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Tim Pawlenty to Head The Financial Services Round Table

by Wes Messamore, published
Photo: Gage Skidmore

A press release Thursday announced that Tim Pawlenty, the national co-chairman for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign is stepping down to accept a position as president and CEO of a finance industry lobbying organization: the Washington, DC-based Financial Services Round Table.

Pawlenty, who served as governor of Minnesota from 2003 - 2011, was also briefly a candidate for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 2011, but dropped out of the primary early after a distant third place finish in the Ames, Iowa Straw Poll. Earlier this year, the former governor was also on Mitt Romney's short list of prospective vice presidential running mates.

As the Wall Street Journal notes, the midwestern governor and son of a truck driver "made his working-class appeal the centerpiece of his presidential campaign last year," but it comes as no surprise that Wall Street financiers would tap Tim Pawlenty to head The Financial Services Round Table, given his close ties to the banking sector.

The most donations by industry to Tim Pawlenty's presidential bid came from Securities & Investment, and the top five employers of Pawlenty donors for the 2012 election cycle were, in order: 1) Goldman Sachs, 2) Moelis & Co, 3) Wells Fargo, 4) Capital Group Companies, and 5) Morgan Stanley --all investment banks.

With his name recognition and role as national co-chairman for the Mitt Romney campaign, the Politico notes that "Pawlenty would immediately elevate the Roundtable’s profile in political circles."

Reuters reports that Pawlenty's primary role will be to advocate for government policies that will be more favorable to Wall Street:

"As a top lobbyist, Pawlenty will play a major role in the industry's efforts to make the new Dodd-Frank rules, which Congress passed in 2010 in response to the 2007-2009 financial crisis, more favorable for Wall Street as regulators implement the law... Pawlenty offered few specifics about the reforms he would seek as head of the group, but said the implementation of Dodd-Frank created some 'challenges around vagueness and duplication of effort and oversight' that required refinement and clarification."

In a press release Thursday, The Financial Services Roundtable quoted its chairman, Tom Wilson (who is also the CEO of Allstate), as saying: "Tim’s leadership, vision and ability to find common ground make him the right choice to represent the broad membership of The Financial Services Roundtable."

News of Pawlenty's move from campaign politics to finance industry lobbying was just the latest high-profile example of the "revolving door" problem critics say has left Wall Street unaccountable and prone to the kind of reckless business practices that led to the 2007 - 08 financial crisis.

It is certainly a major public policy challenge: How can Washington regulate Wall Street objectively when so many of the same influential executives and policymakers are walking through a "revolving door" and working alternatively for both the finance industry and the regime in Washington that is charged with oversight and regulation of financial industry practices?

Other recent examples of high-profile "revolving door" moves between finance and government include Peter R. Orszag, who left his White House post as the Obama Administration's Director of the Office of Management and Budget in 2010, and joined Citigroup as Vice Chairman of Global Banking a few months later.

Another notable example is Henry Paulson, who served as CEO of Goldman Sachs before President George W. Bush appointed him to the White House cabinet as Secretary of the Treasury.

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