Friday, October 06, 2006

'Notes from Conspiracy HQ': Gov. Perry's panicked campaign cries "Swiftboat!"

Strayhorn camp lends support to Perry-bashing groups

Comptroller says she's proud to have groups' support.

October 06, 2006

By Jason Embry
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2006

Carole Keeton Strayhorn's campaign sent $25,000 in the last year to two groups that are no friends of Gov. Rick Perry, including an anti-toll-road committee that weighs in on Austin-area races, the governor's campaign said Thursday.

Guilty as charged, Strayhorn responded.

Sal Costello Anti-toll activist's group got funds from Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

"Carole Keeton Strayhorn is proud to have the support of organizations fighting this governor's tolls across Texas, and she is proud to lend support to those organizations," said Mark Sanders, a spokesman for the independent gubernatorial candidate.

Strayhorn's campaign gave the People for Efficient Transportation committee $5,000 in February and another $5,000 in April. The committee, founded by anti-toll activist Sal Costello, runs a Web site that takes aim at, among other toll projects, the Trans-Texas Corridor. The corridor is Perry's vision for a wide swath of rights of way for toll roads, rail lines and pipelines running parallel to the state's major highways.

Strayhorn "is trying to wash her fingerprints off these negative attacks by moving campaign money through third-party front groups," said Perry spokesman Robert Black.

But Strayhorn hardly needs a front. While Costello's group takes some colorful shots at Perry, any Strayhorn speech drips with attacks on his record on taxes, education and transportation.

Costello said he is not paid by his political committee, and Strayhorn does not direct its operations. The group has spent much of its money this year to oust Travis County Commissioner Karen Sonleitner and former West Lake Hills Mayor Dwight Thompson.

Little is out of bounds for Costello's Web site, which not only accuses public officials of corruption and fraud in their business ties but sometimes divulges their cell phone numbers and attacks their personal lives.

Strayhorn's campaign also gave Independent Texans $15,000 in the last year. The group promoted protests of Perry's transportation plans in counties around the state last weekend and touts a new documentary highlighting opposition to the corridor.

Black noted that the newsletter Capitol Inside reported last month that the Strayhorn campaign denied rumors it wanted to launch a third-party attack against Perry. But that story came months after Strayhorn's contributions to the two anti-toll groups and amid rumors that she was looking to form a group on the scale of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which attacked Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry in 2004.; 445-3654

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