Not long ago, Gov. Tim Pawlenty told the Christian Broadcasting Network, one of his teenage daughters asked him, "Dad are you gonna run for president?" His answer: "I don't know, Honey. I'm not sure."
While he's making up his mind though, the Republican Minnesota chief executive is showing all the usual signs of presidential aspirations, including spending lots of time and money in Iowa and New Hampshire. He is also coming under the kind of scrutiny that all candidates face. Just last week, one of his actions as chairman of Minnesota's Board of Pardons had City Pages, a Twin Cities weekly newspaper, asking if he had met his "Willie Horton."
Willie Horton, a convicted murderer serving a sentence of life in prison without parole in Massachusetts, had been granted a weekend furlough by then Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1986 but did not return to prison. He later kidnapped a young couple, stabbing the man and raping the woman. Horton is considered to have been a major factor in George H.W. Bush's defeat of Dukakis in the 1988 presidential campaign after a Republican ad excoriated Dukakis, the Democratic candidate, for his support of the furlough program.
Pawlenty has come under criticism because of a pardon he granted to Jeremy Alan Giefer of Vernon Center, a town of 667 people in southern Minnesota.
Seventeen years ago, in 1993, 19-year-old Giefer was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct for having sex with his 14-year-old girlfriend. The authorities became aware of the case when she got pregnant. The following year Giefer was sentenced to 45 days in jail, even though his girlfriend, who by that time had given birth to a daughter, had asked that the case be dismissed. Giefer married his girlfriend when she was 16 and he was 21.
Giefer's and Pawlenty's paths crossed in 2008, when Giefer sought a "pardon extraordinary" -- for people who have completed their sentences -- from the Minnesota Board of Pardons, comprised of the governor, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court and the state attorney general. Giefer, who sought the pardon partly so his wife could open a day care in their home, was among 24 people who received such pardons, one of three convicted of criminal sexual conduct, according to the board's annual report.
And that might have been the end of the story, except Giefer, now 36, was arrested in November and charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting a young female relative. The Mankato Free Press reported she told authorities the abuse started when she was 9 and continued for years until reported to authorities in October. His lawyer has said that Giefer is not guilty.