George Pataki, Debt Hawk: Is He a Candidate?
Policy + Politics

George Pataki, Debt Hawk: Is He a Candidate?

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Even before former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman declared his bid for the GOP presidential nomination today, another possible dark-horse candidate gave him a backhand slap. On Monday in Iowa, former New York governor and newly minted debt warrior George Pataki said: “Anybody who’s looking to be the Republican nominee should compete…in Iowa. It’s a state where you can engage with people, across the table, in small groups.” Huntsman does not intend to participate in the Iowa caucuses, which are not strictly speaking a primary but historically have been a bellwether of political success. The caucuses will be held on Feb. 6, 2012.

Pataki was in Iowa for a lunch meeting with citizens and supporters of a group he formed in April called No American Debt. And, The Fiscal Times has learned, Pataki will hold a fund-raiser tonight at the tony Water Club in Manhattan for the fiscally conservative group, which seeks to advance a “national dialogue” about America’s growing debt crisis. The group is “only involved in education, not expressed advocacy,” spokesman David Catalfamo said in an e-mail. It’s funded by private contributions and is a 501c (4) organization  (a tax-exempt nonprofit association), according to Catalfamo.   

Pataki, 65, has been out of public office since 2006, the year he completed his third consecutive term as New York governor. He founded No American Debt to “hold Obama accountable for the economy and growing national debt,” according to a flyer the group circulated yesterday in Urbandale, Iowa. Pataki’s organization has been running cable TV ads in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

“No American Debt will educate the general public about the severity of America’s $14 trillion debt and how this debt impacts everyday Americans,” the group’s website says. “America is at a tipping point. The deficit is a danger not just to our country’s long-term fiscal health and viability, but to the very nature of our nation.”

Last week Pataki appeared in Washington at a policy breakfast hosted by The Hill,  the congressional newspaper, along with Paul Ryan and several policy experts. “This administration is actively attacking those who have the political courage to propose serious plans to deal with [the debt],” Pataki said at that meeting. “When the president’s own commission put together $4 trillion in deficit reduction measures, this president simply ignored it and proposed his own budget that basically threw it in the garbage.”

His site points out that “every generation has had its defining call to action — in the last 100 years, we’ve had two world wars, the Cold War, civil rights, Vietnam and 9/11. The call for this generation of political leaders is clear: Address the debt or face leaving the nation a lesser place for future generations. It is this issue that must be at the forefront of every presidential debate and on the minds of every voter.”

The group has announced “a fifty-state targeted effort to raise awareness about the long-term impacts of debt and to encourage President Obama and Republican candidates for president to propose serious solutions to America’s debt crisis….”

Pataki said on Monday that the federal government is “headed horribly in the wrong direction and needs change and needs to be reined in.” Under those circumstances, he said, “If you don’t get involved in some capacity, shame on you.”

Should Pataki decide to run, he would be competing with Huntsman, another Republican moderate considered a long shot to break out of an increasingly large GOP presidential pack. Huntsman formally announced his candidacy this morning at Liberty State Park in New Jersey, saying that he and President Obama, his former boss when he was ambassador to China, have a “difference of opinion about how to help a country we both love.” Huntsman called the condition of America right now “totally unacceptable.”

Related Links:
Opinion:   Our $14 Trillion Debt is Our Greatest Threat and Opportunity (The Hill)
Pataki:  Debt ‘Crime Against Our Future’ (