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Rick Perry, Hunting Trips And ‘The Good Old Boy Political System’

Then-Governor Rick Perry attends a hunting trip near Merrill, Iowa in 2011. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DAVE WEAVER
Then-Governor Rick Perry attends a hunting trip near Merrill, Iowa in 2011. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/DAVE WEAVER

Rick Perry has always enjoyed the finer things in life. From his $25 million renovated Governor’s Mansion to his nearly $1 million annual security budget for non-official travel, Perry has relished the high life — and often on the taxpayers dime. But Perry’s lavish taste didn’t end there: The former governor has also received expensive gifts from private individuals including at least 12 hunting trips over his last three years as governor.

These hunting trips, disclosed because each has exceeded the $250 minimum required for disclosure to the state, were paid for by eight individuals. Four of those men, all of whom maxed out contributions to his 2012 presidential campaign, were already appointed to office by Perry before the gift was given.

“This guy is a politician who put a high value on loyalty, almost slavish loyalty. People who he appointed to office were often people who had helped him, and it often went both ways,” said Andrew Wheat, Research Director at Texans for Public Justice, a nonpartisan Austin-based advocacy nonprofit focused on political advocacy and research regarding corporate abuse and political corruption. “It goes back a century or more — doing deals in the skybox, or on hunting trips. [It’s] the good old boy political system.”

According to personal financial disclosure statements spanning 2012 to 2014 acquired through a public records request from the Texas Ethics Commission, Perry’s hunting buddies include Dan Allen Hughes Jr., who was appointed to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission; Richard Scott, who was appointed to to the Lower Colorado River Authority and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission; James Winston Krause who serves as chair of the Texas Lottery Commission; and Tim Timmerman, who Perry appointed to the Lower Colorado River Association.

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The power play between personal donors, public records, and public office has been a reoccurring cloud over the heads of governors, particularly since the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) last January. McDonnell and his wife were sentenced to a combined three years in prison on account of accepting $165,000 in gifts and loans from prominent tobacco executive Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his dietary products and allocating funds for research to his company, Star Scientific. McDonnell appealed his conviction unsuccessfully, but asked the court to reconsider in July, with his legal team saying, “The panel’s decision establishes an unprecedented and opaque line between lawful politics and federal felonies.”

Perry has also come under fire for mishandling his official position, currently running for the Republican nomination while under indictment for abusing official capacity to cut off funding to the state’s ethics agency, a first-degree felony. A second charge, coercion of a public servant, was dismissed by Austin’s 3rd Court of Appeals in July. Perry has denied the allegations in the indictment, saying, “I am confident that I will ultimately prevail because the prosecution’s case amounts to the criminalization of politics.”

And this isn’t the first time Perry’s affinity of privately financed hunting gifts has earned press. Whispers of connections between Perry’s appointment policy and his personal life also emerged during his last presidential bid four years ago, which came on the heels of a scandal over the undeniably racist name his family hunting ranch once had. According to Politico, another Perry Texas Park and Wildlife Commission appointee, Dan Friedkin, sponsored a hunting trip for Perry and his wife in 2007 in addition to contributions of at least $715,000 to his campaigns. Dan Allen Hughes Jr. is also among past gift givers, paying for hunting trips in 2009 and 2010.

Perry’s publicly disclosed hunting trips are reported according to ethics guidelines set by Texas law, but these gifts do demonstrate the cozy relationship between political donors and public officials. Perry’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Dan Allen Hughes Jr.

CREDIT: TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
CREDIT: TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT

Personal financial records document a gift of “transportation and hunt” from Hughes in 2013, who, according to the Washington Post, was named as one of over 80 major donors to be included in Perry’s 2016 Opportunity and Freedom Super PAC. During the 2012 election, Hughes contributed the maximum legal limit of $2,500 to Perry’s campaign. Hughes was appointed to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in 2009, became chair in 2014, and finished his six-year term earlier this year. A notable figure on the Texas oil and gas scene, Hughes is the president of Dan A. Hughes Co., a drilling company that attracted attention last year for violating state drilling regulations in the Florida Everglades. The company had permission for its main interests in the state permanently revoked, and prompted a lawsuit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. That suit was later dropped.

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The commissioner is also the co-founder of Maverick American Natural Gas and serves as president of Hupecol Operating Company, an oil corporation which includes four separate companies with significant international oil interests.

Known for his hunting, parks, and wildlife advocacy both in and outside of the office, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission recently renamed the Big Satan Unit of the Devils River State Natural Area the “Dan A. Hughes Unit” to honor the former chair.

CREDIT: Texas Ethics Commission records
CREDIT: Texas Ethics Commission records

The Texas Parks and Wildlife department told ThinkProgress via email that Hughes is out of the country and unavailable for comment regarding his gift to the former governor.

Richard “Dick” Scott

CREDIT: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
CREDIT: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Scott, who according to public documents footed the bill for a Perry hunting trip in 2014, also contributed the maximum individual donation limit to Perry’s 2012 presidential bid and has been named as a member the Opportunity and Freedom PAC. Scott is also one of 15 appointees who gave Perry more than $200,000 during his gubernatorial career, illustrating Texas’ lack of limit on the amount of funds an individual can contribute to state-level politicians.

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Scott has been twice appointed by Perry. First to the Lower Colorado River Authority in 2009 for a six-year term, from which Scott resigned in 2010. He was then reappointed to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in 2011 and currently represents the commission on the Environmental Flows Advisory Council, a board focused on bay, riverine, and estuary systems. Scott is set to finish his term in 2017.

CREDIT: Texas Ethics Commission records
CREDIT: Texas Ethics Commission records

Scott is the president of Trans-Global Solutions, a railway and infrastructure Development Company, which has executed a number of large-scale projects including master plan community development and artificial detention basins.

Scott refused to comment when contacted about his gifts to the governor.

James Winston Krause

CREDIT: Texas Lottery Commission
CREDIT: Texas Lottery Commission

Documents also show a gift designated as “hunt” in 2014 from attorney James Winston Krause. However, Krause told ThinkProgress that he has not given Perry a hunting trip, nor has he ever been hunting with the former governor.

Krause described himself and Perry as family friends, mentioning that their daughters had grown up together. Krause’s daughter Shelby served as First Lady’s director of scheduling during Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign. When Shelby was married early last year, the former governor’s daughter, Sydney Perry, served as maid of honor.

Like other appointees, Krause donated the maximum legal amount to Perry’s last presidential campaign.

CREDIT: Texas Ethics Commission records
CREDIT: Texas Ethics Commission records

Krause was appointed to a six-year term with the Texas Lottery Commission in 2009 and was then promoted to chair in 2013. He is a practicing attorney in the Austin area, with specialty areas including business and taxation.

Timothy Timmerman

CREDIT: Lower Colorado River Authority
CREDIT: Lower Colorado River Authority

Perry’s financial statements reflect a gift of “transportation and hunt” in 2012 from appointee and real estate businessman, Tim Timmerman. Perry appointed Timmerman to the Lower Colorado River Association (LCRA) in 2008 and promoted him to the position of chair in 2011 before his term expired in 2013. He was reappointed in 2013 and is set to remain in office until 2019. Timmerman contributed the $2,500 maximum to Perry’s 2012 campaign.

An established member of the Texas real estate and development scene, Timmerman has been credited for aiding in the development of Perry’s much discussed real estate fortune, including assisting in Perry’s first major purchase in the early 1990s, which netted Perry a hefty $343,000 profit, according to the Houston Chronicle.

CREDIT: Texas Ethics Commission records
CREDIT: Texas Ethics Commission records

Timmerman’s appointment garnered criticism when LCRA transmission lines were rerouted through Hutto, a city of about 20,000, in which his Commerce Texas Properties Inc. real estate company is based, despite community consensus to run the line around the edge of the city. Critics credit the decision to Timmerman, who was building a residential project on the outskirts of the city where the lines would run. The Public Utilities Commission, another appointed council, voted against the community requests for rerouting soon after Timmerman took office.

Timmerman did not respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment.

Business As Usual?

State-level politicians in Texas, as well as in many other parts of the country, have a long history of keeping appointees close, or, as Perry phrased it in a 2010 Houston Chronicle article, “What better people would you want to serve on boards and agencies than people you know, that you trust and are honest?”

According to a 2000 Texans for Public Justice report, former president and Texas Governor George W. Bush, who preceded Perry, had a similarly close relationship with his appointees. Bush received over $634,000 worth of contributions from his 20 appointees in the Parks and Wildlife Commission and University of Texas System Regents, and close to $1.4 million from his appointees in total during his gubernatorial career.

As the longest-serving governor in Texas history, Perry had a sufficient amount of time to carefully develop a beneficial and supportive appointed group. “I think all the governors in the recent past have done the same thing. Especially with these high prestige appointments, but there was certainly a sense that Perry had more time to cultivate a patronage system,” said Wheat, of Texans for Public Justice. “There was also a sense that he may have taken it to further limits than previous governors.”

Katelyn Harrop is an intern with ThinkProgress.