Tomorrow, July 15, is the deadline for the semiannual campaign finance reports. The word is that Rick Perry will report have raised around $900,000. I’m reporting talk, not solid confirmation, but, just for grins, let’s assume it’s in the ballpark. That’s a lot of money, considering that state law prohibits contributions from thirty days before the start of a legislative session (December 20, for this cycle, to twenty days after (June 17). It is illegal even to solicit contributions during that period with the intention of collecting on pledges after the period expires. In other words, Perry raised close to a million dollars in 29 days. That’s a lot of coin of the realm for someone who is widely presumed to be a lame duck.
First, let’s deal with the presumption that he is a lame duck. No legal impediment prevents him from running for a third term (plus the time he served to complete Bush’s second term) in 2010. I think that is unlikely, for two reasons. One is that he would be just two months short of his 65th birthday in January 2015, when his term would expire, and he would have foregone four years of potential lucrative employment. The other is that he would be running in vastly different circumstances than he did in 1998 (when an immensely popular George W. Bush was at the top of the ticket and had long enough coattails to elect Perry lieutenant governor), or in 2002 (when Bush’s popularity was high and the Republicans were at peak strength, in Texas and nationally), or in 2006 (when his three leading opponents so divided the electorate that he could win comfortably with 39% of the vote). In 2010 he would face three large, vocal, and angry constituencies that he has created against himself: opponents of coal plants, opponents of privatized toll roads, and opponents of his public education policies, particularly school vouchers. Perry should never be underestimated, due to his skill at fundraising and campaigning, but I just don’t see how he can win another election in this state.
So here’s the question: What can a lame duck do with a $900,000 war chest (which will surely grow in future reporting periods)?
1. He can run for another term (but for reasons I have already stated, I don’t think he will).
2. He can use fundraising as a way to show the Legislature and the lobby that he isn’t a lame duck after all.
3. He can hand out some of his money to help Republican state legislative candidates, heliping them to ward off Democratic challengers and to defeat Democratic incumbents. A larger Republican majority could help win support for his legislative recommendations.
4. He can use the money as an officeholder account to fund travel around the country (and particularly to Washington), promoting himself as a vice-presidential candidate. However, the expenditure must be linked to the performance of his duties. In practice, this is not a barrier to most things he would want to do.
5. He may be able to make contributions to Republican candidates for Congress and for the U.S. Senate–another way to win support for his vice-presidential possibilities. However, this is controlled by federal law, not state law. If any of Perry’s contributions come from sources prohibited by federal law (professional corporations, for example), he might have to return these contributions in order to be allowed to contribute to federal races.
Whatever he does with his money, it’s safe to assume that Perry has no intention of being a lame duck.