Rick Perry Bends it Like Beebe on Slush Fund
Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) has a lot more in common with Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe than you might think. I am not talking about the fact that they have both endorsed Al Gore for President. The political winds in Texas shifted dramatically towards the Republicans after that, and Perry shifted with them right into the Governor's office. (Editors note: I originally said he backed Gore over Bush, but that was an error. He was Gore's Texas Chairman in the primaries. He actually switched to the GOP during that campaign and endorsed Bush in the General election) Perry endorsed former N.Y. Mayor Rudy Guiliani early in the 2008 campaign. I guess Sen. John McCain was too conservative for him.
But just because labels change does not mean that policies change. In Arkansas, we are very familiar with Governor Mike Beebe's "quick action closing fund." The idea is for the Governor to have a pool of money he can use to lure business into the state by offering them taxpayer money to locate here. In other words, taxing us all, including other businesses, so that the governor can pick winners and losers.
Well, it turns out that Rick Perry also has such a 'deal closing' fund. There it is called the TEF (Texas Enterprise Fund), but its the same thing that we have here. t is even referred to with similar names; "action fund, closing fund, slush fund." And get this, the largest recipient of the fund in Texas was Hewlett Packard. The largest recipient of the fund in Arkansas so far? Hewlett Packard!
There are a lot of dots here that I do not have time to connect, but according to this article in New American, their fund is experiencing just the kind of abuse I warned about for the one in Arkansas. Taxpayer money from the Governor's fund is going to companies who then turn around and donate a significant fraction of that money back to Governor Perry- sometimes after funneling it through the Republican Governor's Association. Money is being taken from local businesses and is used to fund a big-name competitor that opens up down the street. Please read the article for more information.
Like Beebe, Perry has fought to keep his slush fund budgeted, even in the face of government shortfalls to critical programs. I objected to the whole concept of the "quick action closing fund" when Beebe used it, and I object to it when Perry uses it. Tough talk and showy prayer meetings (didn't Jesus say that when you pray you should go to your innermost room and shut the door behind you?) present a certain image that appeals to my conservative instincts. But I don't evaluate political leaders by how charming they are, or how good their hair is, or by the image their consultants carefully craft for them. I evaluate them by their policies, as all adults should. On that basis, when Perry has the same operational view of government and business as Mike Beebe, I rate him a 'fail'.