This was the lead of the AP story that has rocked the White campaign today: Former Houston Mayor Bill White, who was widely praised for guiding his city through Hurricane Rita, acknowledged to The Associated Press on Tuesday that he made money by investing in a company that was hired to help the region recover from the storm. The story goes on to relate the following information. (Quoted material is from the AP story.) 1. “White helped line up private companies to provide goods and services as part of a massive relief effort.” –Is there anything wrong with this? Certainly not. Houston was in an emergency situation. 2. “One of those companies was Btec Turbines, where White had served on the board of directors before he was mayor.” –Is there anything wrong with this? Hardly. White’s service on the Btec board occurred before he was mayor. He had no connection with the company at that time. 3. “White said he called the company to help provide power generators to ensure the Houston-area refineries and the adjoining city of Baytown could maintain their water supply during the power outages.” –Is there anything wrong with this? Of course not. The refineries and the public needed the water during power outages. 4. “The company then got an emergency contract with the regional Coastal Water Authority, White recalled.” –Is there anything wrong with this? Not that I can see. Emergency contracts are used in emergencies. Does anyone doubt that this was an emergency? This was all about arranging for the Authority (a conservation and reclamation district) to provide untreated surface water to Houston, Baytown, and Deer Park as well as around 100 industries during a crisis. The authority is governed by a seven-member board. White has four appointees, Perry three. 5. “A little more than a year later, White invested about $1 million in the privately held Btec, which has also provided generators to contractors in Iraq. He has reported about a $500,000 profit from the investment.” –Again, I see nothing unethical in this transaction. The investment in Btec came ONE YEAR after the storm. Whatever payment Btec had received from the emergency contract was in the past. You have to credit the Perry people with shrewdly making a mountain out of a molehill, but the dots do not connect. So, was White at fault in any way? Of course he was. He wouldn’t release his income tax returns for two months. This was stupid. There is no other word for it. How could someone as smart as White not know that he was going to have to make his tax returns public. He allowed the issue to fester, and fester, and fester, and he just let Perry pound on him. Finally, he bowed to the inevitable and made them public. In the meantime, his dilly-dallying allowed the Perry campaign to plant the idea in the public’s mind that White had something to hide. That’s why you make them public right away, at the beginning of the campaign, as Perry did, so that if there is something that might be an issue, you can get it out of the way and move on. Instead, the delay gives credibility to Perry’s charges, even though they are baseless. You couldn’t invent a better way to engage in self-sabotage. Has Terry Sullivan come back from South Carolina to run the White campaign?
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