Texas Governor Rick Perry’s campaign coffers and the Republican Governors Association that he once headed collected $7 million from companies such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and General Electric Co. that received taxpayer subsidies from a state job-creation fund, a new report says.
Texans for Public Justice, an Austin-based watchdog group, found that 43 companies receiving a total of $333 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund contributed $7 million to various Perry campaigns, the RGA, or both, from January 2001 for the campaign and January 2006 for the association until July 2011.
Perry served as chairman of the RGA in 2008 and again in 2011 until he declared his presidential candidacy in August. The RGA has given $4 million to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns, more than any other donor, according to TPJ. Companies gave directly to the RGA, allowed under federal law, and supported Perry through employee-funded political action committees.
The findings provide the latest examples of the relationship between Perry, 61, a Republican candidate for president, and his campaign donors, Texans for Public Justice says.
“Rick Perry is a pay-to-play governor,” said Craig McDonald, the group’s director. “He takes in big contributions and he gives out taxpayer money.”
“Funds are awarded on the merits of the projects, including job creation,” said Katherine Cesinger, a Perry campaign spokeswoman. The enterprise fund “is key to Texas’s ability to successfully compete with other states economically,” she said. She declined to comment on the report because she hasn’t seen it.
As governor, Perry oversees the Texas Enterprise Fund and signs off on awards with the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the state’s House of Representatives.
Asked during the Oct. 11 Bloomberg-Washington Post debate in Hanover, New Hampshire, about the taxpayer-funded programs, he said most of the money spent on job creation didn’t go to campaign donors, and that the Texas legislature looks at the program every two years.
Those programs “are part of the reason that Texas has led the nation in the creation of jobs,” Perry said. “You have to be able to give a climate where people know they can risk their capital and have a chance to have a return on that investment.”
The enterprise fund makes grants to businesses that agree, in turn, to create a specific number of jobs. Only 11 of 50 recipients met their targets for creating jobs by 2009, TPJ said in a separate report.
Hewlett-Packard and its employees gave a total of $720,251 to Perry from January 2001 and the RGA from January 2006 through July 2011, more than any other recipient of Texas Enterprise Fund money, TPJ reported. HP received $5 million to create 420 jobs, though both sides later agreed to end the contract because the company couldn’t meet the job target, TPJ said. The gover2 gnor’s office said it got the money back, plus $210,847 in penalties, TPJ said in another report.
Rachel Decker, a spokeswoman for Palo Alto, California-based HP, said she hadn’t seen the report and couldn’t comment.
GE, second with $640,700 in campaign donations to Perry from employees and the RGA in corporate cash, received $4.2 million this year to create 775 jobs, TPJ said.
“The report is misleading,” said Andrew Williams, a spokesman for Stamford, Connecticut-based GE. The company “donates to both the Democratic and Republican governors associations annually on a nearly equal basis regardless of who is chairing either association.”
In 2010, GE gave $205,900 to the RGA and $130,000 to the Democratic Governors Association, Internal Revenue Service records show.
The same records show that in 2010, HP gave $151,800 to the RGA and $150,054 to the DGA.
Elected lieutenant governor in 1998, Perry became Texas’s chief executive in December 2000 after George W. Bush resigned the job before his inauguration as president. Perry won election to the post in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006 and 2010.
During Perry’s governorship, other major donors have also benefited from his actions, according to other reports.
Perry ordered preteen girls to be vaccinated against a virus that causes cervical cancer; the vaccine maker, Whitehouse Station, New Jersey-based Merck & Co. and its employees gave more than $520,000 to Perry and the RGA.
Harold Simmons, Perry’s third-biggest lifetime donor at $1.1 million and a $1 million contributor to the RGA, received a permit to build a radioactive waste dump over the objections of some Texas Commission on Environmental Quality staff members.
The governor endorsed AT&T Inc.’s purchase of T-Mobile USA Inc., saying in a May 25 letter to the Federal Communications Commission that government approval would be a signal that the U.S. was “serious about meeting the communication and technology needs” of all Americans. On June 16, Dallas-based AT&T contributed $250,000 to the Perry-led RGA. Claudia Jones, a spokeswoman for AT&T, declined to comment.
The U.S. Justice Department sued Aug 31 to block the merger, saying it would “substantially” reduce competition.