Friday, November 16, 2007

“It was a clerical error.”

Prosecutor reviewing governors’ group donations to Perry

November 16, 2007

By Laylan Copelin
Austin American-Statesman
Copyright 2007

Travis County Attorney David Escamilla is reviewing the circumstances behind $1 million in donations from the Republican Governors Association to Gov. Rick Perry last fall.

In the final days of his re-election battle, Perry disclosed two $500,000 donations from the association. He failed, however, to publicly disclose who gave the money to the association even though Perry spokesman Robert Black said the campaign had a list of donors.

“We did nothing wrong,” Black said. “It was a clerical error.”

State law requires out-of-state political committees — and the candidates who take their money — to disclose the committee’s donors to the Texas Ethics Commission. The Republican Governors Association says it is not a committee under Texas law, which defines a political committee as a group that has “a principal purpose” of raising or spending campaign donations.

“We’ve been notified,” Escamilla said Friday morning, “and we’re reviewing it.”

The intent of Texas campaign finance laws is full disclosure, including money from out-of-state groups. A violation by a candidate is a misdemeanor.

During the final days of the 2006 campaign, the sources of candidates’ money became an issue. With no public disclosure of who had donated to the Republican Governors Association, voters did not know that Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who is not related to the governor, was the association’s biggest individual donor.

In 2006, Bob Perry was the nation’s biggest individual donor, giving $16 million primarily to Republican causes. He raised his national profile in 2004 when he underwrote Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that broadcast a series of attack ads questioning the military record of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

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