September 13, 2011; Source: Austin American-Statesman | The Austin American-Statesman has done a good bit of digging into the financial files of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA) and its donors, 34 out of 37 of whom have political ties to Texas Governor Rick Perry. Texas First Lady Anita Perry receives her $60,000 salary from this general pool of donations.
Prior to Ms. Perry’s arrival as a staffer, the organization did not receive a single donation larger than $5,000. Major donations jumped to $100,000 in her first year at the organization. All of these large gifts came from “state contractors, lobbyists, or donors to the governor’s political account,” according to the American-Statesman.
TAASA’s deputy director told the American-Statesman, “We’re not providing any funding for the governor’s campaign. If somebody is giving TAASA a donation in an effort to get closer to the governor, that would be a relationship that we are an unknowing benefactor of. We certainly are not providing any kind of special access.”
Some less-than-savory donation examples provided by the American-Statesman include:
- GTECH, a Rhode Island company that runs the Texas state lottery, is barred by state law from giving donations to state politicians’ political accounts to avoid the appearance of influence peddling. But it gave $20,000 to TAASA.
- Donors during Anita Perry’s first full year of employment at the nonprofit included two major telephone companies—both subject to stringent state regulation—and a highway contractor that was bidding on the governor’s proposed Trans-Texas Corridor project.
- Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who was seeking a state permit to dispose of low-level nuclear waste in West Texas, gave $10,000 to the nonprofit and $25,000 to Rick Perry’s campaign account.
For a nonprofit in need of high-profile donors, Mrs. Perry was surely a desirable employee. Although there are apparently no overt conflicts-of-interest, the relationship between the nonprofit’s donors and the governor’s spouse certainly raises questions.—Kristin Barrali