Governor Enjoyed Rock Star Ride in ‘Stolen' Bandago Rental Van

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty spent Sunday riding around Pennsylvania in a van that was reported stolen, Pioneer Press reports.

The theft was inadvertent. Pawlenty's local driver was told to pick up the keys to the van at the Holiday Inn in Allentown, Pa.

"He did exactly what he was told, except it was the wrong Holiday Inn and the wrong van," Pawlenty told the Pioneer Press. Pawlenty recently campaigned through Pennsylvania for Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

The van the driver did pick up was one rented by Sharky Laguana of Bandago Van Rentals. Laguana rents tricked-out touring vehicles—complete with LCD video screens, video games and iPod-ready, six-speaker stereo systems—to touring music acts.

According to Laguana, the band Everclear, on its way to Denver for the Democratic National Convention, had dropped off the van at the Allentown Holiday Inn at about 6 a.m. and left the keys at the front desk for a Bandago employee to pick up about 9 a.m.

But at about 8 a.m., Pawlenty's driver arrived at the Holiday Inn to pick up the keys. Because there was only one set of keys at the hotel's front desk, the driver and the hotel clerk assumed they were to the vehicle intended for Pawlenty's travels.

So, when the Bandago employee went to retrieve the vehicle, "sheer panic and terror" ensued, Laguana told the Pioneer Press.

Laguana called police and reported the van stolen and talked to Everclear's business manager and tour manager about their responsibility. Technically, Laguana said, because the rental company never retrieved the van after the band used it, the band was liable.

Meanwhile, Laguana was trying to figure out what happened.

"That is the most amazing criminal heist that anyone has ever done," he said he was thinking. "The conclusion I came to was it's an inside job."

According to the Pioneer Press, Pawlenty said he was also thinking something was a bit off. After being picked up at the Holiday Inn where he was staying, the governor questioned the driver.

"He said, 'I don't know, they just asked me to pick up this van.' And the strange thing is we were driving out of the parking lot of the correct Holiday Inn and the car we were supposed to be in and had used the previous day (with a different driver) was in the parking lot, and so I said, 'Why aren't we taking that car, because it's sitting right there.' And he said, 'I don't know,'" Pawlenty said.

The driver thought it odd that there were beer cans in the van when he picked it up.

The following morning, after the governor was off to campaign in Ohio, the driver called a phone number on a rental contract he found in the van. Laguana got a text message from an employee saying the van had been returned, and the van was retrieved by 1 p.m.

Bandago has been fully reimbursed for the use of the van.

"The McCain campaign has been excellent to deal with," Laguana said.

And Laguana and the governor have a story to tell.

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