The July 30th article highlighting Governor Perry's recent fundraising caught my attention. The information is relevant to our recent class discussions regarding our legislator's spending habits and the previous articles we've read from The Dallas Morning News about the north Texas legislators. One wonders if the legislator's financial and ethical boundaries are influenced by their governor's fund raising haul and the wide choices of its disposal allowed by Texas law?
Immediately following "sine die" Gov. Perry focused his attention on something he does very well: raising campaign cash. Perry raised more than $880,000 from June18th through June 30th for a total of $1.4 million to spend on campaigns. The high profile office of the Texas governor attracts more campaign contributions compared to other state officials, and incumbents have an additional advantage. Gov.Perry is an adept fundraiser and spender ($28 million in 2002 ).
There is much speculation as to whether the Gov. will run for an unprecedented third term in 2010. His summer fund raising suggests he may seek another term, but there are several other ways he can spend the money. Perry pays for most of his official travel with his campaign account, not his state government budget. In his fund raising letter to potential donors he announced his plans to hit the road this fall "to take the debate out of Austin and to the people of Texas." So he'll be traveling and using the bully pulpit to spread his message prior to the next regular session ( Perry's last one) in 2009.
Like-minded Republicans might receive campaign donations from the Governor as they seek election in 2008. This would help cement Perry's power base in office and beyond. If Perry doesn't run again, he has up to six years to spend the money from his campaign fund. Since the money was raised for a state campaign, it can't be diverted to a federal campaign or party, so he would not be able to use that money to run for President. There are no limits on the size of contributions for non-judicial state campaigns, so Perry could make a sizable donation to his choice as his successor. Which would mean that person would owe him, and so on. The political backscratching seems endless.
Other options for the money include returning it to the donors; giving it to charities or a university (any guesses which one?); or handing it over to the state treasury. Perry could also donate to legislators' campaigns to pave the way for himself as a Capitol lobbyist. Even as a lobbyist, he would still have the six year window to maintain the campaign money. What would be a conflict of interest in the private sector seems to be "business as usual" in Texas politics.
In the meantime, the money means power, which prevents Perry from being viewed as a lame duck. It's a reminder that he's got time left on his term and a "signal to other Republicans that he's still a player."