Dems hit Pawlenty for paid speech on healthcare

Democrats went after Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on Thursday for giving a paid speech on healthcare reform.

Pawlenty will address insurance executives as the annual convention of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) in San Francisco. Democrats accused the former Minnesota governor of "being bought and paid for by the health insurance executives" and bashed his desire to repeal President Obama's healthcare reform law.

"Tim Pawlenty has been bragging about giving Americans some hard truths lately," Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse said in a statement. "Well, here’s a hard truth for Tim Pawlenty: raking in thousands of dollars for yourself while siding with insurance company profits over affordable healthcare for the rest of us will not go unnoticed. We’ll make sure of that."

Pawlenty is one of Democrats' top targets in the field of challengers to President Obama. He is one of only three candidates listed on the wall of Obama's reelection headquarters in Chicago.

And healthcare is expected to be a top issue during the 2012 campaign. Pawlenty has railed against Obama's healthcare law, pledging to repeal it if he's president. He has also begun to make his ideas for healthcare reform public, including a plan to implement payment reforms for Medicare.

Democrats, however, focused on the ex-governor's statement that he would sign Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget, as separate document they say would privatize Medicare.

"We know now why Tim Pawlenty has endorsed the Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it – and give seniors vouchers to go in the pockets of health insurance companies – it landed him a paid gig speaking to their executives in San Francisco today," said Woodhouse.

Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant called the DNC's criticism "lame" in a statement.

"This lame attack is just more evidence that President Obama has a campaign plan, not an economic plan. Given the inordinate amount of attention the DNC spends on Governor Pawlenty, it's clear they recognize that Pawlenty's record of results is a stark contrast to Obama's empty rhetoric," Conant said. "We're not going to be lectured by Democrats who have failed to address out-of-control health care costs, deficits and unemployment."

This story was updated at 1:27 p.m.