We recently reported on how Texas Governor Rick Perry has raked in remarkably large donations from business executives in exchange for governmental appointments and policy favors. Now even conservatives are criticizing Perry for putting the interests of corporations ahead of the public interest.
The conservative Washington Examiner lambasted Perry on Wednesday as a “cowboy corporatist.” Timothy Carney, who covers the intersection of corporate and political power for the Examiner, detailed how Perry created and ran the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Texas Emerging Technology Fund to hand over taxpayer money to private businesses. The nominal purpose is helping businesses expand in Texas or relocate there. Being a Perry donor is the surest route to winning a grant from one of these slush funds. Half of Perry’s “mega-donors” have gotten money. Examples include a $4.5 million grant to $80,000 Perry donor David Nance and poultry mogul Joe Sanderson, who gave Perry’s campaign $165,000, receiving $500,000 from the state government.
Carney concludes that “Perry made government a venture capital fund.” The truth is much worse. Venture capital funds can make a profit for their investors. In this case, government was, in the words of Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice (TPJ), “providing direct grants to profitable corporations.” Perry turned Texas into a corporate welfare agency.
What did Texas get in return? Not much, according to a “Phantom Jobs,” a 2009 study by TPJ, which found that 66 percent of Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) grant recipients failed to deliver on their job creation promises. Looking at the compliance reports of fifty TEF grants that cost a total $368 million, TPJ found that thirty-three recipients failed to meet or amended their job creation or maintenance projections. Collectively they delivered 30,381 jobs instead of the promised 49,581. At more than $10,000 per job created, Perry would certainly deride any federal program with similar results as wasteful socialism.
“He’s an exuberant corporate Republican,” says former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower. “He’s fully embraced the corporate plutocracy.”
Another boondoggle for contributors was Perry’s dream of creating a “Trans-Texas Corridor” (TTC). The mega-highway would have taken land through eminent domain to build a privately owned toll road. Eager to grab their share of the impending road-paving bonanza, construction companies stepped up their donation and lobbying expenditures. As TPJ reported in 2009, “Since the state solicited its first bids for a leg of the TTC project in 2003, private companies that have landed lucrative TTC contracts have contributed $3.4 million to Texas candidates and political committees—a significant increase in their political activity. TTC contractors also have spent up to $6.1 million on Texas lobbyists since the state solicited their respective bids.”