Voices Empower
 

Gov. Perry: A Long Way from Paint Creek, Texas

by Donna Garner, Fellow Texan   

Photo courtesy of The Gazette

The Republicans are in the midst of the vetting season; and because the present occupant of the White House was never thoroughly vetted, we must do better this time. There is nothing wrong with looking carefully at each and every Republican candidate to make sure he is what he says he is. 

I am not saying that Gov. Perry is a bad person; nor am I saying that he has done anything illegal.  But I believe voters across the United States need to understand that contrary to the two “puff” pieces that are being circulated widely (posted toward the bottom of this page), Rick Perry’s present lifestyle is a long way from Paint Creek, Texas.  

The truth is that Rick Perry is a millionaire who spends most of his time with wealthy individuals.  His everyday contact with common, grassroots citizens has been very limited.  Typically, Gov. Perry gets close to the conservatives right before the primaries but then moves away from them during the general elections.  

As the following articles indicate, Perry is a powerful Governor who lives in the insulated world of politics and big campaign donors, and he has made a sizeable fortune off his political activities. 

Not to be overlooked, Mitt Romney in comparison makes Rick Perry look like a pauper.  Romney is a multi-millionaire and is worth $190 million.   

I just cannot help but wonder how well these wealthy men can identify with those of us who are struggling daily to keep up with our bills.  How much do these wealthy politicians actually empathize with those of us who live simple lives, work hard, pay our taxes, and do our best to be good citizens.  Maybe they do understand us; maybe they don’t. 

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It turns out that Gov. Perry actually received at least $28,500 in campaign donations from Merck/Gardasil, and they gave $377,500 to the Republican Governors Association which was one of the largest backers of Perry’s own campaigns.   

These amounts are definitely more than the $5,000 that Gov. Perry told Michele Bachmann in the last debate that he had received from Merck/Gardasil.   

 HPV vaccine, Merck and Rick Perry’s money

By Sheila Krumholz and Michael Beckel, Special to CNN 

updated 7:51 AM EST, Thu September 15, 2011 

Gov. Rick Perry was criticized at Monday’s GOP debate for taking contributions from Merck, a company that stood to benefit from his 2007 executive order requiring HPV vaccinations.  

Editor’s note: Sheila Krumholz is the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group that tracks money, politics and influence in Washington. Michael Beckel is a spokesman on the center’s communications staff.  

(CNN) — On Monday night at the CNN/Tea Party Republican Debate in Tampa, Florida, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas suggested that he couldn’t be bought for a campaign contribution of $5,000. That raises the question: Is there a price at which Perry’s loyalty is for sale?  

During the debate, House Tea Party Caucus founder and fellow presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, alleged that campaign cash and connections to a major drug company played a pivotal role in Perry’s executive order in February 2007 that mandated teenaged girls in Texas be inoculated against HPV, a virus that can cause cervical cancer. (The order was overturned by the legislature two months later and did not go into effect.)  

“The company was Merck, and it was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them,” Perry responded. “I raise about $30 million. And if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.”

But Merck’s ties to Perry run much deeper than one $5,000 check.  

Merck has given $28,500 to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns since January 2001, according to a new report by Texans for Public Justice, a political watchdog group, which uses data from the Center for Responsive Politics.  

And since January 2006, Merck has given an additional $377,500 to the Republican Governors Association, which, in turn, was one of the largest backers of Perry’s own campaigns. Notably, Perry also served as the chairman of the governors association from 2007 until last month, when Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell succeeded him, so that Perry could pursue his presidential run.  

Did Bachmann’s drug lobbyist claims ring true?  

Perhaps more importantly, Perry’s friend, former chief of staff Mike Toomey, spun through the revolving door to become a lobbyist for Merck in Texas, a position he held at the time of the HPV-related executive order.  

Merck was the first company to offer an FDA-approved HPV vaccine, which it offers under the brand name Gardasil.  

In 2009, the FDA also approved the drug Cervarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, which, for its part, has given about the same amount of money as Merck to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns since 2001 and nearly four times as much as Merck to the Republican Governors Association since 2006.  

In fact, three other pharmaceutical companies have given more money to Perry than Merck and substantially more money to the Republican Governors Association than Merck.  

The absence of attention-grabbing headlines does not signify that these companies expect nothing in exchange for their investments. To the contrary, it is their fiduciary obligation to return a profit to their shareholders. Bankrolling politicians — Republican and Democrat — is just another tool to help them meet their goals and, in so doing, bolster their profits. If anything, money spent on political donations and lobbying holds more sway when it is unexamined.  

Perry’s ties to Merck have made it into the sunlight, and people are now considering his actions in light of their past ties.  

Is this an example of “crony capitalism?” That’s not for the Center for Responsive Politics to decide. It’s the public’s job to decide if the money outweighed the merits in this policy decision, but it needs to have all of the facts in hand to do so.  

Furthermore, Perry’s actions benefiting donors from the pharmaceutical industry don’t appear to stop with Merck. 

For instance, drug-maker Novartis Pharmaceuticals has also contributed handsomely to the Republican Governors Association and it has also benefited from Perry’s support. 

Novartis has donated $700,000 to the RGA since January 2006, although it has only directly donated $5,000 to Perry’s own campaign. In 2009, Perry signed a bill into law mandating meningitis vaccines for all college students, a requirement he expanded again earlier this year. Novartis was not the only pharmaceutical company to benefit from the new requirement, but its Manveo vaccine, introduced less than a year later, fit the bill. 

As for Toomey, his involvement with Perry doesn’t end with the HPV vaccine. 

Earlier this summer, lobbyist Toomey co-founded a super PAC known as Make Us Great Again to aid Perry’s presidential run. According to NBC News, Toomey’s super PAC plans to spend a staggering $55 million to help his man win the GOP nomination.  

If Make Us Great Again does spend more tens of millions to help Perry secure the Republican presidential nomination, what might Toomey and his clients be owed in return? What might the donors to Make Us Great Again be expecting a President Perry to deliver?  

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More profitable deals for Gov. Perry  

Perry supplemented wealth with profitable deals  

CHRIS TOMLINSON, Associated Press  Thursday, September 15, 2011 

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — When it comes to presidential candidates, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is a man of modest means. 

Perry’s state salary peaked at $150,000 after two decades as a public official, and he and his wife earned just over $2 million in wages between 1991 and 2009. 

Perry is worth is at least $1.1 million. His chief Republican rival for the GOP nomination in 2012, businessman Mitt Romney, is worth more than $190 million. 

Perry became a millionaire through a practice common to many other politicians over the years, by participating in profitable deals involving political friends and their businesses. He made more than $800,000 in 2007 reselling a resort development plot he had gotten from a Republican friend in the Legislature, and he cleared $38,000 in 1995 by flipping stock in a company owned by one of his top campaign donors. 

Private deals involving campaign supporters are widely criticized by government reformers as a potential form of backdoor donations or influence-buying. But they are often legal. In Perry’s case, the Securities and Exchange Commission did not act on a complaint about his stock windfall. 

“It’s a familiar pattern to see politicians do well with their own personal investments,” said Richard Hasen, an expert on money in politics at the University of California at Irvine School of Law. He noted that wealthy people often like to cut favored politicians in on financial opportunities. “That’s not to say that there is anything necessarily illegal or unethical about it, but it is how the world works.” 

Perry’s financial record portrays a politician of humble rural beginnings who built both a career and comfortable lifestyle with the help of well-heeled supporters. His competition against far richer candidates will rely heavily on his deep network of conservative donors and fundraisers.

Perry and his wife, Anita, who does consulting work for nonprofits, have earned about $2.4 million from real estate deals, stock trades, oil and gas leases and two trust funds. Mark Miner, a spokesman for the Perry campaign, said all of the governor’s financial dealings have been legal, ethical and repeatedly reviewed. 

“Everything was fully disclosed and it’s been looked at numerous times and he filed the appropriate paperwork,” Miner said. 

To Craig McDonald, the director of Texans for Public Justice, a nonpartisan group that tracks campaign money and lobbying activities in Texas, the transactions do raise ethical questions. 

“It clearly looks like he got some special favors,” McDonald said. “Perry has a lifestyle that is probably beyond even his own million-dollar finances because people want to get close for many reasons to the governor of the state of Texas.” 

Perry placed the majority of his assets in blind trusts in 1996 to avoid questions about potential conflicts of interest. The governor’s office declined to provide the current value of the trust. In September 2009, spokeswoman Allison Castle said it was worth $896,000. Perry also owns a home in College Station valued at $243,900. 

While campaigning for the White House, Perry talks about his humble upbringing in Paint Creek, a West Texas town where he worked on the family cotton farm before getting into politics. In 1991, he reported that most of his income came from his $72,000 salary as state agriculture commissioner. 

His assets grew as his political career advanced and he made a number of investments. 

The biggest single profit reported on Perry’s tax forms was the sale of land at the Horseshoe Bay luxury development outside Austin. He purchased the lot for $314,770 in 2001 and sold it for $1,138,536 in 2007. 

Perry acquired the land from his childhood friend, Troy Fraser, a Republican state senator, after Perry had sold his house in Austin. Fraser said Perry used the cash from that sale and paid the original purchase price of $300,000, plus interest, for the lot. Fraser said the governor’s legal team reviewed the deal and his press office issued a news release on the day of the sale. “It was a very straightforward real estate transaction.” 

Six years later, Perry sold the property to one of the resort developer’s business partners for a profit of $823,766; the transaction fell outside the blind trust. A bank appraiser said the lot was worth the $1.1 million sale price, but the Burnet County tax appraisal office listed the land’s value at only $600,000. 

Perry and the others involved have repeatedly denied that the price was inflated and insisted they tax appraiser’s valuation was too low. 

“It clearly looks like he got some special favors,” McDonald said. “The property was sold to him low, and a buyer was found to buy it from him at a very high price.” 

In another deal, Perry sold a 9.3-acre tract to computer magnate Michael Dell for nearly four times what he paid for it. Influential Texas lobbyist Mike Toomey represented Perry at the sale. Toomey later represented Merck and Co. in lobbying Texas to mandate an HPV vaccine for young girls to prevent cervical cancer. 

The 9.3-acre West Austin property sold for $465,000 in 1995, when Perry was agriculture commissioner, and gave the Dell property access it needed to an adjacent municipal sewage district. Toomey had served as Perry’s chief of staff and now runs the pro-Perry political action committee “Make Us Great Again.” 

Since Perry became governor, Dell and the Dell PAC have given his campaign $15,000. 

Perry established his blind trust about six months after the stock deal that led U.S. Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, to request an investigation by the SEC. 

On Jan. 13, 1995, Perry bought $38,875 worth of stock in Kinetic Concepts. The owner is Jim Leininger, a San Antonio physician, conservative activist and major Perry campaign donor. 

Perry invested an additional $35,167 in the company on Jan. 24, 1996, the same day he spoke at a luncheon that Leininger attended. Later that day, an investment firm bought 2.2 million shares of Kinetic Concepts stock, driving up its price. Perry sold his Kinetic Concepts holdings a month later for a $38,382 profit. Leininger and Perry acknowledged they spoke at the luncheon but denied discussing the stock. 

Miner said all the transactions were legal and involved no insider information. The SEC did not act on the complaint and Leininger declined comment. But the incident fueled Democratic Party complaints of what they call Perry’s crony capitalism. 

Not all of Perry’s investments have brought big returns. Perry has reported losing $308,496 from the holdings in his blind trusts from 1996 to 2009, a period that included the recent recession and stock market decline. He has requested an extension for filing his 2010 return. 

Perry also owns interests in oil and gas dating back to 1991 and has earned $34,305 in royalties. The land partnership he holds with his father, J.R. Perry Co., has earned him $110,278. 

Judging the business investments of politicians is difficult, said Hasen, who said public disclosure is the best recourse. “There could be things that cross the line, and (transparency) allows journalists, opposing candidates and the public to ferret out what might be an impermissible deal,” he said. 

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[I have posted under this Austin American-Statesman article some information about the ties between the Fertitta family and the Rick Perry family. — Donna Garner] 

Anita Perry’s salary comes indirectly from governor’s backers  

Chris Carlson /ASSOCIATED PRESS  

Gov. Rick Perry, with Anita, got $2.77 million from donors to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault from 2004 to 2009.  

By R.G. Ratcliffe 

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Updated: 11:44 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011

Published: 9:12 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011

Much of Texas first lady Anita Perry’s $60,000-a-year salary at an Austin nonprofit comes indirectly from Gov. Rick Perry’s political donors, state contractors and companies that do business with the state or have issues before the Legislature. 

Of 37 major donors to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault during Anita Perry’s tenure as a fundraiser for the group, only three have no ties to the governor or state business.

Anita Perry is paid out of the nonprofit’s pool of money that includes these contributions. The group also receives grants from state agencies, including the governor’s office.

Donating to the TAASA has become just one more legal way for those with an interest in state government to get close to Texas’ first family.

Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for the Perrys, said there is no conflict of interest in Anita Perry getting paid for raising money for the nonprofit from donors to the governor’s political account.

“The organization is nonpartisan and attracts support from a broad array of Texans and does great and important work,” Castle said Tuesday in an email. “Mrs. Perry is proud of her efforts on behalf of sexual assault survivors.”

In 2003, the group reported to the Internal Revenue Service that it had received no donations of $5,000 or more, the minimum required to be disclosed in public IRS filings.

In Anita Perry’s first year raising money for the nonprofit, major donations jumped to $100,000 — with all the money coming from state contractors, lobbyists or donors to the governor’s political account.

All told, more than 70 percent of the $634,500 in large donations given to the group between 2004 and 2009 came from businesses or individuals with ties to the governor. The group has not yet filed its formal statements with the IRS for 2010.

The nonprofit’s donors gave the governor’s political committee, Texans for Rick Perry, a total of $798,000 in contributions in the same year they gave to the nonprofit.

In total, his campaign fund received $2.77 million from the nonprofit’s donors between 2004 and 2009.

“Are the contributions being made on the merits of the nonprofit, or is that an effort to curry favor with the politician?” asked Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, an open government group based in Washington.

Allison said campaign finance laws create transparency for a politician’s donors. He said that is not always the case with nonprofits.

The nonprofit’s Deputy Director Torie Camp said she sees no conflicts with Anita Perry’s fundraising.

“We’re not providing any funding for the governor’s campaign,” Camp said. “If somebody is giving TAASA a donation in an effort to get closer to the governor, that would be a relationship that we are an unknowing benefactor of. We certainly are not providing any kind of special access.”

Criticism has been leveled in the past at politicians who raise money for charities from people with business before them.

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay raised money from corporate donors with business before Congress on behalf of an orphans’ home he founded in Sugar Land. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was criticized this year over a charity run by his wife. And the Sunlight Foundation this year released a major report on Democrats and Republicans in Congress who dun lobbyists to give to their favorite charities.

Anita Perry was pursuing her career as a registered nurse and an administrator before moving from West Texas to Austin with Rick Perry after he became a statewide officeholder. Before he became governor, she held two jobs in Austin that also raised questions about potential conflicts of interest.

She first earned $50,000 a year working on health care issues for a public relations firm owned by lobbyist Bill Miller. She later earned $66,000 a year working for the Perryman Group. Ray Perryman is an economist who produced reports to influence the Legislature while working for tobacco companies, Dell and the Texas Farm Bureau.

Anita Perry quit working when her husband became governor in December 2002. Then she took the job with the nonprofit in November 2003. She said she wanted the job because her son was in college, her daughter was heading there and the family needed the extra income.

“Like many of you, there’s some needs I need to try to help fulfill, and that’s why I’m going back,” she said then.

Executive Director Annette Burrhus-Clay said the group needed Perry to raise the profile of sexual assault issues.

“We essentially needed someone who could bring more visibility to the issue and, frankly, raise money,” Burrhas-Clay told reporters at the time.

Perry’s $60,000-a-year paycheck comes from money raised from conferences and private donations, including what the governor’s political supporters give to the group. Government grant money received by the group goes solely to support educational programs and rape crisis centers.

The Texas Association Against Sexual Abuse was formed in the early 1980s and often has relied on government grants for its operations. The group was receiving state and federal money from the Texas attorney general’s and governor’s offices even before Anita Perry started working for the organization.

Between 2004 and 2009, the group received more than $7.6 million from those two state agencies in a combination of state and federal money to support its operations. During that period, another $1.5 million came in from membership dues, donations, conference profits and fees for running educational programs with local law enforcement agencies.

The group also has been supporting the so-called pole tax — an admission fee for people who go to sexually oriented businesses that serve alcohol. Perry signed the fee into law in 2007 to raise money for competitive grants that would be given to rape crisis organizations, including the Texas Association Against Sexual Abuse. The adult entertainment industry has been fighting the fee in court, but so far the comptroller’s office has collected about $85 million.

When Perry joined the nonprofit, it was under the agreement that she would not help the agency obtain grants from the governor’s office and that she would not be paid from any grant from the governor’s office “to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”

Nevertheless, such conflicts might exist with the donors from whom Perry raises money.

Gtech, the Rhode Island company that runs the state lottery, is barred by state law from giving donations to state politicians’ political accounts to avoid the appearance of influence peddling. But it was free to give $20,000 to the nonprofit.

The donors in Perry’s first full year at the nonprofit included two major telephone companies and a highway contractor that was bidding on the governor’s proposed Trans Texas Corridor project.

Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who was seeking a state permit to dispose of low-level nuclear waste in West Texas, gave $10,000 to the nonprofit and $25,000 to Rick Perry’s campaign account.

In 2008, the Mosbacher family foundation gave the nonprofit $10,000. That same year, Robert Mosbacher and his wife, Mica, spent $26,000 to fly Anita Perry to the Republican National Convention and back on a private jet.

In 2009, lobbyists Michael Toomey and Rusty Kelley each gave $5,000 to the nonprofit. Toomey also donated $28,000 to Perry’s campaign account; Kelley gave $55,000.

Kelley’s clients that year included HoltCat, a dealer in Caterpillar earth moving equipment.

HoltCat owner Peter Holt donated $10,000 to the nonprofit and gave $62,000 to the governor’s campaign account, including $12,000 in private air travel on Nov. 14, 2009, so Rick Perry could attend Texas A&M University’s football game against the University of Oklahoma, which was described on the forms as a “campaign event.”

The previous year, Caterpillar had received an $8.5 million incentive grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund managed by Perry’s office to build a factory in Texas. Holt’s firm is a Caterpillar distributor but does not benefit directly from the company’s expansion.

“Peter does believe in this cause (the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault), and he supports it,” said Holt spokesman Howard Hicks, declining to comment further.

Not all of the nonprofit’s connections to Rick Perry show up in its tax filing.

For instance, the Perrys attended a fundraiser for the nonprofit hosted by Mica Mosbacher at the Houston home of Paige and Tilman Fertitta in 2006. Their appearance is not listed on the governor’s daily public schedule.

A newsletter for the nonprofit shows the Mosbachers and Fertittas among $25,000-and-up supporters. Because that money paid for the fundraiser, it is not reported as a donation but is included in the agency’s revenue, Camp said.

Rick Perry was seeking re-election that year. The Mosbachers donated $113,000 to his campaign fund that year; Fertitta, $10,000. Others listed in the nonprofit’s newsletter as supporters gave a combined total of $32,000 to the re-election fund.

[Please see the excerpts posted at the bottom about the Fertitta family. — Donna Garner]

In another instance, the nonprofit honored John Steen of San Antonio in October 2010 because he “orchestrated numerous successful fundraisers” for the organization. If someone hosts a fundraiser, the nonprofit’s bookkeeping accounts for the host’s expenses as revenue rather than as a donation.

Steen and his wife, Weisie, do not appear in the nonprofit’s IRS disclosure of top donors, but several San Antonio liquor dealers made donations during his tenure as Perry’s appointee to the regulatory Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Steen now is a Perry appointee to the Department of Public Safety Commission.

Perry swore Steen in as a DPS commissioner two days before the nonprofit’s luncheon where Perry spoke on Steen’s behalf.

Later that day, Steen paid $7,240 to host a San Antonio political fundraiser for Perry’s re-election campaign. Texas Ethics Commission reports indicate the fundraiser brought in at least $120,000 for Texans for Rick Perry.

Weisie Steen was the chairwoman of Perry’s 2011 inaugural committee.

John Steen, a lawyer, said Monday that he saw no connections between the nonprofit’s work and Perry’s political committee.

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Excerpts from my article written on 3.9.11 entitled “The Sicilian Mafia’s Texas Connections” 

Tilman Fertitta, a grandson of Sam Maceo’s sister, owns Landry’s Restaurants. Landry’s owns three Golden Nugget Hotels and Casinos, in Las Vegas, Laughlin, NV, and Atlantic City. Other Landry’s holdings are at http://landrysrestaurants.com/.   They include Joe’s Crab Shack, Saltgrass, and 29 other restaurants, some of which are chains. The Maceo family continues to retain interests in Fertitta enterprises, as well.  

Tilman Fertitta is also a minor partner in the Houston Texans NFL franchise; he owns the Bentley and Rolls Royce dealership in Houston; and he is chair of the Houston Police Department’s foundation. 

In 2009, Tilman Fertitta was appointed by Gov. Perry to the University of Houston System Board of Regents. 

Back in 2008, Tilman took Landry’s private, and many believe he achieved his goal by short-selling: In 2007, the stock had gone down 50% due to “mismanagement.” The question: “Was the mismanagement deliberate?”  Here is the Houston Chronicle’s take on the situation at the time: http://blogs.chron.com/lorensteffy/2008/01/landrys_ceo_mak_1.html

An excellent analysis of the short-sell of Landry’s: http://sheeats.wordpress.com/2008/01/28/landrys-goes-private/ 

Tilman’s cousins, descendants of Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta, have a long history in Las Vegas and own multiple interests there, including the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) – the mother-ship conglomerate of all fighting (bantamweights to heavyweights), which is expanding beyond the U.S. and is already in Canada, Mexico, Asia, and Europe. http://www.ufc.com/
Please go to the following link to read the multi-part piece that describes the connections and the power in Las Vegas that the Fertittas exert and how they skim and fleece even in the era of “corporate governance.” You need to go to this link in order to see the photos and documentation posted within the article itself: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/119377-the-real-story-behind-the-ufcs-royal-family 

Next, please go to this investigative piece from the Houston Press: http://www.houstonpress.com/2009-03-05/news/iis-casino-gambling-in-the-cards-for-galveston/ 

You can be sure the Fertittas and Maceos have funneled millions of dollars into Speaker of the House Joe Straus and efforts to bring gambling to Texas, one way or another, even though “The Family” is on record only for a relatively few thousand.  

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Two well-circulated stories about Rick Perry from Paint Creek, Texas: 

8.10.11, “Rick Perry:  The Paint Creek Boy Who Would Be King” — The Telegraph — 

8.19.11, “In 1950’s Paint Creek, Perry Was Center of His Universe” — Texas Tribune — 

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View from a Texan — by Donna Garner — “The Good and the Bad About Gov. Perry” — 

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