Thursday, November 15, 2007

Coincidental? "Hokum, hooey and balderdash. "

Bell sues over Gov. Perry's campaign contributions

Governor denies improperly accepting $1M in campaign gifts

November 15, 2007

The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2007

AUSTIN – Democrat Chris Bell alleged in a lawsuit filed Thursday that Gov. Rick Perry improperly accepted and reported $1 million in campaign contributions during the final weeks of their contest for the Governor's Mansion last year.

The suit immediately kicked off verbal jousting reminiscent of the 2006 election: "This stunt is nothing but sour grapes," was the governor's spokesman's response. Robert Black said the suit is based on nothing but a "simple paperwork filing error."

He went on to accuse Mr. Bell of filing the suit in retaliation for Mr. Perry's refusal to help him land a state contract this year that involved lobbying work in Washington on behalf of state interests.

"What a load of hokum, hooey and balderdash," responded Jason Stanford, the revitalized spokesman for the Bell campaign.

"Obviously, they can't explain this obvious violation of state elections law and have to resort to the same 'shoot the messenger' tactics that didn't work for [former U.S. House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay and won't work now," Mr. Stanford said.

The dispute is based on two $500,000 contributions made to Mr. Perry, and reported by his campaign, in the last eight days before the election. The $1 million came from the Republican Governors Association.

But the Perry campaign mistakenly referred to the RGA as a political action committee, which it is not. It is a 527 organization – a tax code designation that controls its contributions and reporting requirements.

And at the time of the election, the Perry campaign did not disclose sufficient information for the public to know whose money was being funneled through the RGA.

State campaign laws are aimed at providing the public such transparency, so that large donors to candidates cannot be concealed through other organizations.

The suit alleges that the Perry campaign accepted improper contributions from a group it inaccurately identified and then failed to sufficiently disclose the group's donors before the election.

In addition, Houston homebuilder Bob Perry (no relation) provided a large infusion of cash to the RGA in the final weeks of the election. Mr. Perry and his wife already had contributed $381,000 directly to the governor's campaign. Mr. Perry was one of Rick Perry's top two donors.

As The Dallas Morning News reported last February, the homebuilder sent the RGA $1 million on Oct. 6 of last year, and 20 days later the group sent the governor $500,000. The homebuilder sent an additional $550,000 on Oct. 31, and one day later the RGA sent the governor $500,000.

All parties have called the timing of the contributions coincidental. In all, Bob Perry gave the RGA $2.05 million, making him the group's top donor, federal records show.

Both the RGA and Mr. Black called the Bell lawsuit frivolous and without merit.

"The RGA complies with both state and federal law," RGA spokesman Chris Schrimpf said.

© 2007 The Dallas Morning News:

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