Texas governor’s fundraising during session is too close to the line

Posted Monday, May. 06, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Gov. Rick Perry’s fundraising capabilities are undeniable. Being the longest-serving governor in state history and having $6 million in his campaign account when it’s at least a year before his next campaign is enough evidence of that.

So why would Perry do something that’s perilously close if not over the line for fundraising deemed improper under state law?

There’s room to raise an eyebrow or two. State law says legislators and the governor shouldn’t raise money during the period starting 30 days before a legislative session and continuing until 20 days after the session, the last day the governor can veto bills. Better not to create the impression that legislation is being bought or sold.

Last week, longtime Perry fundraiser Katie Herries contacted major Republican donors to set up times for Perry to call them today, according to a report from The Dallas Morning News.

The governor’s office said Herries works for TexasOne, a nonprofit set up by the governor and run by a board of directors that he names. TexasOne finances economic development efforts, including Perry’s recent highly publicized business recruiting trips to California and Illinois.

The Legislature will be in session through May 27, and the veto period lasts through June 16. Where is the line between what Perry can and can’t do on fundraising in the meantime?

The state election code says he “may not knowingly accept a political contribution” during the fundraising blackout dates. It defines “political contribution” as a donation to his campaign or an “officeholder” account.

An officeholder account defrays expenses “incurred by the officeholder in performing a duty or engaging in an activity in connection with the office.”

TexasOne’s website says Perry launched the program in 2003 under an existing office of the governor’s Economic Development & Tourism division.

Let’s say it’s just a happy coincidence for Perry that his TexasOne trips help build his national profile in case he wants to run for president in 2016, like he did so poorly last year.

The question is, how much separation is there between the governor’s office itself and TexasOne, an organization he created and controls by his ability to name its board? The answer is, not much.

Perry should hold off on fundraising until after June 16.

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