Rick Perry is a fairly parochial man: everything revolves around Texas. Nearly every issue that he is asked about on the campaign trail is answered with reference to the success he has demonstrated or lessons he has learned in Texas, from immigration to the economy. Even sympathetic conservative blogger Erick Erickson of Red State has sighed that Perry “needs to talk about America more than Texas.”
Instead, Perry has squared that circle by simply talking about America as if it were Texas. Take the economy: Perry seems to be, rather bizarrely, applying the approach he has used in his natural resource–rich state. His entire economic recovery plan seems to consist largely of increasing domestic energy production. Indeed, pillaging the environment is Perry’s answer to virtually anything. When asked at the October 11 debate on the economy in New Hampshire whether he could govern in a bipartisan manner, Perry offered this non sequitur: “One of the things that I laid out today I think is a pretty bold plan to put 1.2 million Americans working in the energy industry.… you need a president with…the intent to open up this treasure trove that America’s sitting on and getting America independent on the domestic energy side.”
Next Perry was asked what his economic plan would be. He replied, as if there no other major industries in the United States, “Well, clearly, opening up a lot of the areas of our domestic energy area; that’s the real key. You’ve got an administration that, by and large, has either by intimidation or over-regulation, put our energy industry and the rest of the economy in jeopardy.”
So on Tuesday night when Perry released his first television commercial, which debuts Wednesday in Iowa, can you guess what it was about? Perry pledges to create 2.5 million jobs, and his only plan as to how is to deregulate the energy industry. “I’ll start by opening American oil and gas fields. I’ll eliminate President Obama’s regulations that hurt other sources of domestic energy like coal and natural gas.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the oil and gas industries combined account for 179,900 jobs as of September, 2011. So Perry appears to be promising to increase by roughly 1,500 percent.
Why is Perry so obsessed with energy exploration as the solution to all the country’s problems? Perhaps it has something to do with his donor base. In the third quarter Perry raised the most money of any Republican candidate, an impressive $16.3 million in just forty-nine days. As he always has, Perry depended heavily on donations from executives in environmentally destructive industries such as oil, gas, chemicals and waste disposal. Perry’s top eight donor corporations include three energy companies: Murray Energy ($66,803) Clayton Williams Energy ($43,300) and Occidental Petroleum ($36,000). The corporate social responsibility group Action For Our Planet named named Occidental Petroleum the sixth-most-unethical company in the world in 2010. “The oil and gas corporation has been constantly involved in territory disputes with indigenous and local populations who accuse the company of infringing upon their land,” they wrote. “The company has in the past created uproar for drilling on claimed Indian territory in Northern Colombia and causing environmental destruction in Ecuador. In the latter case, the Ecuadorian government threw Occidental Petroleum out of the country.”
By contrast none of President Obama or Mitt Romney’s top eight donors are from the energy industry. By industry, oil and gas ranks as Perry’s third biggest contributor, below “miscellaneous business” and retired, while they appear nowhere in Obama or Romney’s top ten. Perry’s eleventh-biggest donor? Global Mine Service Inc.
Meanwhile Perry’s allied Super Pac, received $100,000, more than half their total receipts, from Harold Simmons, a Texas investor. Simmons has donated generously to Perry in the past—he is Perry’s all-time second-largest donor—in exchange for Perry’s support for Simmons’s business interests. Simmons made his mega-contribution to Perry’s Super Pac on June 27, ten days after Perry signed the legislation giving Simmons permission to import nuclear waste from thirty-eight states to a dump in Texas.
It comes as no surprise that Perry would employ the same strategy to raising money in a national campaign that he has in Texas. And it’s safe to assume that if elected Perry would continue to favor his polluting cronies over the public interest. What’s more remarkable is that Perry actually thinks this is a selling point for voters.
Update: After this item was posted the Perry campaign responded to an inquiry as to how Perry would create 2.5 million jobs from the energy industry. They clarified that although the ad itself does not discuss the other elements of Perry's economic agenda, they only project 1.2 million jobs to come from their energy policy. The remainder would come from other elements of Perry's proposed changes to the tax code.