Fort Worth's CBS 11 has uncovered the secrets behind the expensive trip to the Middle East taken by Governor Rick Perry last August. The story weaves together everything that is wrong about Perry's gubernatorial regime: excessive personal spending during an $18 Billion budget shortfall, abuse of taxpayer dollars to cover security travel costs, insider business deals that imperil regulation and oversight, and cronyism with the special interests that put profits of the few above the good of all Texans.
Watch the video. It's a must-see:
Here's the gist: Rick Perry was given some sort of “humanitarian award” in Jerusalem, so he and his entire family took a first-class, privately-funded trip to the Middle East to accept the award. The award was literally created just for Perry by the owner of a natural gas company that has made billions of dollars here in Texas.
Perry was joined on the trip by “an elite cadre of 20 executives in oil, gas, bio-tech, finance, and technology.” Also keeping them company was Victor “Republicans Don't Like My Last Name” Carrillo, outgoing Railroad Commissioner, who claims he paid his own way. Carrillo is supposed to be regulating the oil and gas industry, not vacationing with the CEO's who want lax oversight. By the by, Carrillo refused to show any documentation for his expenses.
The trip was funded by corporate donations to TexasONE, a non-profit run out of the Governor's office. The purported purpose of TexasONE is to “create a public/private partnership to market Texas in a dynamic and competitive manner.” Corporate donations are tax deductible since it's a “non-profit and non-partisan program.”
Because we all know that if there are two compound adjectives that describe Rick Perry, it's “non-profit” and “non-partisan.”
TexasONE is a great deal for corporations who want to buy even more influence with the Governor — write a big check to TexasONE, write it off, then get invited on a lavish junket paid for by your own dirty money where you get to schmooze with the very lawmakers who are supposed to keep you in line.
The Bill White campaign blog has more details about TexasONE, emphasis mine:
Doug Pitcock, a $396,000 donor to Perry and CEO of Williams Brothers Construction Company, paid for the [$180,741.55 private plane costs] and had the flight marked as a charitable donation to TexasONE.
One expert told KTVT that trips like this “can be a lucrative way to conduct business. You pay for vacation and in return you may get contracts or government brokered deals worth millions of dollars.”
Immediately after the Pitcock-funded Israel trip, Williams Brothers received over $100 million in highway contracts. Williams Brothers is the biggest recipient of highway tax dollars with an estimated $9.6 billion in contracts during Perry's time as governor.
The Governor's office basically stonewalled CBS 11, but eventually the journalists uncovered the secret police, secret locations, and secret costs. Just the security costs were over $70,000 in taxpayer dollars. And for those of you who have followed Rick Perry's expensive rental mansion, you won't be surprised that his hotel bill alone was $17,000. While Rick Perry is prioritizing a reduction in state-funded travel to help our massive budget shortfall, he's racking up costs of his own on these crony-funded junkets.
In May, an appellate court ruled that the DPS costs needed to be made public. Three days later, the Lege passed a bill that took effect immediately, allowing DPS to hide the full, itemized cost of providing Perry's security detail.
This is yet another example of what we've come to expect from the failed leadership of Rick Perry. Secret junkets, secret deals conducted on secret private planes, secret taxpayer-funded expenses.
Hey Texas, are you ready for a new Governor?