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Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to head bank lobbying group

By Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times –

WASHINGTON — Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a onetime Republican presidential candidate who was considered a finalist to be Mitt Romney’s running mate, was named Thursday as the new head of a leading bank lobbying group.

Pawlenty, 51, will be the new chief executive officer of the Financial Services Roundtable, a Washington organization that represents 100 of the largest banking and financial services companies in the country.

Among its members are Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., and Wells Fargo & Co.

A veteran politician, Pawlenty is poised to become a leading voice for an industry whose reputation has been hit hard by the financial crisis.

“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,” said the group’s chairman, Tom Wilson, chief executive of Allstate Corp. “He understands that while policymakers sincerely desire to improve economic opportunities for all Americans, they also have different political philosophies.”

Pawlenty was governor of Minnesota from 2003 to 2011 and built a reputation as a fiscal conservative. He ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination but dropped out in August 2011 after finishing third in a key straw poll in Iowa.

An evangelical Christian with a blue-collar background — his father was a truck driver — Pawlenty reportedly was a finalist to be Romney’s vice presidential choice. Romney opted for Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Pawlenty said he was excited about taking on a new challenge.

“Few industries have more impact on the entire economy — and on the lives of average Americans — than financial services,” he said. “I realize there is still work to be done to continue to earn customers’ confidence.”

Pawlenty succeeds Steve Bartlett, a former Republican congressman from Texas who has headed the group since 1999. He announced his retirement this year and Pawlenty will take over on Nov. 1.

The Financial Services Roundtable is a key player in Washington and has worked to limit the impact on the industry of some provisions of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law. When the legislation was passed in 2010, Bartlett said, “There is plenty here to like and a good bit to question.”

The group said that because it is a bipartisan organization, Pawlenty would step down as one of the national co-chairmen of Romney’s campaign. Pawlenty likely would have been a contender for a Cabinet position in a Romney administration.

Still, his strong Republican ties would be a major asset to the group if Romney wins the White House.

At the same time, a second Obama administration could be cool to Pawlenty, who has been highly critical of the president’s policies, particularly health care reform.

In a prime-time address at last month’s Republican National Convention, Pawlenty said, “President Obama isn’t as bad as people say, he’s actually worse.”

“I’ve come to realize that Barack Obama is the tattoo president. Like a big tattoo, it seemed cool when we were young,” he continued. “But later on, that decision doesn’t look so good, and you wonder: What was I thinking?”

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