By Gary P Jackson
The 2006 election was tough on Rick Perry. He faced Texans who were as angry as they have ever been in the state’s history. The Trans-Texas Corridor fiasco, along with various scandals, and a general displeasure with Perry as Governor, had Rick scrambling.
Like 2010, Perry faced three primary challengers. He also had two high profile independent challengers [four in all]
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, former Railroad Commissioner, and former City of Austin Mayor: Carole Keeton Strayhorn, and Texas musician/songwriter/mystery novelist/humorist Kinky Friedman were both making noise against Perry. Then there was the democrat candidate, Chris Bell.
As Strayhorn and Friedman were polar opposites, politically, there was no chance of working out a deal where one would drop out and endorse the other. As it ended up, Strayhorn got a pretty solid 18.13% [797,577 votes] in the general with Friedman getting 12.43% [546,869 votes] mostly from would-be democrat voters.
Rick Perry squeaked by with 39.03% [1,716,803 votes] over Chris Bell’s 29.79%. [1,310,353 votes]
Besides the sad fact that in a state of 25 million people, so few actually vote, the results are telling.
That’s not the issue at hand though. With Friedman taking so many votes from Chris Bell, Perry was a shoe-in for re-election. Texans don’t elect democrats to statewide office anyway. Haven’t in a long, long time. And yet, as typical for Perry, he had his henchmen cook up an ad hammering Chris Bell for taking $1 million from a Houston trial lawyer.
Texas, unlike most states, puts few limits on campaign contributions. For individual donors, the sky is the limit. It’s why crony capitalism, and other corrupt dealings are so rampant. Anyhow, even though he didn’t need to, Perry, who has all sorts of million dollar contributions from special interests of his own to explain, went after Bell anyway.
This is where the story gets interesting. Interesting to the point of dragging poor hapless Mitt Romney and the Republican Governors Association into the deal.
From the Houston Chronicle:
It’s been widely reported that since Rick Perry became governor, Houston homebuilder Bob Perry has given him more than $2.5 million in campaign contributions.
But now, filings in a lawsuit over the 2006 governor’s race suggest that the Houstonian’s largesse has been considerably more impressive than the governor’s campaign contributions reports indicate.
Call it the $1 million question.
In the final weeks of the 2006 gubernatorial campaign, Perry campaign gurus got nervous about their position in an unpredictable field. After all, the governor faced not just a Democrat – Houston attorney Chris Bell – but independent candidates Kinky Friedman and Carole Keeton Strayhorn. Humorist Friedman gave Perry a huge gift by siphoning votes from Bell.
But Perry campaign consultant Dave Carney decided to deliver a knockout punch to the Democrat – and he did, with a tough television ad slamming Bell for accepting $1 million in contributions from Houston trial lawyer John O’Quinn.
“Sharks are circling,” it said, playing on the public’s contempt of plaintiffs’ lawyers.
Carney then turned to the Republican Governors Association for an infusion of funds, but the bean-counters there protested that they hadn’t budgeted any money for the Texas governor’s race.
In one of life’s delicious ironies, a decision on the Perry campaign’s plea for cash fell to none other than Mitt Romney, then-governor of Massachusetts and chairman of the RGA. So Carney and Perry aide Dierdre Delisi, now chairwoman of the Texas Transportation Commission, decided to pay him a visit. In documents filed in the Bell lawsuit, attorneys for the Perry campaign described what happened next:
“On Oct. 4, 2006, Dierdre Delisi and Dave Carney met with Mitt Romney, who was then chairman of the RGA. During that meeting, Gov. Romney stated that, on behalf of the RGA, he was about to accept a $1 million contribution from an individual Texan contributor.
Gov. Romney did not identify who the individual was, and TRP had no knowledge prior to that time that any individual was planning to contribute $1 million to the RGA. Following the meeting with Gov. Romney, Ms. Delisi contacted Bob Perry’s attorney Buddy Jones to ask whether Mr. Perry had contributed this money to the RGA. Mr. Jones ultimately confirmed that Mr. Perry had indeed made the contribution, and Ms. Delisi asked Mr. Jones to encourage the RGA to make some contributions in Texas since the RGA had raised such significant funds in Texas.”
The Perry campaign then received two $500,000 checks from the RGA: on Oct. 27 and Nov. 1.
Contacted through a spokesman, Jones said Friday that “Bob Perry never contacted the RGA to ask for his contributions to be … earmarked. Perry is a longtime donor to many GOP causes, including the RGA, and trusts those candidates and organizations to make their own decisions about allocating resources.” Delisi didn’t respond to phone calls; Carney declined comment.
A spokesman for the Republican Governors Association has said that the group has a strict policy in not allowing donors to earmark their contributions for certain candidates. As Craig Holman, a campaign finance expert at the Washington, D.C.-based Public Citizen told me, earmarking would violate both state and federal laws against laundering money.
“It calls into question whether there is an intent to evade disclosure,” he noted.
A little hypocritical
Did Delisi’s phone call to Jones amount to pressure to earmark a contribution?
“The Texas Ethics Commission reviewed the issues surrounding the 2006 RGA contribution and did not find any violations,” Perry spokesman Mark Miner said in an email.
But that’s not exactly true, according to a TEC spokesman. The ethics commission reviewed a peripheral issue – the Perry campaign’s failure to disclose the RGA’s contributors. Since the Perry campaign corrected its filing in a timely manner, the ethics commission waived a fine. It did not investigate further “issues” surrounding the contribution. (The Perry campaign settled the lawsuit with Bell for $427,000, and the RGA is appealing a $2 million judgement against it.)
Why launder money when Texas allows contributions of any size? Given the theme of the television assault against Bell, accepting a direct $1 million contribution from Bob Perry would have seemed a little hypocritical. Not to mention, Gov. Perry already had ignited a firestorm of protest in 2005 when he appointed Perry Homes’ general counsel to the ill-conceived and (mercifully) short-lived Texas Residential Construction Commission.
Democrats, of course, are not immune from large donors; Houston trial lawyers Steve and Amber Mostyn gave $8.8 million to candidates and political action committees during the 2010 election cycle.
No man is island
Now, Perry’s presidential campaign will benefit from the recent establishment of three Super PACS, new entities that can legally raise as much as money as possible, so long as they operate independently from the candidates they support. Does the 2006 incident foreshadow how well he Perry presidential campaign will keep a safe distance? This much we know: One Super PAC has been established by Mike Toomey, a former Perry chief of staff, who owns a private island off the coast of New Hampshire. His co-owner? Carney, who still serves as Perry’s chief political consultant.
Mike Toomey is the former Perry chief-of-staff who got big bucks as a Merck lobbyist, and who’s mother-in-law, Dianne White-Delisi is the Texas director for Women in Government, a group that gets big bucks from Merck as well. Women in Government has been called “Merck’s Trojan Horse.”
White-Delisi is also the mother-in-law of the chairwoman of the Texas Transportation Commission, Dierdre Delisi, who went with Perry’s man, Dave Carney, to shake down Mitt Romney and the RGA for some cash.
After attacking democrat Chris Bell for doing the same thing he has been doing for years [taking huge money from special interests] Perry then sends his people looking for huge money, from the RGA and Mitt Romney.
It’s alleged that Bob Perry’s [no relation] $1 million contribution to the RGA made it’s way back to the Perry campaign in the form of the two $500,000 checks the RGA presented to Perry.
Craig Holman, a campaign finance expert, says “earmarking” money like this would violate both state and federal money laundering laws.
Though no one involved in this has commented, and the Texas Ethics Commission “stopped investigating the complaint” The Perry campaign settled the lawsuit brought by Chris Bell for $427,000 and the RGA had a $2 million judgement against them, which they are appealing.
That brings us to Bob Perry, one of the nation’s biggest Republican donors, and Rick Perry’s absolute top donor.
Bob Perry is an influential home builder and he has been influencing Rick Perry’s vote for quite some time. In the last debate Rick Perry claimed to be “offended” by the accusation that he could be bought for $5,000, the amount he claimed he had gotten from Merck. [we now know Perry has received quite a bit more than that from Merck]
Well, $5000 might not buy much from Perry, but a little over $2 million will buy you a whole lot.
After giving Governor Perry a sizable amount of moolah over the years, Bob Perry was not only able to see legislation incredibly favorable to homebuilders, [and devastating to their customers] one of good old Bob’s boys was appointed an executive of the Texas Residential Construction Commission that was created by the legislation. There were so many issues with this deal, the commission was abolished in 2009.
From the New York Times story about the corruption surrounding Perry and high dollar campaign donors [and their appointments to influential positions]:
n 2003, after a rash of mold-related lawsuits against home construction companies, Mr. Perry championed the creation of a state board, the Texas Residential Construction Commission. The new commission was a priority of Mr. Perry’s most generous contributor: Bob Perry, a homebuilder who has contributed more than $2 million to the governor over his career. (The two men are not related.)
The legislation creating the board also sharply limited the rights of homeowners to sue contractors for faulty construction, shunting most disputes to the commission. After its passage, Bob Perry and his wife sent two $50,000 checks to the governor’s campaign. Three weeks later, the governor appointed an executive of Perry Homes, Bob Perry’s company, to the commission, which was abolished in 2009.
Read more here.
I have to say the most frustrating thing about looking into Rick Perry’s record of corruption is the more you find, the more you find! By that I mean you go looking into to one thing, and find many more things, and each one of those will give you many more! Talk about a ponzi scheme!
There is so much money and influence peddling going on in Texas that it’s shameful. Texas needs huge reform. So does the United States.
Rather than work hard to reform Texas’ obviously corrupt political system, where politicians are bought and sold daily, Rick Perry has embraced it, wallowed in it.
Rick Perry is not just wrong for Texas, he’s wrong for America.
We already have a corrupt crony capitalist sitting in the Oval Office today. Replacing him with another one is not the answer.
Now other than the [alleged] money laundering, what Perry is doing isn’t illegal in Texas, but it should be. That Texas is run by special interests, that make real reform almost impossible, doesn’t excuse Perry from being as corrupt as they come.
There’s another Governor who fought the same sort of corrupt political system. Instead of embracing it, she made cronyism a crime. That is the sort of leader America needs.