For Perry, big game means big businessTrucking lobby paid for governor's private jet to Rose Bowl
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
By STEVE McGONIGLE / The Dallas Morning News
The governor needed a lift to Southern California and the Rose Bowl. Bill Webb, chief lobbyist for the Texas trucking industry, saw a chance to help an important friend.
So, the state's largest trucking industry group paid for Gov. Rick Perry, his wife and two adult children to fly aboard a private jet to Los Angeles last January to watch the University of Texas win its first national collegiate football championship in 36 years.
During the game, Mr. Perry debuted television ads for his re-election bid.
Mr. Perry, a former yell leader at Texas A&M University, also used the trip to headline a business recruitment barbecue in Hollywood and attend the premiere of Glory Road, a movie filmed in Texas, as a special guest of producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
The Texas Motor Transportation Association's political action committee paid $14,580 for use of the jet. The money was reported as an in-kind contribution to the governor's campaign committee.
"Let's face it," said Mr. Webb, the former TMTA president who arranged the trip, "if you have a way to help the sitting governor get somewhere he wants to be and to help our industry get where it needs to be, to me it becomes a no-brainer."
The trucking association has developed a strong affinity for Mr. Perry, partly because of his advocacy for the Trans-Texas Corridor project to ease the highway congestion that slows delivery times and drives up shipping costs.
TMTA is also a dues-paying member of the TexasOne program, a nonprofit organization Mr. Perry formed in 2003 to help recruit out-of-state businesses.
Mr. Webb said the largesse was meant as a friendly gesture.
"That's what lobbyists do," he said. "They advocate, and they try to gain access."
After UT's place in the Rose Bowl was assured and Mr. Perry said he would attend, Mr. Webb said he suggested that TexasOne hold a recruiting event. He said he saw the event as a chance to attract new customers for Texas trucking firms.
Andrew Wheat, research director of Texans for Public Justice, sized up the trip as a notably pricey example of the coziness between Mr. Perry and a powerful lobby.
"The trucking industry, I suppose, could have sent the Perry family out there on one of its rigs," Mr. Wheat said. "But it gave them the first-class treatment. And they don't do that just because they're nice guys. They want things in return."
Robert Black, a spokesman for Mr. Perry, said the governor decided to attend the Rose Bowl game to promote Texas as a business destination.
"The governor said it would be a good opportunity since Texas was playing for the national championship in California – let's not only see if we can take the game, we can take a few companies," Mr. Black said.
TMTA's only return was "good conservative government," he said.
"If anybody thinks they can give a donation to Rick Perry, and it's going to buy them something, they need to keep their money," Mr. Black said.