Gov. Perry puts `for sale' sign outside mansionBy Jim Dunnam, Texas House of Representatives
November 13, 2003, Austin American Statesman
Rick Perry had a great campaign slogan last year: "The office of governor is not for sale to the highest bidder!"
Now we learn that the office may not be for sale, but Perry sure is. And Perry isn't just selling out to the highest bidder; he's selling out to any bidder.
According to recent news reports, Perry is asking big Texas companies for corporate contributions of $150,000 apiece for a special "business development" slush fund. The fund will be owned, operated and controlled by none other than Perry himself, for the greater glory of Perry enterprises.
What does your average multigazillion-dollar corporation get for a $150,000 donation? Plenty. Perry's fund-raising letter promises the following "perks:"
1. Participation in the "Annual Quail Hunt with Governor Perry at one of Texas premier ranches";
2. Private luncheons at the Governor's Mansion;
3. A seat on the "Governor's Advisory Committee";
4. An invitation to Perry's "business briefing";
5. The opportunity to "provide recommendations on the implementation and expenditure of funds";
6. VIP trips to high-profile events such as the Super Bowl, with "red carpet treatment" including "limousine transportation, four star hotel accommodations, reception on arrival with local and state leadership, box seats for the event, personalized clothing (jackets, etc.) for each guest, gifts, etc."
Republicans used to blast Bill Clinton for "renting out the Lincoln Bedroom." Perry is renting out the whole Texas Governor's Mansion. Perry is selling out the state and the governorship. Those who ladle out the money get influence and access in return; those who don't get cut out of the process.
Of course, the governor says his new private slush fund is to help him promote "economic development." But just this spring, the Legislature already created a $295 million public fund to "promote economic development." It's obvious that the real purpose of this private fund is a process called "Rick Perry development." It will seal the deal between Perry and the special interests who pay his way. As shotguns bark and the quail fall, there'll be lots of hearty discussions of special tax breaks, government subsidies and pollution control rollbacks -- you name it.
Perry has a long history of heavy-handed fund-raising. He has repeatedly been criticized by government watchdog groups for his overly aggressive money grubbing. This is one more example of how Perry crosses the line.
I have always vigorously supported job creation and economic development for working Texans. History has proved, however, that corporate slush funds and handouts are not the way to do it. Cozy insider deals are not the way to do it. Quail hunts with the governor will not create good jobs for Texans. That's not free enterprise -- it's crony capitalism.
This year, the Republican-led Legislature cut billions of dollars from education in Texas. It kicked 500,000 kids out of insured health care. It cut back on textbooks and parks and aid to elderly shut-ins.
But don't worry: The governor and his platinum contributors will be getting together in the skyboxes and at the quail hunts; and I'm sure that's what they'll be talking about.
Dunnam, of Waco, is a chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.