In NH, Tim Pawlenty talks Ponzi: Tom Petters, anyone?

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We note was bemusement this morning that Gov. Tim Pawlenty has been regaling New Hampshire Republicans with a great line about how the Democrats in Washington are running a giant "Ponzi scheme on the Potomac" with the federal deficit.

As we reported, he made the crack first on a New Hampshire radio talk show. Later he used it in a GOP fundraising speech.

Maybe his beef with Ponzi schemers is linked to the fact that one was once one of his campaign donors. In 2008, Pawlenty, former Sen. Norm Coleman, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Jim Oberstar offloaded thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Tom Petters, when they learned he was facing federal charges related to a massive -- and real -- Ponzi scheme. Petters was recently convicted on 20 counts of fraud and money laundering.

Among those swept up in the Petters investigation: Frank Vennes, a millionaire philanthropist who once served time in federal prison on money-laundering, drug and firearm convictions. The feds went through his Shorewood home and office on Sept. 24.

From the Star Tribune:

According to a federal search warrant affidavit, Vennes was a facilitator who persuaded five major investors to invest $1.2 billion in companies controlled by Petters. The document says Vennes collected more than $28 million in commissions for his work.

The allegations surprised many who have done business with Vennes or know him through his charitable works.

As blogger Karl Bremer and others have written, one of those charitable works is the Minnesota Teen Challenge Academy, a faith-based drug rehab program, where he served on the board. As this tax statement shows, Mary Pawlenty, Tim Pawlenty's wife, also served on the academy's board. And Pawlenty recently donated $85,892 to the academy when he cleaned out his campaign coffers.

Vennes, it should be noted, has not been charged with any crimes.


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