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Did Mitt Romney and Rick Perry Make an Illegal Million-Dollar Backroom Deal?

A new lawsuit reveals contradictory stories about an illicit $1 million campaign contribution from “Swift Boat” funder.

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“[T]he testimony of [top Rick Perry] aides David Carney and Deirdre Delisi was directly contradicted by a sworn statement from Perry’s own gubernatorial campaign committee … which said that Delisi and Carney met with Romney in Washington DC on October 4, 2006 to discuss a last-minute contribution to [Perry's campaign] .”

Carney has long been Perry’s top political advisor. Delisi, who served as his chief of staff in the governor’s office, is now senior policy advisor to the campaign.

When asked about the Oct. 4, 2006, meeting, Mark Miner, press secretary of the Perry presidential campaign, told Salon that “due to a settlement by both sides we cannot comment on this case.” The Romney campaign did not respond to questions about the meeting.

To have the two presumed front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination and the funder of the infamous “Swift Boat” attacks implicated in a single money laundering scandal is a remarkable development in the Republican race. It raises a host of questions that other GOP  candidates — and the media — may want to address.

Did two of Perry’s closes aides commit perjury? Why the divergent statements about the last-minute contribution? Did Romney endorse passing along Bob Perry’s  $1 million to Gov. Perry? If so, why? And what did Rick Perry know about the source of the contribution?

In short, did the two now-bitter rivals for the Republican nomination forge a friendly backroom deal in 2006 that was possibly illegal?

An offensively low price

“Other Texas politicians have done pay-to-play before, but Rick Perry has taken it to a high art,” said Craig McDonald of TPJ. “In his 10 years as governor, he has raised $102 mil[lion], and half of that came from an inner circle of 200 mega-donors. George W. Bush never raised anything like that amount during his years as governor [1994 to 2000]. Bush raised $43 million for two election campaigns, and most of that came in the second campaign when everyone knew he was running for the president and people wanted to cozy up to him.”

At times, though, Perry’s pay-to-play proclivities have been less high art than low comedy. In the Sept. 22 candidates’ debate, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., hammered Perry for issuing an executive order requiring Texas high school girls to get a vaccine that prevents cervical cancer. Right-wingers had previously attacked the morality of his order, saying it would encourage teenage promiscuity. Bachmann ventured a new line of attack, noting that the vaccine was manufactured by one of Perry’s campaign donors. Far from backing down, Perry took the offensive, naming the donor, the drug company, Merck, and stating — inaccurately — that the pharmaceutical giant had contributed only $5,000 to him. In point of fact, Merck has given $28,500 to Perry since 2001.

“I raise about $30 million,” Perry continued. “And if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.”

Like many of Perry’s public comments, this one was more revealing than he seemed to realize. The Texas governor did not protest that he could not be bought; he simply joked that $5,000 was an offensively low price.

Which it may well be in Texas, a state where bragging about bigness is common.

After all, Bob Perry had to contribute 45 times that much to Gov. Perry before the state created what amounted to Perry’s own regulatory agency. To wit, the Houston home-builder gave the governor $225,000 between May of 2001 and August of 2003, according to the TPJ. Its “Crony Capitalism” report, based on contemporaneous accounts in the Texas news media, recounts what happened next: