Candidates debate corporate accountability
By Brian Bakst
ST. PAUL -- Two of the four major candidates for governor said in the first televised debate of the campaign Wednesday night that they would use the state's multibillion-dollar investment funds as leverage to hold corporations accountable.
Republican Tim Pawlenty and Democrat Roger Moe had the most specific action plans to deal with businesses caught cooking the books or committing other fraud.
Both said they would have Minnesota join with other public pension funds to either divest their holdings or use power as shareholders to shake up cheating corporations.
"If you join up with California and some of the other larger states, our state board of investment could literally have the power through proxy voting to throw out boards of directors," said Pawlenty, the House majority leader from Eagan.
Moe, the Senate leader from Erskine, said a multi-state alliance could help "create a standard of ethics that exceeds what the federal government does."
The debate, sponsored by Twin Cities Public Television, also included the Green Party's Ken Pentel, an environmental activist from Minneapolis, and former Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Penny of Waseca, who is running in the Independence Party.
Pentel suggested establishing a review board that would revoke state charters of corporations that don't meet certain standards. Penny agreed that Minnesota's governor as a member of the National Governors Association could have a powerful voice in pursuing change.
The candidates stayed with their familiar themes during the debate, which covered everything from school funding to what they crave after a long day of campaigning. (Moe said beer, Penny picked Honey Nut Cheerios, Pentel chose a watermelon slice and Pawlenty went with raw cookie dough.)
Segments of a taped exercise were aired that showed how the four candidates divvied up 100 one-dollar bills into major budget categories.
About 4 percent of the state's budget now goes to transportation. Pawlenty devoted $10 or 10 percent to transportation projects, Penny $6, and Pentel and Moe $5 each.
Funding for K-12 schools consumes roughly 37 percent of state revenue. Moe, Pawlenty and Penny each set aside $38 of their $100 while Pentel put in $31.
Health and human services programs now take about 27 percent of the budget. Penny and Pawlenty would keep that stable. Moe bumped it up to 33 percent and Pentel reduced it to 22 percent.
Pentel had $12 remaining after his allocations and put it into an "other" category, for uses such as replenishing reserves. Penny had $6 left. Moe and Pawlenty had no money left.