Rick Perry's Chutzpah

Written by Noah Kristula-Green on Tuesday November 15, 2011

Rick Perry is calling for legislators to be thrown into jail for insider trading. Perry's comments are particularly bold given that allegations of insider trading have followed him through his own political career.

Most people forget that Michele Bachmann's original criticism of Perry's HPV vaccine mandate in Texas was that it was an exercise in crony capitalism. Perry not only had a former of chief of staff with ties to Merck (the company that made the vaccine) his wife has also provided consulting services for Merck on other projects and was very supportive of the HPV vaccine. He had received a lot of financial support from Merck in the past:

The governor acknowledged that he received a contribution to his reelection campaign from Merck, the pharmaceutical giant, which stood to benefit financially from his order that sixth-grade girls in Texas be given vaccinations against a virus that can cause cervical cancer. Perry tried to brush off the pay-to-play implication by saying he was "offended" at the suggestion that he could be bought for a mere $5,000 campaign contribution.

Merck's Washington-based political action committee actually gave Perry a total of $28,500 starting in 2001, according to Texas Ethics Commission filings. The bulk of the money came prior to the 2006 campaign, when Merck donated $5,000 after the governor went on record in favor of the vaccinations and the state began discussions with the maker of Gardasil, which stood to receive at least $70 million a year from the state to provide the shots to low-income girls.

Perry was also investigated in the 1990's for insider trading:

On Jan. 24, 1996, Perry purchased 2,800 shares of stock in a company, Kinetic Concepts, Inc., owned by a San Antonio businessman soon to be one of Perry's top donors, James Leininger. It was great timing. Later that day, a group of investors bought up 2.2 million shares in the company, sending the price soaring and netting Perry a nice gain.

On the day of the stock purchases, Perry had given a speech before a group founded by Leininger. Both Perry and Leininger later admitted talking on the day in question but denied discussing the stock. Perry would go on to sell his Kinetic Concepts stock -- a total of more than 8,000 shares -- a month later for a $38,000 profit.

It took at least two years for an Austin attorney to uncover the suspicious trade.

Controversy has also surrounded many of the land deals that Rick Perry has made as Governor of Texas, deals which have enriched him and which seem to have helped out his friends and allies as well:

During two decades of full-time government service, Gov. Rick Perry has accumulated a net worth of about $1 million - perhaps through good investment timing.

However, almost everyone who steered Perry to his money-making deals has seen rewards from Texas government.

Six received key state government appointments or jobs. Two benefited from government actions that had the potential to enhance their real estate holdings. Another was poised to get a state grant for his business until the deal fell through.

But maybe this is just an expression of Rick Perry's federalist beliefs: Texas Governors can enrich themselves how ever they want. Congressmen on the other hand? Only the toughest scrutiny will do!