Texas Gov. Rick Perry likes to pretend that he’s leading an insurgent battle against a tyrannical federal government, even going so far as to flirt with secessionists. Now the Republican presidential candidate is also trying to persuade voters that he wants to crack down on elected officials who use their office and political connections for financial gain. He will likely regret bringing up the subject.
A new ad for Perry’s presidential campaign insists that officeholders who use “insider knowledge to profit in the stock market” should be thrown in jail. But the Texas Tribune reports that longtime observers of the governor say his career “is peppered with instances in which his personal and political relationships became entangled in ways that helped him profit financially.”
Those deals included a real estate bargain involving a Republican state senator and friend, Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay. Various news reports indicate that the governor bought some land from Fraser in the lakeside Horseshoe Bay resort (west of Austin) at significantly less than the official appraised value and later sold it for a huge profit. Here’s how the Dallas Morning News described the deal:
“The Dallas Morning News found evidence that Perry’s investment was enhanced by a series of professional courtesies and personal favors from friends, campaign donors and the head of a Texas family with a rich history of political power-brokering.
Together they may have enriched Perry by almost $500,000, according to an independent real estate appraisal commissioned by The News.”
While serving as agriculture commissioner in the 1990s, Perry also benefited from a sweet stock deal involving Kinetic Concepts Inc., a health technology company owned by San Antonio businessman James Leininger. Leininger, as a 2006 report from the TFN Education Fund explained, is the religious right’s sugar daddy in Texas. He has poured millions of dollars into the campaigns of far-right candidates and the bank accounts of assorted right-wing pressure groups. He also has been one of Perry’s biggest campaign donors. In fact, a remarkable $1.1 million loan from Leininger in the last week’s of the 1998 election campaign helped Perry narrowly win his race for lieutenant governor. And that allowed him to become governor when Gov. George W. Bush moved on to the White House after the 2000 presidential election.
Back in 1996, it turns out, Perry bought 2,800 shares of Kinetic Concepts stock after a same-day conversation with Leininger at an event for a Leininger-founded organization. Later that day, an investor group bought 2.2 million shares in the company, which suddenly made Perry’s stock even more valuable. Perry denied that he and Leininger had discussed the stock deal beforehand. In any event, Perry sold his stock in the company for a substantial profit just a month later.
Leininger has continued to be a prominent supporter of Perry’s political career. In fact, Leininger hosted a meeting between Gov. Perry and prominent religious-right leaders at his Hill Country ranch last August, just as the Perry presidential campaign was getting started. Michelle Goldberg also has more on the Perry-Leininger relationship.
So when Gov. Perry says he wants to be tough on officeholders who use their political connections to get rich, it might be fair to ask whether he has been one of those officeholders. After nearly three decades in public office, he sure has done pretty well for himself financially.