Perry reports cash bonanzaPeggy Fikac Chief, San Antonio Express-News Austin Bureau
Gov. Rick Perry raised $425,971 between the time he signed the proclamation calling the first special session on congressional redistricting June 23 and its fruitless end July 28 — giving him $565,211 in cash on hand three years before the next governor's race. Two advocates of campaign finance reform chafed at his raising so much in this time period, though it's allowed under law.
Perry's deputy chief of staff, Deirdre Delisi, said Wednesday the governor has gone beyond requirements in financial disclosure and uses the money for proper expenses. The special session report must be filed by statewide officeholders, lawmakers and candidates by 30 days after session adjournment.
Some donations listed overlap with an earlier report covering Jan. 1 through June 30. This report gives a contribution picture from the date Perry formally gave notice he was calling the session that began June 30 through its end. The total included 16 donations of $25,000 apiece.
"It's the owner's box," said Andrew Wheat of Texans for Public Justice, a group that tracks money in politics. "The average Texas family can't afford to make a $1,000 contribution, much less $25,000." Big donors included former Enron executive Forrest Hoglund and those with interests in insurance, Wheat noted. "None of it is illegal," Wheat said of the donations, but he raised the question of whether officeholders should be able to raise money during special sessions. They cannot during regular sessions.
Suzy Woodford of Common Cause didn't call for a ban on raising money during special sessions but suggested contribution limits "to prevent this kind of obscene fund-raising" and a restriction on how early candidates may raise money for a future race.
Delisi said Perry uses the campaign money for expenses such as travel, which he doesn't charge to taxpayers. She said he has advocated greater campaign disclosure, illustrated by his voluntary reporting of cash on hand.
"Texans for Public Justice and Common Cause should take a cue from Rick Perry, follow his example, and disclose the trial lawyers who fund their organizations," Delisi said. Woodford and Wheat said more disclosure should be expected of elected officials — whose authority includes oversight of taxpayer dollars — than from nonprofit groups such as theirs.