The Campaign Spot

David Frum’s Suspicion About Rick Perry’s Fortune

David Frum characterizes the argument in the post below (and today’s Jolt) as, “If Rick Perry is dumb, why is he rich?” (Not exactly what I wrote, but I’ll put that aside.) He points to the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s tracking of Perry’s net worth, and the number of times the governor has made real-estate deals with developers who had business with state government, and the number of times those real-estate deals have paid off quite well for Perry.

The insinuation, of course, is that Rick Perry is corrupt, that those with business dealings with the state government have used the real-estate deals as a back-door way of bribes.

I’d note that for the Horseshoe Bay property, Perry bought at a relative trough in the real estate market (2001) and sold near the peak of the bubble (2007), and Texas home prices enjoyed some particularly good years in there. One of Perry’s earliest land deals ended with a modest profit ($70,000 over three years) and for another one, Perry enjoyed the good fortune of owning the land that computer magnate Michael Dell needed to connect his new home to municipal sewer lines.

Last year the Democrat gubernatorial candidate in Texas, Bill White, tried to make an issue of it, and Texans largely yawned. Some of these deals go back to Perry’s time as Texas agriculture commissioner in the early 1990s. Fascinatingly, through six statewide general-election races in addition to some brutal primary fights (even by Texas standards), none of Perry’s rivals have managed to get the accusations to stick or persuaded voters that anything corrupt occurred. Throughout the 1990s, the Texas attorney general was Dan Morales, a Democrat, who would seemingly have no partisan reluctance about investigating a bribery accusation of a Republican state officeholder.

Perhaps it is voter cynicism. Perhaps the cacophony of negative attacks in Texas politics makes voters tune out or discount all charges.  Or perhaps, as Perry claims, he “did everything open and honest, at arm’s length” and there’s not enough there to justify charges, or even implicit suggestions, of corruption.

UPDATE: I would add that to the best of our our knowledge, these deals have not generated even any preliminary investigations from any U.S. Attorney’s offices.

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