Day 45 of Rick Perry's Refusal to Debate: “Let's Call That What It Is. CRAP.”

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This week's Texas Tribune weekly Tribcast featured harsh words from Tribune CEO Evan Smith, who is not buying Perry's refusal to debate.

Earlier this week, Bill White released his tax returns for all the year's in which he was Mayor. In doing so, he did exactly what Rick Perry's campaign team had asked for. As Ross Ramsey pointed out during the roundtable discussion posted on the Tribune's website, the initial press release from the Perry campaign asked for White to release his tax returns during his six year's as Mayor.

From the Rick Perry campaign's very first release about Bill White's taxes, dated March 9:

“Bill White has a tax problem – he won’t rule out raising taxes for Texans and refuses to release his own tax returns. His opposition to transparency raises questions about what he is afraid of and what he is hiding regarding his own personal fortune and how he may have profited during his six years as Houston’s mayor.”

Evan Smith, knowing that the Perry team — in Smith's words — had engaged “in a classic set the bar, meet the bar, move the bar maneuver” that should not be allowed. As transcribed from the Tribcast:

EVAN: Let's call that what it is: CRAP. The Perry campaign, if the Perry campaign thinks it will get away with not allowing a debate to occur between him and the major party candidate for Governor over what they perceive to be an insufficient release of the Mayor's tax returns it is, pure and simple, crap. It should be called crap by everybody, and no one should allow the Perry campaign to get away with it.

Rick Perry's panicky campaign team is trying to change the nature of the game. Now they've released a demonstrably false attack on White, claiming he profitted from an investment in BTEC while he was Mayor. As Dave Mann of the Texas Observer wrote on Tuesday, in a post titled, “A Bill White Scandal?

This would seem a looming scandal for White. The insinuation is clear enough: he personally profited from disaster recovery that he oversaw as mayor. But that doesn't seem to be the case. There are some important mitigating details:

1. White had no financial ties to BTEC Turbines at the time the company received its contract. Although he had served on the board previously, he wasn’t invested at the time.

2. White spokesperson Katy Bacon said White’s investment in BTEC came more than a year later and was unrelated to the company’s hurricane recovery work. She said investors who were looking to purchase BTEC called White in 2006 to ask his opinion on the company. The then-mayor said it was an excellent company—one he would personally invest in. In fact, the investment group later asked him to do just that.

3. And, finally, it seems unlikely that White’s $556,000 profit stemmed from BTEC”s work on Hurricane Rita. It’s doubtful a temporary emergency contract for mobile generators could have provided enough money to BTEC to enrich a single investor. (Again, it’s not clear how much money—if any—BTEC earned from the emergency contract. Calls to the company for comment weren’t returned this afternoon.)

The Bill White campaign has produced a timeline of the events, which you can see on their website.

While Rick Perry and his campaign team continue to spread lies and send their anonymous bloggers and “we'll-pay-you-to-like-us” supporters lies about Bill White and BTEC, it's important to remember that facts matter. Perry's team, in just the last two days, have been rated “Pants on Fire” liars about their claims on Bill White and cap-and-trade, as well as “False” for their claims that the $18 billion budget deficit estimate came out of the air.

For a full transcript of this section of the Tribcast, check below the fold. In the meantime, today's question that Rick Perry refuses to answer is pretty simple:

  • Rick Perry — why are you scared to debate Bill White?

Previously on BOR:

EVAN: I'm fascinated by this, we've talked about it I feel every single week since there's been a campaign: what the White campaign is going to do about his tax returns, and how the Perry campaign was just beating them about the head and face until they released them. I guess the Perry people can claim a scalp in that their pressure resulted in White's campaign releasing his tax returns, I can't imagine that they can argue that the pressure didn't have an impact, right?

ROSS: No! I mean, why hold them if you're going to release them. I think the first Perry press release was around March 9, March 8, somewhere in there, and it said, 'You need to release your tax returns for the period during which you were Mayor, so that people can see what you were doing while you were in public office.' So they release the tax returns for the period in which he was mayor, and the Perry campaign says, “well, if you notice a lot of our other press releases, we said for your other public service, too.”

EVAN: And that was yesterday. So initially what the White campaign did was respond by releasing a summary of his finances, and I think they released his tax returns for the years in which he was a candidate for statewide office, they said, to match what the Governor had done, they said. Which was really 2009, basically. What the Perry campaign had wanted was tax returns for the years prior, when White was serving as Mayor. In a classic set the bar, meet the bar, move the bar maneuver, Mark Miner in the Perry campaign says, “Oh, well actually we want you to go back to when you were Texas Democratic Party Chair. We want to go back to when you were in business…

ROSS: And the Energy Secretary

EVAN: We want everything…

BEN: When you were in college and using your E-Z form…

EVAN: I guess they're not asking for the time when he was in the private sector. They're simply asking for the times in which he served in the public sector in some capacity.

ROSS: Well, he was in the private sector when he was Texas Democratic Party chair.

EVAN: All right, so they basically want his tax returns.

ROSS: They want to find stuff. It's like getting help for your opposition research. It's like, 'You know, our opposition researchers can't find your tax returns, can you please send them to us.”

EVAN: And already, we had one instance of a story that was generated off the tax returns that is not, at least perceived, not flatterning to the White campaign. That's Jay Root of the Associated Press who wrote a story today saying, essentially, Bill White had an investment in a company that was a Hurricane Rita vendor. And that as a consequence of that, something was untorrid. The Perry campaign has jumped on that, there's some question about the timing of the investment…[cross-talk]…but it illustrates to me the issue, the larger issue, which is there is no good end to this for the White campaign. If the White campaign thought they were going to release tax returns, and that the Perry campaign was going to go, 'OK, on to the next thing,' no.

ELISE: And meanwhile, the debates are being held hostage here. Perry is saying that, essentially, he will not debate White, until — at first it was until he released his tax returns back to '04, now it's that until he releases his tax returns into the 90's…

EVAN: Let's call that what it is: CRAP. The Perry campaign, if the Perry campaign thinks it will get away with not allowing a debate to occur between him and the major party candidate for Governor over what they perceive to be an insufficient release of the Mayor's tax returns it is, pure and simple, crap. It should be called crap by everybody, and no one should allow the Perry campaign to get away with it.

BEN: They should allow the Bill White power hour on BELO stations all across the state and just let him go and talk for an hour.

EVAN: But, and I agree the debate issue has been tied to this thing, but the White campaign completely mishandled the tax return thing, and there is no good end for them now, because if they thought that by releasing their tax returns ninety days in they were going to shut the subject off, clearly that's not the case.

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About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.

1 Comment

  1. He still had ties….
    White had no financial ties to BTEC Turbines at the time the company received its contract. Although he had served on the board previously, he wasn't invested at the time.

    _______________________

    He still had ties to the company. Not everyone is so stupid as to believe Bill White pulled BTEC out of the Yellow Pages.    

    The Texas Democratic Party should have stuck with Chris Bell. He would have done better than Bill White will.

    Did the Perry campaign get into his HCAD valuation? The one that is about half of the valuation of his neighbors?

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