A video of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s (R) presidential campaign director getting arrested for driving under the influence is circulating on the Internet after it was obtained by Minnesota City Pages.
Nick Ayers, who most recently was the executive director of the Republican Governors Association, was serving as then-Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s (R) campaign director at the time of the October 2006 arrest.
At the beginning of the video, he notes to the Georgia State Patrol officer, “We’re with Gov. Perdue’s campaign team.”
Ayers tells the officer that he had “one Jack and Diet Coke” and says it “has probably been an hour and a half, two hours” since he had the drink.
The officer appears to use the most common battery of field sobriety tests, testing Ayers’ eyes, asking him to walk in a straight line, turn and walk back, and then asking him to balance on one foot and count upward.
On the walk-and-turn test, the officer notes into his microphone that Ayers misses a number of steps and does an “improper turn.”
Ayers tells the officer, “Just so you know, our office is right here,” pointing off-camera. On the video, the officer asks at least twice for Ayers to place his hands by his side for the balancing test, but Ayers begins to balance and count, keeping his hands behind his back. The officer then notes into his microphone that Ayers has failed to follow his instructions to keep his hands at his side.
The officer asks Ayers to take an alcohol breath test and Ayers refuses. Ayers is then placed under arrest and in handcuffs for, the officer tells him, “driving under the influence of alcohol.”
Alex Conant, Pawlenty’s spokesman, said the video and the arrest were old news and that Pawlenty knew about the arrest. “This has been very well litigated,” he said. “The judge, when he saw the video, threw out the charges.”
The posting of this video follows revelations that three other Pawlenty staffers have alcohol-related incidents in their backgrounds. Erik Helland, who heads Pawlenty’s staff in Iowa, has a drunken driving arrest and appears to still be on probation. One of the members of Pawlenty’s New Hampshire steering committee, Dave MacLaughlin, has been convicted of drunken driving three times. And a Pawlenty staffer in Iowa — who came to be known on social networks as “The Pawlenty Puker” — resigned in April after being arrested for public intoxication and trespassing.
Another video posted by City Pages appears to show Ayers being driven from the location of his arrest to a police station for processing. In it, he engages in an extended conversation with the officer, who City Pages reports is J.W. Rickett.
“Can we chat politics?” Ayers asks.
“We can talk about whatever you want to,” Rickett says.
Ayers asks him what he thinks about “what’s going on right now” and Rickett replies that he doesn’t follow politics closely.
Later, Ayers says, “The only thing I ask for your consideration. I know other folks would love to make a big issue out of this — and frankly, I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong — but I know they’d love to make an issue out of it. And I just ask for your consideration on that.”
“No problem,” Rickett says. “As far as I’m concerned, you’re no different than anyone else that I’ve brung down here.”
The Georgia State Patrol verified that they did indeed send the Minnesota City Pages a VHS copy of the video on May 10, but they would not confirm to Roll Call that the video placed on YouTube was authentic.
Perdue won re-election in 2006 overwhelmingly, garnering 58 percent of the vote to Democrat Mark Taylor’s 38 percent. Ayers went on to be seen as an extremely effective executive director of the RGA.