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K Street Files: Tim Pawlenty Taking Lobby Gig, Quits Role With Romney Campaign

Updated: 11:55 a.m.

T-Paw is heading to K Street.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, once a rumored contender to be GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate, is taking over the top slot at the Financial Services Roundtable.

The trade association announced today that Pawlenty, who spent much of the past two years pursuing his own White House ambitions, will become president and CEO effective Nov. 1. He replaces former Rep. Steve Bartlett (R-Texas), who had announced his retirement earlier this year.

Because it is a bipartisan organization, Pawlenty said today that he has notified the Romney campaign that he is stepping down as its national co-chairman now.

He also said that in order to take on the top slot at the financial services group, he has agreed that he will not join the Romney administration should the former Massachusetts governor win the election in November.

“They were very gracious,” Pawlenty said of the Romney campaign. “They understood it was a career decision.”

During today’s press conference at the roundtable’s downtown Washington, D.C., headquarters, Pawlenty added that he continues to support Romney for president.

Thomas Wilson, CEO of Allstate Corp. and chairman of the Financial Services Roundtable, said the lobby group selected Pawlenty because he has a record of getting people to work together and can help the industry improve its reputation and to advocate “firm but fair regulation.”

“He’s a good leader, and he’s a student of the business,” Wilson told reporters.

As for improving the industry’s reputation inside the Beltway and with the American people, Pawlenty said he had offered a simple prescription during his interview process: “Stop doing stupid things.” He said that financial services companies can help propel the economy by helping businesses grow.

“These financial institutions are the fuel that goes into that engine,” he said. But, he noted, “You earn trust; you don’t just get it.”

Pawlenty, 51, said negotiations for the roundtable job began “months ago,” when the search firm Korn/Ferry International first reached out to him.

A spokesman for the organization declined to disclose Pawlenty’s salary package. Bartlett’s compensation in 2010, according to IRS forms, was more than $1.8 million.

Unlike some former high-level government officials, Pawlenty said he expects that he will register as a federal lobbyist as part of his new job.

He said he plans to maintain his Minnesota residence because he has a daughter completing high school there, but he plans to find housing in the D.C. area as well.

When asked what his biggest hurdle would be in making the transition from public sector to a top-tier K Streeter, Pawlenty quipped: “Finding an affordable place to live.” But, he added, more seriously: “Delving into the financial services industry will require some ramp-up time.”

Pawlenty said Bartlett, during his 12 years at the helm of the group, had done a remarkable job and that he was eager to build on what he had done.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Pawlenty said of his new assignment. “But also a lot of opportunities.”

Bartlett, who hailed the selection of Pawlenty, was coy about his next step. But he said he planned to announce a new career in January.

“It will be significant,” the one-time mayor of Dallas said.