The Texas Ethic Commission is investigating Governor Perry's trip to the Bahamas to discuss school finance reform with various well-heeled contributors and anti-tax ideologues.
At issue is the money Perry used to pay for himself, wife Anita and several top staffers. Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt on Wednesday declined to say how much was spent but noted that it will be listed on Perry's next finance report.
The group traveled by private plane to the Abaco Islands for Presidents Day weekend. The governor's office could not immediately say who owned it.
The trip is under fire from Judicial Watch, a government watchdog group that filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission.
"Governor Perry's long weekend trip outside the U.S., with campaign contributors and state employees, amounts to a personal tropical island vacation, unrelated to any legitimate campaign event," Judicial Watch said in its complaint.
[Perry spokeswoman Kathy] Walt said a response has been filed, but it would not be released. Under state law, such filings cannot be disclosed by the Ethics Commission, but parties involved in a case are not bound by that confidentiality requirement.
Walt said Wednesday that the investigation would absolve Perry of any wrongdoing.
"I think it will show exactly what we have said all along: The primary purpose (of the trip) was to discuss policy and political issues," Walt said.
But Russell Verney, Judicial Watch's southwestern director, thinks otherwise.
"Traveling to the Bahamas to have a conversation with somebody is an inappropriate use of campaign contributions," Verney said Wednesday. "If the entire population of Houston was in the Bahamas that weekend, perhaps it's worth going there to campaign. Beyond that, it's a vacation trip."
Verney, a former adviser to Ross Perot, said his organization is nonpartisan and has no political ax to grind with Perry.
Walt declined to release a detailed account of the trip. She did say Perry went scuba diving.
"There were substantial discussions daily," Walt said.
In 1998, the commission gave a resounding thumbs-down to an officeholder who wanted to use political money for he and his family to attend public events to foster an image as a family-values kind of guy.
"To the overwhelming majority of my constituents, it is critically important that I be perceived to be a 'family man' with a close-knit family who, with his family, goes to many public events," the unidentified requestor argued.
Forget it, the commission said in its opinion.
"Presumably a spouse or parent would be engaged in recreational activities with family members regardless of whether he or she was running for office," the opinion said.
By the way, in the event that TEC finds Perry guilty, his campaign will be fined the cost of the trip. I'm sure he's quaking in his penny loafers.Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 22, 2004 to Scandalized! | TrackBack