According to the Union Leader, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has confirmed that he will participate in a large Tea Party rally on April 15 hosted by Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the front group founded and funded by petrochemical billionaire David Koch. Pawlenty has also indicated that he will speak at the AFP New Hampshire chapter dinner hosted two weeks later, along with other GOP presidential contenders like former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and pizza mogul Herman Cain.
Pawlenty’s participation in the event is further evidence that Koch-controlled front groups are heavily influencing the GOP presidential primaries. In 2008, Pawlenty, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA), former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, and all of the other GOP candidates attended Koch conferences, hoping to shore up Koch support for the GOP nomination.
As Pawlenty strives for the Kochs’ and other conservatives’ approval, he has changed his beliefs, most notably on climate change. When he was governor, Pawlenty strongly endorsed action to curb carbon emissions and even attacked the Bush administration for not setting up a cap and trade system. Now, he doesn’t believe that man-made climate change exists.
Koch’s AFP group in New Hampshire will be key to the GOP primaries in coming months, and it has already flexed its muscle over the past two years. Recently, the group worked with the Republican state’s legislature to repeal New Hampshire’s participation in the successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap and trade program. Corey Lewandowski, AFP’s state director, is also a top lobbyist for Schwartz Communications, a firm representing pharmaceutical corporations, the nuclear industry, and medical device companies. In 2009, Lewandowski helped organize a Tea Party protest against a town hall event President Obama was holding in Portsmouth, NH. Some Tea Party members showed up with openly displayed firearms.