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Post Partisan
Posted at 04:12 PM ET, 09/21/2011

Who is really leveling “cronyism” charges at Perry?


In a post today entitled “Perry’s system of patronage and cronyism,” Jennifer Rubin highlights a scathing report by Texans for Public Justice entitled “Crony Capitalism: The Republican Governors Association in the Perry Years.”

But there is another report by Texans for Public Justice that is equally disturbing. It is called “The Governor’s Gusher,” and it documents 100 wealthy donors who “have sought corporate welfare, relaxed regulatory rules or other government favors” in exchange for their political largess in Texas gubernatorial races.

Texans for Public Justice dubs these individuals the “Profiteers” and notes that “The ranks of the … Profiteers include corporate welfare kings, snake oil salesmen, money launderers, tax evaders, tort dodgers, tobacco hacks and toxic waste dumpers.” According to TPJ director Craig McDonald, “A disturbing number of these profiteers made a fortune off government handouts or by bending or breaking regulatory rules.”

The report was published more than a decade ago, on Jan. 20, 2000.

It’s target? Another Texas governor, George W. Bush, who had just launched a campaign for --you guessed it -- President of the United States.

Here’s the cover:


Coincidence?

There’s more. Bush and Perry are not the only Texas conservatives seeking higher office who have been charged with “crony capitalism” by Texans for Public Justice. TPJ also leveled similar charges against John Cornyn in January 2002, while Cornyn was serving as Texas attorney general preparing a campaign for United States Senate. Texans for Public Justice issued a scathing report entitled “Cornyn’s Corporate Sponsors” which declared:

Cornyn’s aggressive fundraising has sustained—as well as stained—his political career. Cornyn’s previous elected office was the Texas Supreme Court, where no justice raised a greater share of his or her campaign money from donors who had cases before the court…. Soon after becoming attorney general in 1999, Cornyn helped found the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which promised to slam the brakes on states filing industry-wide lawsuits such as the tobacco litigation. After Cornyn mailed a 2000 RAGA fundraising pitch to companies that fear state lawsuits, however, RAGA started looking like a lawsuit protection racket. Microsoft, tobacco lobbyists and the National Rifle Association have openly supported RAGA (see “Selling Lawsuit Protection?”).

See a pattern here?

Far from a “good government foundation,” Texans for Public Justice is a left-wing attack group that seems to issue scathing “crony capitalism” attacks on Texas conservatives just as they prepare to run for national office. It has received funding from George Soros and other left-leaning foundations, as well as an undisclosed list of what the groups leader, Craig McDonald, vaguely calls “some wealthy liberal individuals, including trial lawyers.” McDonald made his political biases quite clear in a recent piece for the New York Times last month, where he criticized Perry’s “embrace of the Christian right and his positions on marriage, abortion, education, environmental protection and health care” and wrote:

Perry’s boots, twang and swagger are triggering flashbacks among swing voters still smarting from the last cowboy presidency. But don’t equate Perry and George W. Bush. Texas clones cows — not cowboys. When Perry took the reins from Bush in 2000, he pulled Texas even farther right…. Meet Rick Perry: the guy who’ll make you miss George Bush.

Texans for Public Justice ‘s opposition to Gov. Perry may have less to do with its concerns about “crony capitalism” than Perry’s conservative agenda. One area where TPJ seems particularly unhappy with Perry is his successful passage of “loser pays” lawsuit reform in Texas. TPJ has been an intractable opponent of tort reform in Texas. Indeed, a pro-tort reform coalition called Texans for Lawsuit Reform recently turned the tables on Texans for Public Justice and issued a scathing report of its own on the group’s political biases and its failure to disclose many of its funders. They found:

TPJ is nothing that it claims to be. It is not Texan. Nothing about it is public. And, it is definitely not interested in justice… TPJ first appeared in Texas in 1997, when veteran operatives of leftist, out-of-state organizations – such as Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen – came to this state to set up the organization. The TPJ version of justice is one-sided. Since its inception, TPJ – preying on the good intentions of media outlets across Texas and this nation – has used an array of slanted, self-published reports to criticize a select segment of this state’s political spectrum. The targets of TPJ’s attacks are almost exclusively Republicans, business leaders and organizations, and those interested in the reform of Texas’ civil justice system.

There may or may not be something to the “crony capitalism” charges against Rick Perry. No doubt we will find out more as the presidential campaign unfolds. But conservatives should pause before taking the word of a secretive, left-wing, Soros-funded organization that has spent the last 15 years attacking conservative politicians who work to rein in trial lawyers and institute pro-business reforms.

By Marc Thiessen  |  04:12 PM ET, 09/21/2011

 
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