Skip to comments.Perry’s Patronage Problem : Donors have reaped benefits, but there’s a lot of transparency in Texas
Posted on 08/23/2011 7:13:40 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Since his announcement for the presidency, there have been a slew of articles, left, right, and center, decrying Rick Perrys cronyism his supposed habit of rewarding his biggest donors with patronage positions or valuable state contracts. So is the criticism fair?
Perry is a legendary fundraiser, and his preferred method is sticking with the big game. He has raised $37 million over the last decade from just 150 people, per the Los Angeles Times. Expand the list to the top 200 or so donors and you get $51 million, per The Nation. Thats already more than the total amount raised by George W. Bush in two campaigns as Texas governor, and just over half of Perrys total haul of $101 million since his first campaign.
Accumulating all this cash has certainly left the governor with favors to return, and return them he has, say critics. The case most often cited is that of billionaire Harold Simmons, who donated a total of $1.12 million to Perry and in turn secured permission to build a radioactive disposal site in west Texas. Not only did Simmons successfully lobby to have state law changed so that a private company such as his could obtain the requisite license, he also made sure the law would allow the granting of only one such license. Moreover, the license itself was approved by the Perry-appointed commissioners of the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality, and the review process was overseen by the executive director they hired: one Glenn Shankle, who within six months of signing off on the waste facility left TCEQ and secured a lobbying contract worth up to $150,000 in Simmonss outfit.
As Glenn Davis a TCEQ staffer who resigned in protest over what he claimed were irregularities in the approval process put it in an interview with The Texas Observer, Even the Mafia was more cirucmspect than this.
And theres more where Simmons came from. Take B. J. Red McCombs, who gave Perry $400,000, and received $25 million in subsidies to build a Formula One racetrack near Austin. Or James Dannenbaum, who gave more than $320,000 to Perry, and in turn received multiple transportation contracts from the state. Or the more than half of Perry-appointed university regents who have donated money to his campaign. Or the Texas Enterprise Fund, which awarded millions in grants to corporate donors (to little avail, according to critics). And on it goes.
But even as the headlines can and should remain a significant factor as conservative opinion-makers and the primary electorate vet Perry for his presidential run, a look at the institutional and political context of Perrys governorship reveals that there may be less to the Perry-as-crony-capitalist story than meets the eye. Here are five reasons why:
1. The Texas governor is constitutionally weak, sharing authority with a number of other statewide elected officials, including the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller, and various commissioners. Perrys personality, his bully pulpit, and his long tenure in office (Texas has no term limits) have helped turn him into the strongest weak governor in America, and so too have the appointments Perry makes to the approximately 200 boards, commissions, and agencies he oversees within the state appointments that have come to be used as strategic leverage for advancing the governors policy agenda.
Its a legitimate use of power, says Joshua Trevino, a vice president at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), a free-market 501(c)(3) think tank based in Austin. Theres nothing [Perry] is vested with in terms of patronage power or appointment power that would be out of place in the federal government itself. Or indeed in many other states. And as with governors in many other states . . .
2. Perrys decisions are constrained. Cash grants from controversial programs like the Texas Enterprise Fund require approval of the independently elected lieutenant governor and speaker of the house, not just the governor. Most executive appointments require approval of two-thirds of the states senate, and informally many require senatorial courtesy the approval of the senator from the appointees home district. As such, the vast majority of Perrys appointments require a buy-in from Democrats. Furthermore, commissioners and other appointees serve staggered terms, and Texas governors are proscribed from replacing their predecessors picks. Then again . . .
3. Perry has been around so long that virtually every appointed official in the state was appointed by him. Even commissioners who serve six-year terms, even commissioners who were originally appointed by George W. Bush or Ann Richards, have been re-appointed by Perry. This both ups the sample size of appointments for critics to scrutinize and amplifies the chance that Perrys friends and benefactors will be appointed.
You typically dont appoint to positions of trust your opponents. That usually doesnt happen, chuckles Michael Quinn Sullivan, president of the Empower Texans Foundation and a major figure in conservative circles. [Governors] usually appoint successful citizens who they are friends with, and that often translates to people who contributed to their campaigns. Which leads us to the fact that . . .
4. Perry operates in the light of day. True, there are no limits on individual contributions to candidates in Texas, but the state has long banned corporate donations, and records for individual donors are easily obtained (which is surely part of the reason that so many stories have been written on Perrys donors). The state maintains an exhaustive electronic database of finance and lobbying activities, and it even had a delinquent-filers list. All of which is to say that . . .
5. Perry is not (yet) Rod Blagojevich. Conspicuously missing from the Perry stories is any suggestion that Perry himself has done anything unlawful. If this were a real charge, as Sullivan puts it, Mr. Democratic Strategist Who Hates Rick Perry would take his case to the FBI and not the Washington Post. All the commissioners Perry appointed and all the commissions that have awarded money to Perry donors have conducted their business in accordance with the states open-records laws.
Nor is there a sense among free-market Texans that Perry let quid pro quo dominate his economic policies to the detriment of the state.
Part of the focus on Perrys alleged cronyism may be due to the increased focus among the conservative electorate on the distinction between free-market policies and corporatist policies. But speaking for TPPF, Trevino says, We have found the governor to be an ally on [free-market] issues, and nothing I have seen in the last week has changed my opinion on that.
Even Sullivan, who affirms his groups long-held opposition to corporate giveaways like the Texas Enterprise Fund, says that even though he cant stand them, we seem to be running those stupid things better than other states.
Daniel Foster is news editor of National Review Online.
The guy is a used car salesman.
You can keep posting this drivel all day long every day and it isn’t going to stop Perry from being the next President.
That’s what I found so troubling about the Gardisil incident.
- He can be bought
- He is willing to subvert the elected legislature and throw my rights under the bus in order to deliver the payoff.
Goverment funded private ventures it’s only bad when a Democrat does.
Rick Perry will do more to ruin the image of Christians and move the Republican base to the left than any other candidate before him if he gets elected.
RE: You can keep posting this drivel all day long every day and it isnt going to stop Perry from being the next President.
I am posting this for discussion. We need to know the background of whoever is going to be our next President regardless of who he/she is.
Eternal Vigilance my friend — that is the price of liberty.
No, a (successful) used car salesman makes a profit. Rick uses taxpayer money to subsidize losses. Rick is a hustler with other people's money.
If that’s your goal, why are you not posting negative articles about any of the other candidates?
One might start thinking you don’t really see any of the other candidates as a threat, so there is no need in attacking them...
I’d sure like to know who his campaign team consists of.
RE: If thats your goal, why are you not posting negative articles about any of the other candidates?
You might want to check the archives and my posts about Michele Bachmann.
You seem to be saying that we should only post positive things about candidates and IGNORE anything negative about them. Why is that?
What I find interesting about this “story” is that Houston homebuildr Bob Perry is not mentioned.......
If you can find anything about Mitt Romney, by all means, please post it for all to see. We’d all like to see the product before we buy it.
I’m not seeing this as a particularly negative column. Quite the opposite. In a nutshell the column states that Perry appoints people he knows and trust to administer their individual departments or agencies. He does it out in the open. Sounds like smart management to me which is one of the major reasons Texas is in much better financial shape than most other states.
If thats your goal, why are you not posting negative articles about any of the other candidates?
One might start thinking you dont really see any of the other candidates as a threat, so there is no need in attacking them...
You got that right.
Texas jobs are being taken by ILLEGALS.......the very same border-violators Perry wants to gift with amnesty. The US needs a President who will CUT spending, and STOP illegal immigration....... not more business as usual.
THIS DOES NOT BODE WELL Anyone who dares shine the light of truth on Perry results in being labeled pro-obama.........called a troll and a "Paultard."
MORE PROBLEMS Perrys coziness with the Chinese and foreign investors exposes a huge weakness in his right flankillegal immigration and open borders.
Perry's ill-conceived "Trans Texas Corridor" (wherein he used eminent domain to take land from Texans for foreigners) has been linked to the global plan to economically integrate North America, with the eventual goal of a common security perimeter modeled after the European Union.
Perry ushered in in-state tuition for illegals and has objected to Arizona-style immigration laws in Texas.
THE REALLY BAD NEWS--resurrecting the neocons Perry has been endorsed by neocon guru (Fox talking head), Bill Kristol.
Yikes. Neocons and Perry--what could possibly go wrong? (/snix). A-n-o-t-h-e-r several trillion tax dollars into Mideast hellholes?
Ah, it was only yesterday (before 2010 Midterms) that Billy Kristol was humming the neocon theme song, "The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism." KRISTOL WROTE: The art of government is to translate the liberal or radical impulse into enduring institutions, which in a constitutional republic means that neocons want socialist ends to be achieved with conservative means.
So how did Rick Perry and the neocons meet, and live happily ever after?
Remember when Rick endorsed Rooty Giuliani?
Fox talker Billy Kristol's father----neocon Irving Kristol (now deceased)----was Giuliani's "foreign policy advisor."
As Irving famously wrote: "The historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism is.....to convert the Republican Party and American conservatism in general, against their respective wills, into a new kind of conservative politics suitable to governing a modern democracy."
Neocons favorite sports: (1) kicking so/con Repubs to the curb, (2) religious cleansing of the Repub party.
When I see the justifications the Perry followers give I understand clearly who this slide to the left happens.
I was going to say essentially the same thing then I read your post. You said it so much better than I would have however. :-)
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