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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Oppo on Perry Goes Wide, Deep, and Sometimes Nasty

At the Austin American-Statesman, Ken Morrow recounts a call from Perry communications director Ray Sullivan:

Sullivan called about Robert Morrow. Morrow is a problem for Perry. And any problem for Perry is a problem for Sullivan. Morrow, from his Austin home, has become a key purveyor of nasty, unsubstantiated allegations about Perry's personal life. You may be aware of Morrow's recent full-page Austin Chronicle ad trolling for bad stuff about Perry.

"Here is what we are learning about Rick Perry," Morrow wrote in a recent late-night email listing unsubstantiated stuff about Perry and concluding with "I think it is just a matter of time before a credible source" comes forward to substantiate the rumors.

Maybe. Maybe not. We've been down this road more than once with rumors about Perry. Lots of journalistic sweat and dollars have been spent on them. Reporting on such things is tricky. At this newspaper, we're not much interested in public officials' personal lives unless those personal lives affect public duties or offer evidence of rank hypocrisy. We are interested in discerning the truth, but unless it meets that criteria, we might choose not to write about it.

My American-Statesman colleague Mike Ward, one of the best diggers in our business, recently wound up at what he called a "nasty little townhouse" in North Austin to meet someone sources indicated might know something of potential note about Perry. Ward knocked on the door and identified himself. As Ward told me, "I kind of look like a cop." He kind of sounds like one, too. The conversation did not last too long.

"This guy basically said, ‘We don't want nothing, and you need to get the hell out of here.' He had a knife he was cleaning his fingernails with and he said, ‘I think you get it.' And I said, ‘I get it,' " said Ward, father of two cute kids.

Lots of opposition research sweat and dollars also have been spent chasing Perry rumors. To date, nada. But we're in a presidential campaign now. Things are different in a presidential campaign. And that's why Morrow is a problem for Perry.

"Morrow's (allegations) are more false rumors, with a different story line. The fact is that decades of intense media scrutiny, political opposition research and more than $100 million in attack ads have proven nothing other than Perry's solid and stable family, financial and political life," Sullivan told me in an email. "Unfortunately, the current political environment and exponentially larger number of media/information outlets allow crackpot conspiracy theorists like Mr. Morrow to run amok in cyberspace and in some cases traditional media outlets."

When Texas billionaire Harold Simmons wanted to build a radioactive waste dump, one data point that would loom large in the permitting process wasn’t required on the application: He is a major donor to Governor Rick Perry.

“Everybody was aware that this was an important item for the people that were seeking the license as well as for the governor’s office,” said Larry Soward, a Perry-appointed, Republican member of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at the time of Simmons’s permit application.

Simmons, who has donated more than $1.2 million to Perry’s campaigns, was granted the permit over the objections of some TCEQ staffers concerned the site threatened the Ogallala Aquifer, a water source for much of the plains.

At least three commission employees resigned in protest and Soward voted against the permit. Meanwhile, a state employee who advanced the permit became a lobbyist for the company a month after it was approved.

“As Americans look past his swagger, they’ll see he represents more of the same lobbyist-run politics as usual that they despise,” said Rodell Mollineau, president of American Bridge 21st Century, a Washington-based Democratic opposition research group. Perry spokesman Mark Miner didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The Daily Caller reports:

Texas Governor Rick Perry has been among the most vocal critics of President Obama’s health care reform initiative, and of Mitt Romney’s preceding health care program in Massachusetts. But in 1993, while serving as Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Perry praised the efforts of then-first lady Hillary Clinton to reform health care, a precursor to Obama’s health care reform efforts.

In a letter to Clinton, who is now U.S. Secretary of State, Perry wrote: “I think your efforts in trying to reform the nation’s health care system are most commendable.”

“I would like to request that the task force give particular consideration to the needs of the nation’s farmers, ranchers, and agriculture workers, and other members of rural communities,” Perry continued, noting his administration’s focus on economic development for rural Texans. “Rural populations have a high proportion of uninsured people, rising health care costs, and often experience lack of services.”


Perry’s 1993 letter first emerged in 2005 when GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Texas gubernatorial campaign used it as ammunition against Perry. It has not been raised as an issue during the 2012 presidential campaign cycle.

Now it has.