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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 Has Come Under Wide Criticism From The Tea Party

New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition Admonished Perry. According to the Austin American-Statesman, “The New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition, an organization of 47 like-minded groups, has published a blog post that criticizes Perry over a number of issues, including his support for the DREAM Act of 2001, which let certain illegal immigrants pay cheaper in-state tuition to attend Texas universities. The lengthy post includes links to coverage of Perry’s now-abandoned Trans Texas Corridor toll road plan and his short-lived 2007 executive order requiring that Texas schoolgirls be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus.” [Austin American-Statesman, 7/15/11]

Perry Faced “Intensifying” Tea Party Opposition While Considering Presidential Run. “In spite of his thundering speeches against big government, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has a troubled relationship with the tea party, a rift increasingly obvious as he gets closer to a presidential bid,” the Associated Press reported in July 2011. “Tea party groups from New Hampshire to Texas are collaborating to criticize Perry’s record on immigration, public health and spending and his former affiliation with the Democratic Party.” [AP, 7/19/11]

New Hampshire Tea Party Group Sent Email “Warning” Supporters About Perry. The Associated Press reported that the New Hampshire Tea Party Coalition sent emails “warning” supporters about Rick Perry, saying, “We should be aware there is more to him than meets the eye.” According to the Associated Press, “Tea party groups from New Hampshire to Texas are collaborating to criticize Perry’s record on immigration, public health and spending and his former affiliation with the Democratic Party. ‘It’s real easy to walk into church on Sunday morning and sing from the hymnal. I saw a guy that talked like a tea party candidate but didn’t govern like one,’ said Debra Medina, a Texas tea party activist who challenged Perry in the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary. ‘I still don’t think he governs like the conservative he professes to be.’” [AP, 7/19/11]

Texas Tea Party Leader Said Perry Leaves “Something To Be Desired.” According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Ken Emanuelson, co-founder of the Dallas TEA Party “said that many activists in Texas feel that Perry’s stand on some issues tends ‘to leave something to be desired.’” Emanuelson pointed to the “sanctuary cities” bill that would allow police officers to ask for proof of citizenship from suspects as an example of Perry’s lack of tea Party bona fides. Emanuelson said, “A lot of Tea Party people took him at his word that he would push it through the Legislature. It doesn’t look good that the governor had a signature issue that didn’t get addressed by the Legislature.” [Star-Telegram, (Fort Worth), 7/21/11]

Tea Party Members “Vetting” Perry. “Rick Perry has been widely touted as a Republican presidential candidate who could appeal Tea Party voters, but some in the anti-tax movement wonder if his record as Texas governor stacks up to his rhetoric,” Reuters reported in August 2011. “After all, they say, there are reasons to think he’s a spendthrift. He once campaigned for Democrat Al Gore, reviled by the Tea Party for being Bill Clinton’s vice president and for his campaigning on climate change, and he even spoke kindly about Hillary Clinton’s healthcare reform efforts… ‘They’re vetting, they want to know if he is for real,’ Dallas Tea Party leader Katrina Pierson, said, adding she has fielded questions about Perry’s record from Tea Party members as far flung as California, Iowa and New Hampshire.” [Reuters, 8/10/11]

Federal Handouts

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 Has Received $11.4 Billion In Federal Stimulus Money. The state of Texas has accepted $11,451,967,133 in Recovery Act funds since February 2009. Texas ranked second highest in terms of total dollars received behind California, and third in number of jobs created with federal stimulus money with 45,340. Texas has been awarded a total of $16,759,901,407. [Recovery.Gov, accessed 8/10/11]

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 Sent Letter To Congress Asking Lawmakers to Approve Bailout Package.“We strongly urge Congress to leave partisanship at the door and pass an economic recovery package,” Perry wrote in an October 2008 letter to congressional leadership with then-Gov. Joe Manchin. “We both believe that it’s time to stand together for our country… If Congress does not act soon, the situation will grow appreciably worse. It’s time for leadership. Congress needs to act now.” [RGA-DGA Joint Release, 10/1/08]

Perry Received Farm Subsidies While Texas Agriculture Commissioner. Rick Perry received $9,624 in farm subsidies between 1991 and 1998 while he has serving as Texas Agriculture Commissioner. According to the Austin American-Statesman, “The 1990s payments weren’t the only ones Perry or his family has gotten from federal farm programs. His tax returns from when he was in the Legislature show he received $72,687 in agricultural program payments between 1987 and 1989, when he was farming his land. His father, J.R., received a total of $6,443 in cotton and wheat subsidies in 2002 and 2003. As for his 40-acre farm, Perry sold it in 1998. Perry claimed a $17,693 loss on his federal income taxes for that year.” [Austin American-Statesman, 8/7/11]

Questionable Fiscal Restraint

Texas’ Debt Growing Faster Than U.S. Debt. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, since 2001 the debt for the state of Texas has grown faster than the debt of the United States. The Star-Telegram said, “From 2001 to 2010, state debt alone grew from $13.4 billion to $37.8 billion, according to the Texas Bond Review Board. That’s an increase of 281 percent. Over the same time, the national debt rose almost 234 percent, with two wars, two tax cuts and stimulus spending.” The paper notes that it is not an equal comparison because one number is in billions and the other in trillions, while the national debt excludes some debts included in the Texas figure. However, the paper states, “The trend is undeniable. While Texas lawmakers have refused to raise taxes — and often criticize Washington for borrowing and spending — the state has been paying for much of its expansion with borrowed money.” [Star-Telegram (Fort Worth), 7/13/11]

Economists: Perry’s Economic Policies Nothing New For Texas. “Economists disagree on how much credit Perry deserves for the state’s recovery, but they agree his economic policies are a continuation of a long-standing Texas tradition,” the Austin American-Statesman reported in July 2011. “‘As for our reputation as a low-tax, low-service state, that’s always been true, ever since the Republic,’ said James Galbraith, a professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. ‘Gov. Perry did not inherit a high-tax, high-service state and transform it.’”[Austin American Statesman, 7/16/11]

Texas’ Spending Rose Faster Under Perry Than Bush. According to a Fort Worth Star-Telegram analysis, “[Texas] spending through 2011, adjusted for population and inflation, rose more on average while Perry has been in charge than it did under his predecessor, George W. Bush.” The analysis added, “When Bush was governor, total state spending rose 13.3 percent every two years on average. Adjusting the figures for population growth and inflation, that growth rate was 2.3 percent. Perry took the reins in December 2000. From then until 2011, spending increased an average of 16.8 percent every two years. Once adjusted for population and inflation, that rate falls to 4.2 percent.” [Star-Telegram (Fort Worth), 7/18/11]

Texas First Foundation: Perry Responsible For Debt Crisis In Texas. Jim Dunnam, a former Texas state representative and senior fellow at the non-partisan Texas First Foundation, attacked Perry’s road borrowing in an August 2011 opinion column: “Starting in 2001, Texas started borrowing money for new road construction, pushing that cost onto future taxpayers. In just a decade, this debt has grown from zero to $11.9 billion. With interest payments, future taxpayers and our children will need 20 years and $21.1 billion to pay off that debt. There is even more about to be borrowed. In all, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has authority to borrow $17.3 billion, with a 30-year payoff of $31.1 billion, further shifting the burden to our children.” [Houston Chronicle, 8/2/11]

Big Spending on Personal Perks

Despite Budget Shortfall, Perry Spent $600,000 In Public Funds On Rental Mansion. “With the state facing a budget shortfall of at least $11 billion,” the Associated Press reported in May 2010, “Texas Gov. Rick Perry has spent almost $600,000 in public money during the past two years to live in a sprawling rental home in the hills above the capital… It costs more than $10,000 a month in rent, utilities and upkeep to house Perry in a five-bedroom, seven-bath mansion that has pecan-wood floors, a gourmet kitchen and three dining rooms. Perry has also spent $130,000 in campaign donations to throw parties, buy food and drink, and pay for cable TV and a host of other services since he moved in, the records show.” [AP, 5/17/10]

Taxpayer Expenses Included Filtered Ice Machine, $700 Clothes Rack, Food & Wine Magazine.“Perry’s state-paid expenses at the home include $18,000 for ‘consumables’ such as household supplies and cleaning products, $1,001.46 in window coverings from upscale retailer Neiman Marcus, a $1,000 ‘emergency repair’ of the governor’s filtered ice machine, a $700 clothes rack, and a little over $70 for a two year subscription to Food & Wine Magazine. Maintenance on the heated pool has cost taxpayers at least $8,400, and the tab for grounds and lawn maintenance has topped $44,000, the records show.” [AP, 5/17/10]

Perry Said Taxpayers Should Pick Up Security Bill, No Matter The Price. The Texas Tribune reported that, “Gov. Rick Perry said Monday [July 18, 2011] that it was appropriate for Texas taxpayers to pick up the expense of his security even if costs shoot up dramatically while he travels around the nation running for president.” Perry said, “We’re still going to have a protective detail that travels with us. I think that’s kind of a diversion.” [Texas Tribune, 7/19/11]

Perry Keeps State Travel Expenses Secret. Rick Perry’s extensive travel travel is “not cheap,” the Texas Tribune reported in July 2011. “But it is unclear exactly how much it costs. The governor’s airfare, hotel bills and security costs are paid for with a mix of campaign and private and public money. And state laws allow the governor to keep confidential much of the cost of his travels.” [Texas Tribune, 7/16/11]

Perry’s Security Detail Does Not Track Itemized Expenditures.“The public safety department has released total figures but withheld itemized expenses, citing security concerns. The Texas Supreme Court recently sided with the department and ruled that the records should remain sealed. The Texas Legislature added another layer of secrecy to the process when it passed a new law this year that will conceal peace officers’ travel vouchers for 18 months. Though the department will file quarterly reports, it is required to report only lump sums, not detailed line-item travel expenditures.” [Texas Tribune, 7/16/11]

2004: Taxpayer Money Spent On Golf Carts And Scuba Gear During Perry’s Bahamas Trip. “In 2005, American-Statesman reporter W. Gardner Selby requested — and was granted — security detail travel documents for Perry’s 2004 trip to the Bahamas, where he and staff members met with Grover Norquist, a national anti-tax leader; James Leininger of Houston, a key Perry campaign donor and a supporter of public school vouchers; and others. The travel vouchers were not redacted, allowing the Statesman to report that $4,200 in taxpayer money was spent on six troopers who traveled with Perry and his wife. Costs billed by the troopers included $180 for golf carts, $226 to rent scuba gear and $666 for cellphone rentals.” [Austin American-Statesman, 7/25/11]

Taxpayers Have Paid At Least $252,030 For Perry’s International Travel. “In 2007, the Statesman and newspapers from Houston and San Antonio sought all travel documents for security details since 2001… The spending summary showed that DPS spent $252,030 in travel expenses for security details on nine international trips taken by Rick Perry and one taken solely by Anita Perry between February 2004 and July 2007.” [Austin American-Statesman, 7/25/11]

Perry’s Medical Mandate

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’s Failed Land Grab

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]

 The Trans-Texas Corridor Cost Over $15 Million from Environmental Studies and Planning Documents.  “The Texas Department of Transportation is closing the books on the unpopular ‘Trans-Texas Corridor’ project, which has already cost the state millions of dollars to gather up plans, hold public meetings and conduct environmental studies,” the Associated Press reported in October 2009. “The department has already spent over $15 million on environmental studies and planning documents associated with the I-35 corridor, and the cost will go higher as the cancellation process grinds to a halt, officials said.” [AP, 10/7/09]

Perry’s Soft Approach on Immigration

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]

VIDEO: Mexican President Thanked Perry For Allowing In State Tuition To Illegal Immigrants. Mexican president Vicente Fox thanked Perry for allowing illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition at Texas colleges and universities. In a November 2003 speech, Fox said, “I want to publically recognize Governor Perry and the state of Texas by having taken that step forward when you decided to give access to Mexican migrants to universities. That’s not only a good respondent decision to our people, to our hard working people, and we appreciate it, but that’s also vision because it is building human capital. Texas will take advantage of, and Mexico of course will do so. So thank you very much Governor, for that step forward.”  [C-SPAN Video Library, 11/6/03; Intellectual Conservative Arizona, 8/4/11]

Perry: Arizona Immigration Law “Not The Right Direction For Texas”. Perry released a statement in April 2010 that said he had concerns over the 2010 Arizona immigration law because it would not be “the right direction for Texas.” Perry cited a portion of the law that said “law enforcement officers into immigration officials by requiring them to determine immigration status during any lawful contact with a suspected alien, taking them away from their existing law enforcement duties, which are critical to keeping citizens safe.” Perry said, “Recently, there has been much debate over immigration policy in Washington and what has been implemented in Arizona. I fully recognize and support a state’s right and obligation to protect its citizens, but I have concerns with portions of the law passed in Arizona and believe it would not be the right direction for Texas.” [Perry Press Release, 4/29/10]

VIDEO: Perry Called Border Fence “Nonsense”. In an August 2009 speech to the Montgomery County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Business Forum, Perry called the idea that “we’re going to build a wall” along the U.S.-Mexican border “nonsense”. [Austin American-Statesman, 8/28/09]

Perry’s Flexible 10th Amendment

Perry: 10th Amendment Allows For Gay Marriage. At a panel discussion in Aspen Colorado, Rick Perry said that New York’s decision to allow gay marriage was “their business.” Responding to a question on the issue, Perry said “You know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me.” Perry added, “Our federal government is engaged with far too many things they shouldn’t be involved with at all. I’m pro-traditional marriage. The fact is, we passed a constitutional amendment in the state of Texas that says marriage is between one man and one woman. Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. That’s their call. If you believe in the 10th amendment, stay out of their business if you live in some other state or particularly if you’re the federal government.” [CNN, PoliticalTicker Blog, 7/23/11]

AUDIO: Perry “Not Fine” With Gay Marriage. Rick Perry clarified a statement he made in July of 2011 that states should decide if gay marriage is legal by saying he “is not fine” with it.  Perry told Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, “It’s fine with me that a state is using their sovereign rights to decide an issue. Obviously gay marriage is not fine with me. My stance hasn’t changed.” Perry added, “My comments reflect my recognition that marriage and most issues of the family have historically been decided by the people at the state and local level. And that is absolutely the state of law under our Constitution.” [Family Research Council Blog, 7/28/11; CNN, Political Ticker, 7/28/11]

Perry: Marriage Amendment Would Prevent Gay Marriage Being “Forced” Upon Texas By Judicial Activists. Rick Perry said that the passage of a federal marriage amendment would prevent judicial activists from “forcing” Texas to accept gay marriage. Perry said, “Indeed, to not pass the federal marriage amendment would impinge on Texas and other states not to have (gay) marriage forced upon them by these activist judges, these special interest groups.” Perry’ statement came less than a week after he said that, according to the 10th amendment, states should decide the issue of gay marriage. [Austin American-Statesman, 7/29/11]

Perry: Abortion Is A State’s Rights Issue. ABC News reported that Rick Perry believed abortion to be a state’s rights issue, when he said, “You either have to believe in the 10th Amendment or you don’t. You can’t believe in the 10th Amendment for a few issues and then [for] something that doesn’t suit you say, ‘We’d rather not have states decide that.’” [ABC News, The note, 7/27/11]

Perry Later Stated Support For Federal Marriage Amendment. Less than a week after Perry made statements that gay marriage should be decided by states, he declared support for a amendment to the Constitution to define marriage. Perry said, “To not pass the federal marriage amendment would impinge on Texas and other states not to have marriage forced upon them. Our Constitution was designed to respect states…I have long supported the appointment of judges who respect the Constitution and the passage of a federal marriage amendment. That amendment defines marriage as between one man and one woman and it protects the states from being told otherwise.” [CNN, Political Ticker, 7/28/11]