Questions continue about Perry's campaign finances

Posted Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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Perry fundraising, by the numbers

$17.2 million: Amount Perry's presidential campaign reported raising as of Sept. 30

$4 million: Expenditures reported by Make Us Great Again, a Super PAC that supported Perry's presidential campaign

$103 million: Amount Texans for Rick Perry has raised since 2001

$2.5 million: Amount Texans for Rick Perry reported on hand as of Dec. 31

Source: Federal Election Commission, opensecrets.org; Texas Ethics Commission

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Even with his White House bid now a historical footnote, Gov. Rick Perry's campaign will still make news later this month when it submits a campaign finance report for the last three months of 2011.

The report will provide a window into whether Perry's history as a stellar fundraiser was hampered from multiple stumbles on the national stage.

Already, the question of how he intends to use any remaining funds has already become a political issue.

Perry's presidential campaign made a splash in October when it announced raising more than $17 million between June and September, more than his competitors for the GOP nomination. The total was even more impressive considering Perry's campaign was only active for 42 days, while other candidates had been hunting donations for the full three-month period.

Now that his campaign is over, Perry has a few options with what to do with leftover cash in his federal campaign account. He can keep the account open in case he decides to run for president again in the future, which he has not ruled out. He can also donate the money to his state PAC, Texans for Rick Perry, according to the Texas Ethics Commission.

Perry's office did not respond to an inquiry regarding whether Perry had decided what he would do with any money leftover in his federal campaign account.

Democrats are calling on Perry to reimburse the state for taxpayer money that was spent to cover his security detail while campaigning around the country. The Texas Department of Public Safety has long been tasked with providing a security detail for the governor and his family. The department's costs for out-of-state trips have soared since Perry began his presidential campaign, according to news reports.

Just in September, the department spent $397,714 to protect Perry and his wife, Anita over the course of 30 out-of-state trips, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Security costs

In a letter she sent to Perry Monday, state Rep. Jessica Farrar, D-Houston, asked Perry to reimburse the state to the tune of $2.6 million for his security detail. The figure came from Progress Texas, an Austin-based Democratic group that made the estimate based on how much Perry's security detail reportedly cost in September.

Farrar said paying back the state would be the right thing for Perry to do given recent budget cuts.

"If he's asking taxpayers to tighten their belts, the least he can do is lead the way by example," Farrar said.

Josh Havens, a spokesman for the Governor's office, said critics are trying to blame Perry for a long-standing state policy.

"Not a dime of the governor's political travel was borne by Texas taxpayers," Havens said. "Gov. Perry is governor no matter where he goes and the Department of Public Safety has a policy of providing security for governors and their families everywhere they travel, as they have back several administrations. These policies are determined by DPS and not the governor's office."

When then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush ran for president, the state's tab for security for Bush and his family also climbed, costing the state four times more than normal for some months. The final tally was about $3.9 million, according to figures released by DPS at the time. Even then, Democrats called on the governor to defray the costs with campaign cash.

Asked if she thought the law needed to be changed regarding security costs for state officials running for higher office, Farrar said it sounded like a "great idea."

"We'll see how it goes with our discussions with the Governor's office but that might be necessary," she said.

Farrar also called on Perry to refund the state $92,376 Perry received last year from his pension which he started collecting while still drawing a salary as governor. Perry's years in public service allowed him to tap his retirement fund under state law.

While his presidential campaign has reportedly said it spent most of its remaining money before Perry suspended his bid, Farrar predicted Perry would have no trouble drawing more donations if needed.

"He's shown he can raise funds. He should have had his political supporters paying the tab the whole time," Farrar said.

Over the last decade, Perry has received over $103 million in donations to his gubernatorial account, campaign records show.

At the end of 2011, Perry's state PAC raised reported $2.5 million on hand.

Super PAC

Along with the money Perry raised directly for his national run, a separate super PAC also backed Perry's bid. Make Us Great Again reported $4 million in expenditures, about 12 percent of the $34 million spent by Super PACS so far in this election cycle, according to data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics. Only Super PACs supporting Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have spent more.

Though Perry has endorsed Gingrich, Make Us Great Again isn't following suit. The group is shutting down but will still have to file a campaign finance report outlining its activity at the end of the month.

Harvey Kronberg, the editor of The Quorum Report, an Austin-based political site, doesn't expect Perry will face much fallout from the security costs, but said it could feed into an "absence of shared sacrifice" perception when paired with other criticisms such as expenses related to a rental Mansion Perry has lived in while the Governor's Mansion is restored.

"The combination of the mansion, the security and the early retirement while working all kind of adds up to something that doesn't seem right...and perception is reality in politics," Kronberg said.

Aman Batheja, 817-390-7695

Twitter: @amanbatheja

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