The presidential campaign of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is taking heat for its cozy relationship with a nonprofit group run by oil industry trade groups.
It was revealed by the Des Moines Register last week that Pawlenty advisers Karen Slifka and Chuck Larson are also working for the Iowa Energy Forum, a nonprofit consortium of oil industry lobbying groups that’s shooting to influence the outcome of the primary in early states, leading to accusations of conflict of interest from other campaigns.
“Since 2009, Tim Pawlenty’s been trying to sell himself to Iowa Republicans,” Kent Sorenson, a state senator from Indianola told the Des Moines Register last week. “Now, he’s attempting to hijack nonprofit organizations for his own political gain.”
The Pawlenty campaign denied there was any illegal coordination.
The nonprofit is expected to play a high-profile role in early primary events, including providing tents, tickets and transportation to the Iowa Straw Poll on Aug. 13, which could help the struggling Pawlenty campaign.
But the group has also got a more concrete agenda. ThinkProgress documents incidents where Iowa Energy Forum staff lobbied Iowa candidates on their support for issues like Keystone pipeline project, an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas.
A video released last week revived the debate about Pawlenty’s possible conflicts of interest with the group. It features two young women wearing shirts for the Iowa Energy Forum. Republican websites have identified the women as interns for the group. The Pawlenty campaign told The Iowa Republican that the women’s appearance in the video was a coincidence.
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