Monday morning, Gov. Tim Pawlenty told reporters that he'd, "started a federal PAC, which is geared toward trying to help candidates in 2010."
But in the first three months of operation Freedom First, his political action committee, most PAC money has gone toward helping the PAC -- not candidates.
According to the first federal campaign filing from the PAC, Pawlenty spent $395,831 between October 2009 and the end of the year. Candidates' take? $16,800
On Tuesday, Pawlenty acknowledged he hadn't ponied up much for 2010 candidates -- yet:
"We certainly used part of the PAC proceeds to support other candidates but we also have a Web site. So, we have to have people to develop the Web site, develop issue and policy positions, travel to speak to issues. So, the value of the PAC is not just to give donations to other campaigns. That's part of it. But we're trying to raise awareness around issues, organize people around values and principles and issues, get them to read and sign up about the PAC and do issue development. So there's a lot of other aspects to the PACs than just giving out checks to campaigns."
Despite the lopsided spending, Pawlenty denied the PAC's true purpose was to support a potential Pawlenty for President bid in 2012. He said his giving was in range with others' PACs and he hoped to increase his gifts to candidates in the future.
"I'm not saying the majority of the money is going to go to contributions," Pawlenty said Tuesday. "I think you'll see that some portion of the money, over time, will go to contributions but a good chunk will be used to go to all those other purposes."
Pawlenty's high operating, low contribution rate isn't unusual. In the first three months of last year, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney's PAC spent more than $550,000 and gave only $16,000 to candidates and in the last three months of last year, former VP nominee Sarah Palin's PAC spent more money on
One of the candidates that benefited from Palin's cash?
Where'd most of the Freedom First money go? To get the PAC staffed, running and collecting cash.
Almost $120,000 went to pay for staff, payroll taxes and legal and finance consultants. Minnesotan and longtime Pawlenty campaign aide Trisha Hamm took in a little more than $15,000 and political spokesman Alex Conant's company saw a payday of $10,000.
Pinnacle Direct, a political marketing firm out of Stillwater, received more than $83,000 from the PAC for list rental, postage and printing. Pinnacle, founded by Tim Berkness, has a list of clients that reads like a who's who of Minnesota Republican politics. (Pawlenty ended the year owing Pinnacle about $16,000.) PLK Consulting also helped with the money-harvest. The Illinois firm garnered $21,010 for finance consulting and facility rental.
The Web site he mentioned -- TimPawlenty.com. That cost about $36,000 to create, with about half the cash going to California web firm Terra Eclipse. Terra Eclipse also developed sites for Rep. Ron Paul, Freedom Works, the Libertarian Party and Scrap the Code, the folks who want to get rid of the tax code.The 2009 and 2010 candidates who benefited from Pawlenty's small largess: Minnesota's U.S. Reps. Michele Bachmann, Erik Paulsen and John Kline as well as Doug Hoffman, who lost a New York special election last year, Sen. Scott Brown, who won a Massachusetts special election this year, North Carolina U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, Ohio Senate candidate Rob Portman. They all got $2,400 donations.
(One more note for your parsing pleasure: Pawlenty used the phrase "other candidates" to refer to his contributions. Pawlenty is not now technically a candidate for anything. Might he be thinking about himself, like most others are thinking of him, that he is a candidate for 2012?)
An earlier version of this post contained errors. I am sorry for those errors and believe I have fixed them in this version.