Rick Perry’s rapid rise to the top of polls in the Republican presidential primary has been largely attributed to the Texas governor’s record of limited government and job creation. But a recent report by Darrell Preston of Bloomberg News is calling that record into question, and could raise serious doubts about Perry’s ability to capture the nomination.
Despite running on claims of limited government and strict opposition to stimulus programs, Perry oversees almost $633 million in job-stimulating funds — most notably the massive Texas Enterprise fund, which the state created in 2003 — that he has not been shy to share with companies that are willing to create jobs in Texas. While a spokeswoman for Governor Perry claims that the recipients of the funds have created over 58,000 new jobs, a watchdog group called Texans for Public Justice disagrees. They claim that only 11 of 50 recipients of fund money that had promised to create jobs had met their goals, and that the companies receiving fund money had only created 22,544 jobs in Texas — less than half of what Perry has claimed.
Further complicating matters is the fact that nobody really knows whether Perry or the watchdog group is correct. Jim Dunnam, a former Democratic state representative from Waco, claims that Texas Enterprise Fund employees were often unable or refused to testify about the jobs actually created from the fund.
“They didn’t want us to know what the actual number of jobs created was,” said Dunnam, a member of the economic development committee that oversaw the funds. “You’d just get the runaround.”
Even more disturbing are allegations that Perry operates the funds as a pay-to-play deal.
“It seems to help if you donate to Perry,” said Craig McDonald, executive director of Texans for Public Justice…“There’s a correlation between those who pay and those who get from Perry.”
Dunnam agrees that “it’s a pay-to-play deal, always has been.”
Criticism of Perry’s selection process is not limited to Democrats. David Simpson, a tea party-backed Republican state representative from Longview, referred to Perry’s stimulus funds as “legal plunder,” arguing that “You can’t avoid the appearance of impropriety when you take money from everyone and you give it to a select few.”
Perry has claimed that he is the best choice to take on President Obama because of his record of job creation, but it appears that those numbers may be severely exaggerated. He has gained popularity by promising that there would be no stimulus programs if he were president, but he has presided over a huge stimulus program within his own state (not to mention the fact that Perry accepted about $17 billion in funds from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.) He has claimed to be anti-Washington to the core, but he is now being accused of the exact kind of pay-to-play corruption that has dogged countless political insiders in the nation’s capital.
Add it all up, and Perry’s hair is just about the only part of his appeal that isn’t being questioned. He may be sitting at the top of the polls today, but this news just reinforces the fact that reaching the Republican nomination, much less the White House, will be no cakewalk for Perry.
Copyright 2011 The National Memo