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Pawlenty’s PAC: All in a name

Bill Clements//September 23, 2009

Pawlenty’s PAC: All in a name

Bill Clements//September 23, 2009

So, the not-so-surprising news broke yesterday that Minnesota GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty is planning to create what’s known as a leadership PAC that’ll carry the “Freedom First PAC” name.


(For details on such PACs, check out this explanation.)


Everyone knows Pawlenty’s plotting a bid for the 2012 GOP nomination for president – hell, he’s practically never in the state he’s supposed to be leading anymore, despite a huge looming multi-billion-dollar deficit and other problems bubbling up around Minnesota.


Regarding yesterday’s news on Pawlenty’s PAC, PIM’s Sarah Janecek produced a post today called “Pawlenty’s new PAC: Naming his game.”


In her bit, Janecek writes that the naming of such PACs “is not an inconsequential thing. The name connotes something about how the candidate views his or her candidacy, and it says a lot about the shape of the campaign the candidate means to run.”


Hmm. Freedom First.


Janecek is apparently very excited about this name, as she concludes:


“Besides a lesser role for government in our economic lives, Freedom First also embodies two other core beliefs of most Republicans. The first of these is ‘how to live your life’ choices, meaning Republicans generally think people – not governments – should decide how to live their lives and decide things like whether to wear seat belts. The second is religion. For Republicans deciding on their next presidential candidate, Freedom First in religion is not just the traditional (and constitutionally guaranteed) freedom in choosing to establish and then practice any religion, it’s Freedom First to practice a religion in concert with practicing politics.”


“So Freedom First means Pawlenty plans to focus his campaign more on content as opposed to personality, and that while our problems are complicated and the path back to prosperity is tortured and without direction (as is winning the war in Afghanistan), Freedom First is a rubric Republicans can coalesce around.


“And, a positive one. The kind of change Republicans – and that growing percentage of Americans unhappy with Obama and the Democratically dominated Congress – can believe in.”


Wow – that’s a lot of weight for a name to carry, probably more than Pawlenty himself realized (though I’m sure the governor appreciates Janecek’s cheerleading).


So, let’s look at that name a bit, since it’s apparently of such importance.


According to the “PAC Lookup” function on the website of the D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics (based on campaign data from the Federal Elections Commission), a total of 39 PAC names include the word “freedom” and the word “first” appears in 132 PAC names.  


Of the 39 “freedom” PACs, 16 report an affiliation – and, surprise, all 16 are with Republican members or ex-members of Congress.


And Pawlenty isn’t even the first Minnesota Republican to use “freedom” in the name of their leadership PAC – U.S. Rep. John Kline of the Second District called his the “Freedom & Security PAC.”


As a comparison, “Republican” appears in 125 PAC names; “conservative” pops up in 77; “GOP” grace 13 and 12 contain some form of “patriot.” The word “American” appears in by far the most PAC names – 593.


Interestingly, the word “liberal” appears exactly 0 times.


According to data on, 172 PACs have received contributions so far during this 2010 election cycle. Of those, 6 contain the word “freedom” – and they all belong to congressmen of the Republican Party, including House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio (“Freedom Project”).


How about businesses in the U.S. – how many decided “freedom” was good p.r.?


According to, “freedom” appears in the names of 172 businesses in Minnesota, 111 of those in Minneapolis.


A total of 412 Texas businesses use “freedom” in their name – 90 in Dallas.


Some 207 businesses in New York decided using “freedom” in their name was good p.r.


Washington, D.C., proudly sports 96 businesses named “freedom” something.


Florida has tons of “freedom”: A total of 439 Fla. businesses contain “freedom” in their name.


So, I have to say we’re pretty “freedom” crazy in the U.S. And I’m not sure using “freedom” in a PAC name means anything at all, really.


Maybe, as songwriter Kris Kristofferson puts it, maybe “freedom” really is just another word for nothin’ left to lose.

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