms.
By comparison, the 2016 salary paid to the governor of Minnesota was $127,629.