The Sunday papers had two not-so-good stories for Perry. The more damaging story was an exclusive by Gromer Jeffries about a program by the Perry campaign, known as “Perry Home Headquarters,” in which workers were paid for signing up voters who pledged to vote for Perry in the March 2 primary. Workers could make additional money by recruiting deputies to sign up voters. The main workers would receive $20 for each 11 voters signed up by deputies. Here are the first two paragraphs from the story: Gov. Rick Perry’s campaign has unknowingly paid convicted felons as part-time workers under its incentive program to turn out voters for the Republican primary. The campaign lists about 300 part-time workers on the financial disclosure forms it filed with the state, recruits under the “Perry Home Headquarters” program that pays people to get others to sign up as a Perry supporter and pledge to vote. A handful have criminal histories, a Dallas Morning News review shows. The story goes on to say that the campaign spent $360,000 on the program, which amounted to 8% of total expenditures for the July six-months reporting period that ended on December 31. Jeffries named several participants who had been convicted of crimes, ranging from criminal mischief to DUI to felony possession of a controlled substance. It does not appear that the program was rife with people who had a criminal past. Perry spokesman Mark Miner was quoted in the story as saying, “People in life make mistakes,” said Perry spokesman Mark Miner. “It doesn’t mean they can’t get a second chance and work hard. That’s what these people are doing. They are out there trying to change their lives and make a difference.” The program is not illegal, but neither does it seem kosher. First, paying for votes, even if legal, doesn’t pass the smell test. Second, it doesn’t look good for a two-term incumbent to have to resort to paying for votes. Finally, it is too reminiscent of the controversy that was stirred up when ACORN was registering voters for Democrats. There is a difference, of course: many of ACORN’s registration forms were fraudulent. There is no fraud here. But Perry, who criticized Hutchison for missing a vote concerning ACORN’s funding, doesn’t want to be mentioned in the same breath with ACORN. I’m just surprised that this proposal found its way to the top of the Perry campaign organization chart without somebody suggesting that this might not be a great idea. This was the Hutchison campaign’s response on Sunday: Today, the Hutchison campaign released the following statement on this morning’s report in the Dallas Morning News that the Perry campaign’s ACORN-style “grassroots” program is a failure, spiraling out-of-control and shelling out campaign cash to convicted felons in an attempt to buy votes: “From playing politics with University Regents and using government regulators as fundraisers to mandating vaccinations on sixth-grade girls because of lobbyist ties, you would think that Rick Perry’s administration had sunk as low as it could. Now, the discovery that he is hiring drug dealers and other felons to harvest votes shows that this could be the most unethical administration in Texas state history,” said Jennifer Baker, Hutchison Communications Director. As the Dallas Morning News reports, the Perry campaign’s Home HQ program is putting convicted felons on its payroll in an attempt to buy votes. This tactic is ripped straight from the ACORN playbook that Republicans have long decried. Now, the Perry campaign is embracing these ACORN-tactics. Texans should be on guard against giving their personal information to a Perry campaign staffer. Unlike Rick Perry, Kay Bailey Hutchison has built a strong grassroots network made up of volunteers from across the state. Note to the Hutchison campaign: Find somebody who can write a press release. If you think the Perry campaign has made a big mistake, get right to the point. Don’t start out by dredging up months- (or years-) old controversies like the university regents, the Alcoholics Beverages commissioner’s fundraising, and the HPV controversy. Put the new stuff first. You committed the cardinal sin of burying your lead. The second story involves the upcoming contract for operating the Texas Lottery. The first two paragraphs follow: A consulting company that helped Texas write bidding rules for its upcoming lottery operator contract was simultaneously getting paid by GTECH Corp., the current vendor that intends to compete again for the state’s lucrative lottery deal. The dual role of consultant Gartner Inc. is raising questions about a potential conflict of interest and whether GTECH has a competitive advantage over other lottery companies bidding this year for Texas’ contract, one of the nation’s largest. The stakes are high: Winning the Texas Lottery contract can bring a company more than $100 million annually. Is this a big deal? Probably not. The Hutchison campaign did not mention it in its daily release this morning. The lottery commission did the right thing by cancelling its contract with Gartner without paying the remaining $700,000 it owed. But any story that involves sleaze and gambling is something to keep an eye on. The story has all kinds of assurances by the parties that this was just an oversight, left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing, GTECH said it gained no information from Gartner, but the history of the lottery is replete with crooked left hands and assurances that appearances of impropriety should not be cause for concern. These contracts are so lucrative ($100 million annually, the Statesman story says), that bidders are looking for any kind of an edge.
Politics & Policy