Gov. Pawlenty was the guest host for Jason Lewis on KTLK last night. At the top of the three hour show, Pawlenty questioned the federal oversight of a passenger who was unsuccessful in an alleged attack on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day.
Pawlenty is latest Republican to criticize the Obama Administration for the incident. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is suspected of trying to ignite an explosive on Northwest Flight. AP says Abdulmutallab was not on the government's terrorist watch list - though he was on a less sensitive and broader database. It also said he was able to maintain a valid U.S. visa despite his father's warning to U.S. embassy officials in Nigeria.
Pawlenty, who has not ruled out a run for the White House in 2012, jumped into the fray suggesting that "the system did not work." He also said he supports body imaging technology to screen for suspected terrorists and said "we have to err on the side of caution and safety" when it comes to screening, etc.
Listen to Pawlenty's KTLK segment here:
The entire show can be heard here.
Before Pawlenty made his comments, President Obama tried to head off the criticism by saying there had been a "systemic failure" in U.S. security that led to the failed attack:
Now, the more comprehensive, formal reviews and recommendations for improvement will be completed in the coming weeks, and I'm committed to working with Congress and our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities to take all necessary steps to protect the country.
I wanted to speak to the American people again today because some of this preliminary information that has surfaced in the last 24 hours raises some serious concerns. It's been widely reported that the father of the suspect in the Christmas incident warned U.S. officials in Africa about his son's extremist views. It now appears that weeks ago this information was passed to a component of our intelligence community, but was not effectively distributed so as to get the suspect's name on a no-fly list.
There appears to be other deficiencies as well. Even without this one report there were bits of information available within the intelligence community that could have and should have been pieced together. We've achieved much since 9/11 in terms of collecting information that relates to terrorists and potential terrorist attacks. But it's becoming clear that the system that has been in place for years now is not sufficiently up to date to take full advantage of the information we collect and the knowledge we have.
Had this critical information been shared it could have been compiled with other intelligence and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged. The warning signs would have triggered red flags and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America.
The key question for both Pawlenty and Obama is whether the criticism sticks. The danger for Pawlenty is that it also opens the door for any past and future "systemic failures" within his own administration.
GOP Rep. Tom Emmer sent out an e-mail to supporters recently asking for an end of year contribution to his campaign for governor. In it, he also wrote that he has been opposed to raising money through the Political Contribution Refund (PCR). Before the program ended in July, Minnesotans who donated to a candidate for state office were eligible to receive a tax refund of up to $50 for individuals and $100 for couples. Emmer criticized the practice in his e-mail to supporters:
When I filed for the governor's race, I made the decision not to participate in the contribution refund program. While other politicians were scrambling to collect taxpayer money for their campaigns before the program ended, I refused. I will not run a campaign funded by your hard-earned tax dollars. As governor, I will demand that state agencies operate with less of your money, so why not lead by example and start now? Although this position affected our fundraising numbers, I believe it was the right decision. I know it's not about winning the next election or advancing my political career, it's about sticking to my principles. You don't just show up, you have to stand up for what is right.
It's true that Emmer won't run a campaign for governor with funds from the PCR, but not entirely because he's taking a stand against it.
In July, Gov. Pawlenty eliminated funding for the PCR when he cut spending to balance the budget. Pawlenty announced his unallotment plan in June, several weeks before Emmer filed paperwork to run for governor. (Update: Emmer's team correctly points out that he can start raising money up to two weeks before he files paperwork)
Emmer's opposition to the PCR may be a recent phenomenon. Campaign Finance reports show that Emmer's supporters earmarked $12,209 in tax refunds for his campaign for State Representative since 2004.
2009 - Info not available
2008 - $2,790
2007 - $2,150
2006 - $1,000
2005 - $883
2004 - $5,386
What makes this interesting is that Emmer had to agree to qualify for the refund. The Department of Revenue said only candidates who "signed an agreement with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board (formerly Minnesota Ethical Practices Board) to observe state campaign spending limits qualify for the refund."
Several folks have pointed out Emmer's relationship to the PCR, but it was first raised by Koochiching GOP Chair Terry Stone. Stone, who said he's backing Marty Seifert for governor, said he's "offended" by Emmer's claim.
"It's so blatantly groundless. The whole idea that he is ethically or morally opposed to running a campaign with taxpayer subsidy is flatly not correct."
Stone also said Republican activists in his district or elsewhere are "in no mood for politics as usual" and want straightforward statements from all of the Republican candidates.
Ramsey County District Court Judge Kathleen Gearin has issued a Temporary Restraining Order in a case challenging Gov. Pawlenty's unallotment authority. Gearin ordered the TRO to be retroactive to November 1st and ordered MMB's Commissioner to reinstate the cuts to the special diet program. A hearing is scheduled for March 10th. You can read the full order here.
Galen Robinson, who is representing six people who were no longer eligible for the special diet program, told MPR News that the decision is a huge victory:
"We're just relieved that our clients will be able to purchase the food that they need to stay healthy going forward."
Gov. Pawlenty issued this statement on the decision:
"We are disappointed in the judge's decision. We are weighing all of our options including appeal, reestablishing unallotments under the current forecast, potential legislative action, and other options."
DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher told MPR News that "It really validates that there was an overreach of executive power in the governor's action in the last legislative session." Here's her full statement:
Today's ruling represents a victory for all Minnesotans concerned about the overreach of executive authority. I applaud Judge Gearin's order and look forward to a full hearing on this case early next year. As I said earlier, this is an important case about the separation of powers in state government. The legislative and executive branches of government need to be equal partners in addressing Minnesota's budget crisis.