Pawlenty looks to get back on the air for second termby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
Gov. Tim Pawlenty could return to hosting a weekly radio show as soon as next month. The Republican governor had an hour of airtime on WCCO Radio every Friday morning during his first-term in office, but he suspended the radio show during his re-election campaign. As he begins his second term, Pawlenty is looking to replicate his "Good Morning Minnesota" show. Media watchers and political foes continue to question the arrangement that gives the governor unfiltered airtime.
St. Paul, Minn. — With nearly four years of radio hosting under his belt, Gov. Pawlenty is ready for a return to the airwaves. He's among a handful of governors who have their own weekly radio program. Pawlenty often mixed light-hearted banter with public policy discussions during his first term.
"You know the governor really enjoyed broadcasting Good Morning Minnesota over the last four years," said Brian McClung, Gov. Pawlenty's director of communications . "I think anybody who listened to the show recognizes how much fun the governor has with it."
McClung, who also served as co-host of the radio program, says the governor's office has been soliciting proposals from radio broadcasters who are interested in putting the governor back on the air. Pawlenty was on WCCO-AM the last four years.
"Certainly the governor really enjoyed being on WCCO, had a great working relationship with WCCO," said McClung. "But we have to be fair in this process. It's a state contract, and we want to be very professional about how we do it."
The request for proposals from the governor's office has several requirements: The participating radio station must set aside up to a two-hour weekly time slot, and accommodate remote broadcasts when necessary, all free of charge. The radio station must also agree to hand over complete control of show content and allow Pawlenty to be the host.
"Every single week there's going to be a hour or two hours of unexpurgated Gov. Pawlenty without any kind of check or interference, if you will, by the news organization or the station that's going to carry the address," said Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota.
Legally, Pawlenty is on solid ground as long as he's not a candidate. The Republican governor avoided equal-time requirements last summer by leaving the air just before he officially launched his re-election campaign. Democrats fought unsuccessfully to get Pawlenty off the air earlier in the year, claiming he was clearly running for a second term.
Brian Melendez, chairman of the Minnesota DFL Party, says he'll keep monitoring the show closely for political content. He's particularly concerned about Pawlenty's close relationship with Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who's a likely presidential candidate in 2008.
"If Tim Pawlenty is turning his radio show into a platform for a candidate for president of the United States, then the Federal Elections Commission, I think, is going to get interested in his show real quick. In fact, we might even call them about it," said Melendez.
But partisan commentary is not what Pawlenty has in mind, according to Brian McClung. He says the governor tries hard to avoid politics on his radio show.
"Occasionally, when there were topics that were controversial, we would use that opportunity to kind of expand upon what you'd might of heard from the governor in a newscast and talk about his position," he said. "But really the governor tried to avoid being overtly partisan with the radio show. Probably because we think people just get enough of that as it is, and that's not what we're interested in using the show to do."
Radio station proposals were due this week. The state will award a contract by the end of the month. McClung says he expects the governor to be back on the air the first week in January.
- All Things Considered, 12/11/2006, 5:19 p.m.