Friday, February 23, 2007

"The governor’s mouthpieces should have saved their breath. Perry’s actions had spoken for them."


How does it look, Rick?

February 23, 2007

Waco Tribune-Herald
Copyright 2007

Rick Perry’s office felt it had some explaining to do Wednesday.

Too late.

The governor’s mouthpieces should have saved their breath. Perry’s actions had spoken for them.

The explaining was over the timing of a $5,000 donation from a pharmaceutical giant.

Timing is not the issue. Actions are.

Perry accepted $5,000 from the political action committee for Merck. The company produces Gardasil, which by Perry’s directive would be administered to all female sixth-graders in Texas unless parents opt out.

The target is a killer: a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. Texas legislators nonetheless have lined up in numbers to block Perry’s move. They call it too presumptive, both toward families and toward the lawmaking process.

Perry had enough explaining to do relative to his proposal’s merits. He didn’t need to be explaining how Merck’s $5,000 contribution didn’t influence him.

That Perry got the contribution the very day his staff huddled on making the proposal is being called mere coincidence.

All we know is what this governor well should. Appearances matter.

Appearances should have mattered when Perry’s campaign accepted $5,000 from the political action group that represents TXU Corp. just a few weeks after Perry signed an executive order speeding up state permitting for coal-fired power plants.

They should have mattered when retired TXU chairman Erle Nye gave the Perry campaign $2,000 the very day the order was signed and another $25,000 a few months later.

But once again, timing is not as germane as the act itself. Someone who is making public policy that directly benefits a donor should be able to say, “I appreciate the gesture, but I don’t want people to think I’m being influenced by your graciousness.”

Do we really think Perry needed the stash?

Appearances should have mattered when the Perry campaign was accepting donations of roughly $25,000 a year from San Antonio construction mogul H.B. Zachry.

Zachry? That’s half of Cintra-Zachry, the state contractor for the Trans-Texas Corridor.

Perry’s office will assert that such mutual indulgence is a relationship merely of people who agree on what good government means. Taxpayers are not to infer favors bought and sold.

Sorry, governor, but it’s too late.

When it comes to conflicts of interest, appearance is all that matters. Oh, yes, and actions. Timing? Not so much.

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