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MEMO: Some Things To Consider As You Cover Rick Perry

To: Reporters and Editors
From: Rodell Mollineau, President, American Bridge 21stCentury
RE: Some things to consider as you cover Rick Perry
Date: 8-12-11

Like his campaign predecessors Fred Thompson and Jon Huntsman, Gov. Rick Perry’s imminent announcement has inspired buzz and high expectations. Dissatisfied Republicans are in a frenzy over the GOP’s “next big thing.” Unfortunately though they fail to look past the glamour of a budding campaign and see who the candidate really is. We know political journalists will not do the same.

Just as Fred Thompson failed to live up to the mythology surrounding his candidacy, America will soon discover Rick Perry is not what he seems. When the excitement around Perry inevitably dies down, as it did with Huntsman, an inherently flawed candidate will emerge.

Here is some basic information to help guide you as you write about Rick Perry’s record in Texas, along with some important questions we hope this new presidential candidate will answer in the very near future.

Visit ab21.wpengine.com for additional information on Governor Perry’s inauspicious record.

SUGGESTED QUESTIONS FOR PERRY:

Experts say much of Texas’ job growth has a great deal to do with your state’s natural advantages: oil and gas deposits, cheap housing, and a close proximity to Mexico, among others. Additionally, 300,000 of the jobs created during your term have been in government, and Texas is tied with Mississippi for the highest percentage of jobs paying minimum wage or less. How can you bring jobs to a city like Detroit when so much of your state’s success is out of your hands?

You’ve faced criticism from Tea Party groups on several fronts: giving illegal immigrants in-state tuition, mandating the HPV vaccine for school-age girls, and proposing a large transportation project that would have taken private land. Texas also depended more than any other state on federal stimulus funds to plug its budget deficit. Aren’t you trying to have it both ways when you rail against Washington?

You’ve been the governor of Texas for over a decade, longer than anyone else. In that time, you’ve raised millions upon millions of dollars, both for yourself and the Republican Governors Association. You’ve also appointed hundreds of your donors to patronage positions, given taxpayer funds to their companies, and in some cases even pushed legislation on their behalf. Can we expect you to prioritize ethics in Washington when you’ve shown little interest in reforming Texas?

You’re one of Washington’s most vocal critics, and a strong advocate for “state-based solutions” to issues like health care reform. But over a quarter of Texans lack health insurance – the highest rate in the nation – and your state’s health care costs doubled under your watch. Why should we follow your lead?

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE TEXAS ECONOMY

Rick Perry is quick to tout his state’s job growth on the campaign trail, but the real story of the Texas jobs “miracle” is decidedly mixed. The state’s private sector job growth has been far outpaced by the Texas government, and many new positions are low-paying and lack benefits: Texas is tied with Mississippi for the highest percentage of low-wage workers in the country. The state also boasts a variety of natural advantages not easy replicated, ranging from its oil and natural gas reserves to a massive border with Mexico. And Perry’s primary economic incentive tools as governor – the Texas Enterprise Fund and Emerging Technology Fund – have issued grants to businesses owned by Perry’s political donors even when they fail to create jobs.

RICK PERRY: TEA PARTY FRENEMY

Rick Perry was quick to recognize and capitalize on the tea party’s rise in 2009, casting himself as a strong advocate for “state-based” solutions and railing against perceived encroachments from Washington. But activists have been less than impressed with Perry’s deviation from the movement’s hardline stances on immigration, property rights, government mandates and spending itself.

PERRY’S REPEATED ETHICAL LAPSES

In Rick Perry’s office, the revolving door spins both ways: Perry has recruited several senior staffers from the ranks of Austin’s lobbying community, and at least 17 of his former aides have left for lobbying careers. Being close to Perry has its benefits – Perry had appointed nearly a thousand of his donors to boards and commissions, has supported legislation on their behalf, and directed large business incentive grants to their companies. Even Perry himself has profited, thanks to questionable stock and real estate investments involving close allies.

BACKGROUND RESEARCH:

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE TEXAS ECONOMY

AP: “Perry’s Texas Has Jobs, Also Good Luck.” “[T]he story behind the big Texas numbers is more complicated than the triumph of one state’s conservative economic strategy of low taxes and minimal regulation, according to conservative, liberal and nonpartisan experts,” the Associated Press reported in July 2011. “Rather, the surge reflects a combination of luck, location and a low cost of living, only some of which any politician can claim credit for. How much stems from a business-friendly environment or Perry specifically is debated by economists.” [AP, 7/26/11]

550,000 Texans Earn Minimum Wage – Or Less. “After sole possession of first place in 2009, Texas has fallen into a tie with Mississippi for the highest percentage of low-wage workers in the country,” the Austin American-Statesman reported in July 2011. “According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010, 550,000 Texans earned no more than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. More hourly workers in Texas earned the federal minimum wage (or less) in 2010 than did workers in California, Florida, and Illinois combined.” [Austin American-Statesman, 7/16/11]

Wall Street Journal: 300,000 New Jobs In Texas Were In Government, Public Sector Job Growth Outpaced Private Sector. “The Lone Star State gained more than a million jobs since the end of 2000, while the U.S. has lost almost 1.5 million, according data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics,” the Wall Street Journal reported in July 2011. “About 300,000 of the new Texas jobs were in government. Well over half of them, fueled by the surging population, were at public schools. Employment in the state’s public sector has jumped 19% since 2000, compared with a 9% rise in the private sector.” [Wall Street Journal, 7/27/11]

  • Texas Growth Factors Are Unique. “Texas also benefits from factors not easily replicated elsewhere. Among them: Texas’ massive size, which can support job-rich infrastructure such as the Port of Houston; its oil and gas deposits; its proximity to Mexico, an important trading partner; and its young and expanding population.” [Wall Street Journal, 7/27/11]

Houston Chronicle: Ten Reasons Why Texas Economic Growth Has “Nothing To Do” With Rick Perry. In July 2011, the Houston Chronicle’s Texas on the Potomac blog reported that “some economists say that the governor’s policies aren’t the only (or even the primary) reason for Texas’ economic health,” listing a range of factors that have helped that state avoid the worst of the recession: rising oil prices, government growth, military spending, a lack of housing bubble, cheap immigrant labor, a youthful population, high-tech industries, fracking, exports (particularly petrochemicals), and drug trafficking from Mexico. [Texas on the Potomac, Houston Chronicle, 7/31/11]

RICK PERRY: TEA PARTY FRENEMY

Perry Defended Signing “DREAM Act” In Texas. In an interview in the Manchester Union Leader, Rick Perry defended passing a law in Texas granting children of illegal immigrants the ability to pay in state tuition at Texas’ universities. According to the Union Leader, “In 2001, Perry signed into law the first state ‘DREAM Act,’ which allows children of illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state universities as long as they graduated from a Texas high school and are working toward attaining citizenship. Although criticized for it by some conservatives and some elements of the Tea Party, Perry stands by it, while opposing such a law on the federal level. ‘To punish these young Texans for their parents’ actions is not what America has always been about,’ he said.” [Union Leader (Manchester, NH), 7/24/11]

Perry Signed Executive Order Requiring Schoolgirls To Receive HPV Vaccine, Avoided GOP Opposition. Rick Perry signed an executive order on February 2, 2007 requiring Texas schoolgirls to receive a vaccination against the Human Pamplona Virus, a sexually transmitted virus that leads to cervical cancer. According to the Associated Press, “By issuing an executive order, Perry apparently sidesteps opposition in the Legislature from conservatives and parents’ rights groups who fear such a requirement would condone premarital sex and interfere with the way parents raise their children.” [AP, 2/2/07]

  • Perry had Ties to HPV Vaccine Company Merck and Received Campaign Donations from Merck’s PAC. According to the AP, “Merck is bankrolling efforts to pass state laws across the country mandating Gardasil for girls as young as 11 or 12. It doubled its lobbying budget in Texas and has funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country. Perry has several ties to Merck and Women in Government. One of the drug company’s three lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff. His current chief of staff’s mother-in-law, Texas Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government. Perry also received $6,000 from Merck’s political action committee during his re-election campaign.” [AP, 2/2/07]

Perry Proposed Controversial Private And Toll-Driven Roads Project. In 2002, Rick Perry proposed the Trans-Texas Corridor, a 4,000 mile network of highways, rail and utility lines intended to be funded by private investors. According to the Texas Tribune, “The proposal relied heavily on public-private partnerships and toll roads because gasoline taxes haven’t kept up with need for more roads. But in the years since it was originally proposed, the idea has withered under public outcry, particularly from farmers worried their land would be taken and from those suspicious of long-term private involvement in managing and money-making from state roads.” The program was phased out in 2009. [Texas Tribune, Tribpedia, accessed 8/9/11]

  • Corridor Plan Would Have Condemned 600,000 Acres Of Farm Land, Financer Employed Perry Aide As Lobbyist. According to the Houston Chronicle, “One of Perry’s more controversial plans was the Trans Texas Corridor, a proposed system of toll roads, rail lines and utilities running together. The first was going to be TTC-35, a project that would have run parallel to Interstate 35 and required the condemnation of 600,000 acres of farm land. The project was to be financed by a consortium led by the Spanish company Cintra, which hired one of Perry’s aides as a lobbyist after the contract was signed. The toll road plan and Perry’s veto of eminent domain legislation angered many. His administration since has scrapped the Trans Texas Corridor, though not public/private partnerships to build toll roads. And he satisfied some with passage of a new eminent domain law, though it lacks some of the compensation of the original package.”  [Houston Chronicle, 2/5/10]

CNNMoney: Texas Has “Love/Hate Relationship With Washington’s Money”. “Texas Gov. Rick Perry likes to tell Washington to stop meddling in state affairs,” CNNMoney reported in January 2011. “He vocally opposed the Obama administration’s 2009 stimulus program to spur the economy and assist cash-strapped states. Perry also likes to trumpet that his state balanced its budget in 2009, while keeping billions in its rainy day fund. But he couldn’t have done that without a lot of help from … guess where? Washington.” [CNN Money, 1/24/11]

  • Texas “Depended The Most” Of Any State On Stimulus Funds. “Texas was the state that depended the most on those very stimulus funds to plug nearly 97% of its shortfall for fiscal 2010, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Texas, which crafts a budget every two years, was facing a $6.6 billion shortfall for its 2010-2011 fiscal years. It plugged nearly all of that deficit with $6.4 billion in Recovery Act money, allowing it to leave its $9.1 billion rainy day fund untouched.” [CNN Money, 1/24/11]

PERRY’S REPEATED ETHICAL LAPSES

CREW: Perry One Of America’s “Worst Governors.” In April 2010, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington included Perry in a report detailing the “unethical and incompetent actions of 11 governors who pride their self-interests over their states’.” Perry was cited for allegedly disregarding campaign finance laws, questionable uses of campaign funds, blocking transparency, accepting travel and contributions from donors with business before his office, and “perpetuating the revolving door between government and special interests.” [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, 4/21/10]

Perry’s Political Appointees Have Given Him At Least $17 Million In Contributions. Texans for Public Justice issued a “Governor Perry’s Patronage” report in September 2010, detailing the large amount of contributions Perry had collected from his appointees. “As Texas’ longest serving governor, Rick Perry appointed 3,995 people to 592 boards, committees, councils, corporations, task forces, compacts, authorities, teams, groups and departments as of February 2010 (he appointed some of them to multiple posts)… Yet Texans should not forget the sacrifices of Perry’s appointees. This includes the 921 appointees who contributed to Perry’s campaign or had a spouse that did so. These donor-appointees supplied $17.1 million of the $83.2 million total that Governor Perry’s campaign raised since 2001 (donations occurred before and after the appointments).” [Texans for Public Justice, September 2010]

  • Enron Donated $25,000 To Perry After Company Executive Was Appointed To Utility Commission. “Gov. Rick Perry has received more than $227,000 in campaign donations from Enron Corp. officials since 1993, second among state politicians behind George W. Bush when he ran for governor,” the Associated Press reported in January 2002. Enron chief executive Kenneth Lay alone had contributed $138,000 to Perry’s campaigns, “including a $25,000 donation the day after Perry named former Enron executive Max Yzaguirre to be chairman of the Public Utility Commission last June.” Yzaguirre resigned in the wake of Enron’s collapse. [AP, 1/20/02]

Bob Perry Is Perry’s Largest Individual Donor, Has Given Over $2.5 Million. Houston homebuilding magnate Bob Perry (no relation) and his wife Doylene have directed at least $2,581,799 to Perry’s campaign efforts since 2000, not including millions more they have given to the Republican Governors Association (which has been the biggest overall contributor to Perry’s campaigns). [Texas Tribune, 7/22/11]

  • Bob Perry’s Attorney Helped Create Industry-Friendly Homebuilders Commission, Later Appointed To Board. “[Bob] Perry’s critics most often point to his involvement with the Texas Residential Construction Commission, a state agency created in 2003 to regulate the home building industry,” the Texas Tribune reported in 2010. “His corporate counsel helped craft the legislation that endowed the commission with its powers, and the governor later appointed the attorney to help manage the agency, which was shuttered last fall after lawmakers failed to finance it. Consumer groups had attacked the commission — which had been presented as a venue for protecting home owners — as lacking the power to address complaints of shoddy construction.” [Texas Tribune, 10/29/10]

Harold Simmons Has Given Perry At Least $1.12 Million. Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons owns Waste Control Specialists, a nuclear waste facility that has spent millions on contributions and lobbying for permits to radioactive material from other states. He is Perry’s second largest individual donor, having given at least $1,120,000 to Perry’s campaigns since 2000. [Texas Tribune, 7/22/11]

  • Perry Signed Bill Allowing Simmons’s Nuclear Waste Facility, Appointees Approved Subsequent Licenses. In 2003, Perry signed legislation “allowing the disposal of federal and other low-level radioactive waste at a site yet to be determined in Texas,” the Dallas Morning News reported. “A West Texas facility now operated by Dallas-billionaire Harold Simmons, who has lobbied extensively for the bill for years, is the most likely disposal site.” In May 2008, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) voted to approve Simmon’ proposal. “All three environmental commissioners were appointed by Perry,” the Austin American-Statesman reported. In January 2011, another commission filled with Perry appointees approved the company’s efforts to import radioactive waste from 36 additional states. [Dallas Morning News, 6/21/03;  Austin American-Statesman, 5/22/08; Austin American-Statesman, 1/4/11]
  • Simmons’ Company Was Only License Applicant. “How Simmons was able to obtain licenses from the state of Texas to dispose of nearly the full gamut of radioactive waste is more a story of politics and money than one of sound science,” D Magazine wrote in a story headlined “Dallas’ Most Evil Genius.” “Critics have pointed out that the nation’s largest aquifer underlies the site and is in an earthquake hazard zone. As Simmons told the Dallas Business Journal in a rare interview in 2006: ‘It took us six years to get legislation on this passed in Austin, but now we’ve got it all passed. We first had to change the law to where a private company can own a license [to handle radioactive waste], and we did that. Then we got another law passed that said they can only issue one license. Of course, we were the only ones that applied.’” [D Magazine, 1/20/10]
  • Simmons’ License Was Approved Despite TCEQ Staffer Opposition, Three Resigned In Protest. “In 2007, a team of geologists and engineers at TCEQ unanimously recommended that a license for the vast dump, near Andrews, be denied,” the Texas Observer reported in May 2010. “Water contamination was a prime concern. Then-Executive Director Glenn Shankle ordered the TCEQ team to issue the license anyway… Records show that Shankle met regularly with a team of lobbyists, lawyers and company principals at the same time his own experts warned him of the dump’s dangers. Seeing that the fix was in, three TCEQ employees quit in protest. Commissioners hardly batted an eye.” [Texas Observer, 5/26/10]

Perry Pushed For An Ethanol Production Waiver After Ethanol Opponent Gave RGA $100,000. “Gov. Rick Perry’s request for a waiver of federal corn-based ethanol production mandates was prompted by a March meeting he had with East Texas poultry producer Lonnie ‘Bo’ Pilgrim, who six days later gave $100,000 to the Republican Governors Association chaired by Perry,” the Houston Chronicle reported in July 2008. “In the three weeks following that donation, Perry’s staff began preparing to submit the renewable fuel standards waiver request to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, according to 596 pages of records obtained from the governor’s office by the Houston Chronicle under the Texas Public Information Act.” [Houston Chronicle, 7/1/08]

  • Pilgrim Financed Perry Flight To Washington. “In June [2008], Pilgrim provided Perry with $9,179 worth of air travel to Washington, where the governor held a news conference at the National Press Club to publicize his effort to get a waiver from the federal mandates,” the Texas Observer reported in February 2009. [Texas Observer, 2/6/09]

20 Companies Receiving $174.2 Million In Enterprise Fund Economic Incentives Have Given $2.2 Million To Perry’s Political Interests. A March 2010 investigation by the Texas Observer found that “20 of the 55 Enterprise Fund companies have either given money directly to Perry’s campaign (through their political action committees or executives) or donated to the Republican Governors Association, a Washington, D.C.-based group that Perry presided over in 2008. The 20 companies have received a combined $174.2 million from the Enterprise Fund. During the same time period, those 20 corporations have donated $2.2 million to Perry and the governors association. Several companies made donations around the time they received grants from the Enterprise Fund. It’s even possible that taxpayer money from the fund came full circle into Perry’s own campaign.” [Texas Observer, 3/11/10]

  •  Hewlett-Packard: Failed Deal Brought No Jobs, But Hundreds Of Thousands In Perry Contributions. “Perhaps no company better illustrates the flow of money than Hewlett-Packard Co. In October 2006, the California-based technology giant received $3 million from the Enterprise Fund to open four data centers in Texas that were supposed to create 420 jobs. The project didn’t exactly go well—the centers never opened, and Hewlett-Packard later had to repay its grant. Nary a Texan got a new job. But before the deal fell apart, Perry and his political allies took in their share of money. Hewlett-Packard’s political action committee contributed $20,000 to the governor’s campaign. It was one of 18 Enterprise Fund companies whose PACs or chief executives donated to Perry’s campaign, according to an analysis by the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice. The PACs and chief executives forked over a combined $355,000 to Perry’s campaign. (One of the largest donors was Joe Sanderson, the head of Sanderson Farms Inc., a Mississippi-based chicken producer that received $500,000 from the Enterprise Fund in April 2006. Three months later, Joe Sanderson gave $25,000 to Perry’s campaign. He has since given $75,000 more.)” [Texas Observer, 3/11/10]

Governor’s Office Has Directed Over $16 Million In Emerging Technology Funds To Perry Donors’ Companies. An October 2010 investigation by the Dallas Morning News “found that more than $16 million from the Emerging Technology Fund has been awarded to companies with investors or officers who are large campaign donors to Perry… The governor’s office administers the tech fund, and the governor must approve each award – a system that most other states with tech funds avoid to guard against political influence. The News found that tech fund money has been awarded to companies with which at least eight significant Perry donors are affiliated.” [Dallas Morning News, 10/3/10]

  • Perry Denied Knowledge Of His Donors’ Involvements, But Grant Applicants Must Disclose Investors. “In an interview with The News, Perry said he usually does not know if his campaign supporters have financial interests in the companies that get tech fund money. ‘From time to time, I may know someone who has an interest in a project. That is a pretty rare occurrence,’ he said. However, Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said in an e-mail that applicants for technology funding must provide full financial disclosure to the governor’s staff, including the names of investors. The governor said he does not look at these disclosures when deciding whether to approve an award.” [Dallas Morning News, 10/3/10]
  • Perry Donor’s Company Received $4.5 Million State Grant, Despite Minimal Investment. In June 2011, the Austin American-Statesman reported that “The founders of Convergen LifeSciences Inc. had invested only $1,000 of their own money when they asked the State of Texas in 2009 to give them $4.5 million to help develop a new lung cancer-fighting drug using nanotechnology, according to documents the Austin American-Statesman obtained Wednesday under the Texas Public Information Act. But the documents raised as many questions as they answered about Convergen, which was founded two years ago by David Nance, an Austin biotech executive and political contributor to Gov. Rick Perry, and Dr. Jack Roth, a researcher at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.” [Austin American-Statesman, 6/15/11]
  • Former Perry Aide On Convergen Board Of Directors Claimed Little Involvement. “The company’s application listed three members of its board of directors, including Nance. The other two said Wednesday they had never served on the board… Sha’Chelle Devlin Manning, a former Perry consultant on nanotechnology strategy, said she initially agreed to serve on the board because of her high regard for Roth’s work and because a close friend had been diagnosed with late-stage cancer. But Manning said she had to resign without attending a meeting because of pressing business and family obligations. She said she had no role in Convergen’s application. It’s unclear whether Convergen has operated for two years without a board of directors or whether Nance recruited new members.” [Austin American-Statesman, 6/15/11]

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