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Pawlenty's woes could help Penny

DULUTH, Minn. -- Tim Pawlenty may run out of cash as the Minnesota governor campaign winds down, but Tim Penny appears ready to cash in if that happens.


DULUTH, Minn. -- Tim Pawlenty may run out of cash as the Minnesota governor campaign winds down, but Tim Penny appears ready to cash in if that happens.

Republican Pawlenty said Friday he will abide by an ethics board ruling that could empty his campaign treasury.

In Duluth, Independence Party candidate Penny indicated he may benefit from Pawlenty's problems.

"Do you think (Roger) Moe is going to get Pawlenty's votes?" the former Democratic congressman asked, then gave his own answer: "I don't think so."

Penny is running a campaign touting himself as a candidate between the extremes of Pawlenty and DFL candidate Moe.


Pawlenty's campaign will pay for TV commercials found to be illegally funded by the state Republican Party, which some said could cost him more than $800,000. He also suspended his own ad campaign and fired a media consultant who helped create the disputed commercials.

"Successful leaders take responsibility for what happens on their watch," Pawlenty said. "This happened on my watch.

"This campaign had no intention of breaking the law, but I will accept the decision of the campaign finance board," he said.

Pawlenty's opponents did not think he went far enough, citing the state's $2.2 million limit on campaign spending if candidates accept state money.

"That's the agreement you make," Moe said. "You stay within the limits."

Moe's campaign said Pawlenty should immediately return the $419,000 of state money.

On a tour of Duluth Friday, the man who stands to gain the most from a Pawlenty stumble downplayed Thursday's ruling by the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.

"I haven't really analyzed what this means," said Penny, who left the Democratic Party earlier this year to become the Independence governor candidate. He fears Pawlenty and the Republican Party will find a way around the ethics ruling.


Penny's running mate, state Sen. Martha Robertson, said the GOP is not bound by the same spending limits that governor candidates must follow. That means the party could buy its own commercials supporting Pawlenty, as long as party officials did not talk to the Pawlenty campaign about them.

Still, Republicans also must finance major races for the U.S. Senate, House and elsewhere, said Robertson, who left the Republican Party to become Penny's lieutenant governor candidate.

Does that give the Independence ticket an advantage?

"We still have money," Robertson said. "We still have a full advertising schedule."

While not fully aware of the ramifications of the Pawlenty ruling, Penny jumped on the issue when asked by reporters.

"He's got to be accountable," Penny said of Pawlenty, who often calls for state government to be accountable.

Penny also questioned Pawlenty's "fiscal responsibility" in light of the action.

The state board ruled Thursday that Pawlenty's campaign improperly cooperated with the GOP, which purchased raw video footage from a campaign consultant and produced a series of supposedly independent ads.


Minnesota's campaign finance laws prohibit cooperation between the party and a campaign on such matters. The board unanimously decided there was cooperation in the Pawlenty case.

Pawlenty is suspending his TV ads to conserve money and it's not clear how much he'll be able to spend the rest of the campaign. He has spent a little more than $1 million so far, a spokesman said.

Pawlenty maintains he didn't know the party would use the footage until he saw the commercials himself. Even now, he says he doesn't believe the ads were illegal. But he said he decided that fighting it in court would distract his campaign from issues he wants to discuss.

He said he didn't consider dropping out of the race.

The Republican Party was fined $4,000 for violating campaign finance laws and a spokesman said it will pay up.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

Readers can reach Forum reporter Don Davis at (651) 290-0707

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