Pawlenty to form PAC

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) will form a political action committee to spread money to Republican candidates around the country as he takes steps that could lead to a presidential run.

Pawlenty advisers have invited supporters to a Nov. 4 event at the Minneapolis Hilton, where he will begin raising money for the Freedom First PAC, according to an invitation to the event obtained by The Hill.

A reception will cost donors $1,000 each, while a dinner with Pawlenty will cost $5,000 per person or $10,000 per couple.

"Gov. Pawlenty is in the process of starting the 'Freedom First' PAC," said adviser Alex Conant, confirming that the group will launch "within the next few weeks."

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"When the governor said he wouldn't seek reelection, he said in addition to finishing his term strong, he would help other Republican candidates, and obviously a PAC is one key way to do that," Conant added.

Pawlenty has raised his national profile in recent months, positioning himself as a fiscal conservative with ties to the evangelical community. He gave a well-received speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in the spring, keynoted the Republican National Committee meeting in San Diego this summer and gave a rousing performance at the Values Voter Summit last week.

Pawlenty finished with 12 percent, a virtual four-way tie for second place, in a straw poll at last weekend's summit, matching performances by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.). Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) won the poll with 28 percent.

At times, Pawlenty has showed off his attack skills, picking frequent fights with the White House. He is a favorite target of Democratic National Committee opposition researchers, who have reacted to many of his statements.

But Pawlenty has also hinted he will not pull punches in his own primary. As he has opposed healthcare legislation coming out of Washington, Pawlenty has sought to associate a program Romney helped shepherd through in Massachusetts with big-spending plans Democrats have come up with in Congress.

Pawlenty's new PAC will allow him to compete in a shadow primary with his potential rivals. Romney has been the biggest winner so far in raising money for Republican candidates, pulling in $2.3 million this year for his Free and Strong America PAC.

Palin's PAC had raised $732,000 through the end of June, the most recent period for which numbers are available. Pence has raised $115,000 and given $25,000 to Republican candidates. And Huckabee's PAC has raised just over $300,000 through the end of June.