Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said Tuesday he’s resigning his lucrative position as the head of the Washington-based Financial Services Roundtable as he contemplates running for his old job.
Pawlenty, 57, has frequently been mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for governor in Minnesota, a job he held in his native state from January 2003 through January 2011.
His work for a group that lobbies for U.S. banks and insurance, asset management and credit card companies already is drawing criticism from political opponents. Pawlenty was paid $2.6 million in 2015, according to the group’s most recently available IRS filing.
The Financial Services Roundtable is one of the largest advocacy groups for the industry and includes major bank and insurance executives on its board. The group, whose members include leading banks such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., and Bank of America Corp., strongly backed the tax overhaul signed into law in December as well as Republican efforts to dial back Wall Street regulation.
The Democratic Governors Association was quick to attack Pawlenty’s Wall Street ties. “Tim Pawlenty left Minnesota for the swamps of D.C. to make millions of dollars while serving as Wall Street’s chief lobbyist,” Jared Leopold, a spokesman for the group, said in a statement. “Tim Pawlenty is wildly out-of-touch with the issues facing Minnesota residents.”
Pawlenty, who supported Florida Senator Marco Rubio in the 2016 Republican presidential primary campaign, joined FSR in 2012.
“FSR is now poised to provide even more focused and effective service for our members going forward,” Pawlenty said in a statement issued by the group. “Over the past 5 years, I have enjoyed leading FSR’s efforts to improve cybersecurity, retirement savings, consumer-friendly financial service technology, and financial literacy.”
A Republican hasn’t won a statewide election in Minnesota since Pawlenty did so in 2006. The Democratic-leaning state is expecting a wide-open race ahead of November’s election to replace retiring Governor Mark Dayton, a Democrat.
Pawlenty probably would be a strong fundraiser, as a former governor, one-time presidential candidate and Wall Street lobbyist. He plans to meet Feb. 12 with friends and political advisers to discuss the governor’s race, according to the Associated Press.
Pawlenty “is considering running for governor and will be talking with Minnesotans over the coming weeks to assess support and gather advice,” Brian McClung, a longtime political adviser to Pawlenty, said in a statement.
In 2012, Pawlenty was considered by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney as a possible running mate. His own bid for the party’s nomination that election cycle ended in August 2011 following a third-place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll.
Adam Rice, a spokesman for the FSR, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the search for Pawlenty’s replacement. Pawlenty will conclude his time there in March, the group said in its statement.