Rick & the RGA | Texas Takeover | A Bang for Their Buck

Bob Perry, as we and other news outlets reported, had contributed $11.5 million to the RGA, much of which was earmarked to be passed through to Rick Perry. After we went to press with our previous issue, a Bob Perry spokesperson told the Houston Chronicle that Bob Perry had been contributing to the RGA long before Gov. Perry became involved with the organization.

That claim doesn’t square with the facts.

Using data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, TPJ worked through Bob Perry’s RGA contributions and found that prior to 2006, the year Rick Perry became involved with the governors’ association, Bob Perry had contributed $10,000. And that the contribution arrived in a check drawn on the account of Perry Homes.

In 2006, Bob Perry personally contributed $2 million to the RGA and subsequently provided the organization with $9.5 million, making him its largest individual contributor.

Between 2006 and 2011, the RGA served as a scrim behind which Bob Perry and Rick Perry could work, as the home builder gave the organization $11.5 million and the RGA gave the Texas governor $4 million.

During the same period, the Houston home builder, a corporate-right extremist even by Texas standards, directly contributed $2,531,799 to Gov. Perry. The RGA contributions served to conceal that Bob Perry was taking an equity position in Rick Perry.

The extent of Bob Perry’s investment in Gov. Perry comes into sharper focus in a TPJ chart of crossover donors to both the RGA and Rick Perry. Bob Perry is No. 1, with a combined $13,971,799 in contributions to Gov. Perry and the RGA. There is an $11 million drop from first to second place on the list: Contran Corporation, a holding company owned by Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, which contributed $1,875,000 to the RGA and $1,120,000 to Gov. Perry.

Texas Takeover—TPJ also ran the numbers on crossover donors, who contributed a total of $82 million to Rick Perry and the RGA from 2006 through Perry’s resignation as RGA president in 2011. By contributing to the RGA, corporate donors circumvent Texas state law that prohibits corporate and union contributions to candidates running for public office in Texas.

Forty-one big crossover donors from Texas contributed almost $26.8 million to the RGA from 2002 through 2011. Texas donors, however, gave the RGA only $2.5 million in the three years preceding Perry’s involvement beginning in 2006. Their interest increased dramatically once Rick Perry got involved with the organization. From 2006 through 2011, the Texans gave the RGA $24.3 million.

A Bang for their Buck—Texans for Public Justice also describes the return that some Perry supporters received for investing in the governor. Harold Simmons’s Contran Corp. owns Waste Control Specialists, which successfully lobbied the Texas Legislature in 2003 to create a private monopoly franchise for a low-level nuclear waste dump.

After prevailing in the Legislature, Waste Control had to apply for licenses with state agencies responsible for protecting public health and the environment. In 2009, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality board, all of whom were Perry appointees, ignored recommendations of agency staff and awarded a license to Waste Control Specialists. Three staff members resigned in protest.

Two years later, Simmons got an even larger return on his investment. In 2011, a Perry-appointed majority on the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Commission opened the dump to 36 other states. The original compact included only Texas and Vermont. Before the commission voted, Reuters reported that Perry tried to overcome one commissioner’s opposition by offering him a position as a university regent. The commissioner refused, and cast one of two votes against opening the dump to 36 states.