Perry Patron dubs 39% governor a 'World Leader'
$18,500 a head doesn't include airfare or cost of a DPS security detail
By PEGGY FIKAC
AUSTIN — The cost of attending this week's Middle East networking trip that featured leaders including Gov. Rick Perry was estimated at $18,500 per person, excluding airfare, by the firm footing the bill for Perry, his wife and the incoming Texas secretary of state.
The company, Global Capital Associates, was founded by Irwin Katsof, who promotes U.S. investment in Israeli startup companies, helped found a Web site to monitor media reports on Israel and co-authored a book on prayer with CNN's Larry King.
The company's Web site listed the cost in describing the lures of the invitation-only "18th International Networking and Gala Awards Mission to Israel and Jordan," including such treats as a sunset cruise on the Red Sea.
Perry, listed as one of the "world leaders," went with his wife, Anita, and Phil Wilson, his deputy chief of staff who Sunday becomes Texas secretary of state. Perry left Texas last Friday and is scheduled to return today.
Some have questioned a private company paying for a trip that supposedly will benefit the state.
Other leaders listed include former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft; former presidential envoy to Iraq Paul Bremer; and Andrew von Eschenbach, U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner.
A woman with the company, who declined to give her name, said the cost estimate was part of an initial notice of the planned trip. She wouldn't provide information on how much each attendee actually paid.
The cost estimate included touring, meals, transfers, hotel accommodations and "VIP customs and transfer upon arrival and for departure," according to the Web site.
It was unclear if the cost borne by the company for the Perrys and Wilson would be similar.
Perry also travels with a security detail whose expenses will be paid by the Texas Department of Public Safety, said DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange.
Perry spokesman Robert Black said Thursday he didn't have a cost estimate for Perry's trip.
The mission is meant to promote partnerships and joint ventures in homeland security, gas and oil, biotech and financial services, the Web site said, and to recognize those who have made the world "a better place."
The company, which selected Perry for a "Friend of Zion" award, has previously organized similar missions and presented the award to other high-profile figures. Perry has cited a "special kinship" between Texas and Israel.
Katsof's Web site says his company develops investment banking relationships through its global network of contacts.
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