Gov. Rick Perry has performed a public service in asserting that big contributions can compromise good government.
However, anyone expecting something introspective about the potential conflicts contained in the governorâs own $25 million war chest expects too much.
Perryâs concerns are directed at the second-best funded candidate in the race, state Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.
Perry criticizes Strayhorn for accepting $1.5 million over four years from Ryan & Co., a Dallas-based tax consulting firm. The firm has represented several businesses disputing state tax bills.
Thatâs not illegal. But it certainly could convey the appearance of of a conflict, with the suspicion that Ryan & Co.âs clients will get preferential treatment.
The state auditorâs office recommends a ban on contributions from entities with interests before a state office.
As it is, all we can do is trust officeholders to do the right thing.
Of Perryâs millions, about 40 percent â $10 million â comes from 85 individuals, reports The Dallas Morning News. Many of those donors had favorable legislation in mind in giving all that money away. One such individual is home builder Bob Perry, Texasâ biggest political donor. He has given Gov. Perry (no relation) $700,000 since he became governor.
Meanwhile, the governor pushed for legislation desired by the home builder: creation of a home building commission to take some consumer complaints out of court. Then Gov. Perry appointed one of Perry Homesâ executives to the commission.
A conflict? It sure looks that way.
Of course, in absence of any controls on what people can give, we are courting massive influence buying by a precious few.
In the last special session of the Legislature, and in previous sessions, public-interest groups have pushed for individual limits on campaign contributions.
At the federal level, contributors have an aggregate limit of $101,400 for each two-year election cycle, broken down into limits on individual offices and party committees.
At the state level, none exists. Legislation has been written to set an aggregate limit similar to that for federal office, $100 per election cycle. A similar limit is needed for law and accounting firms and limited partnerships.
Interestingly, Bob Perry, Texasâ Mr. Big of campaign gifts, said he would have no problem with an individual limit as proposed.
So, candidates: Problems with big-money gifts to the opposition? Letâs do more than point fingers.