Rick Perry’s Habitual Secret Keeping – As you probably know, Texas Governor Rick Perry’s schedule for the first six months of 2010 showed an average of seven hours of state work per week and 38 weekdays with “no state scheduled events.” In the absence of such records, there’s no objective way of knowing what he does.
“The governor’s explanation sounds to be a candid admission that he’s leaving stuff off the schedule,” says Ken Bunting, the executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and the onetime Capitol bureau chief of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “If there’s a schedule, it’s a public record. If it’s incomplete, then it’s a deception the people ought to be concerned about. … [A] document that gives a false impression is not a good practice.”
“It’s one thing to say you believe in transparency and it’s another thing to demonstrate it,” says Keith Elkins, the executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. “If you’re putting in a full day’s work, put it in the schedule to show us. The taxpayer should not be left to guess if you are working on their behalf. They should be able to see for themselves how much or how little he’s working.”
“This is a governor who’s in constant re-election mode, and they’re trying to present themselves in the best possible light,” says Andrew Wheat, research director of Texans for Public Justice. “That does not mean a free flow of information.”
Case in point: Perry’s office maintains a policy of deleting its e-mails every seven days, a shorter retention period than almost all other state agencies and major cities. It also allows staffers to decide which e-mails involve state business and thus must be retained, leaving open the possibility that individual employees who aren’t well-versed in the law are innocently but irrevocably destroying public records. Perry’s aides have defended the retention policy by saying it simply follows that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. But the destruction of documents can make it difficult, if not impossible, to piece together what happens inside the governor’s office. In 2007, for example, reporters were unable to determine what Perry knew about systematic abuse inside juvenile jails, and when he might have known it, because his office deleted e-mails long before the scandal broke.
“The fact that there are so few records regarding his schedule is related to the deletion of emails,” says Houston attorney and longtime open-government champion Joe Larsen, who has formally complained about the e-mail policy to the Travis County District Attorney’s Office, which has jurisdiction over ethics matters involving state officials. “It reduces the amount of information that’s available to the people of Texas. If it’s a decision to minimize records of his activity, what that means in the end is that people just don’t know what he’s doing — and people need to know what the governor’s doing.”
Perry’s office has also restricted the release of information related to the death penalty case of Cameron Todd Willingham, a Corsicana man executed in 2005 despite a capital murder conviction won on the basis of what a state panel has admitted was “flawed” arson evidence. On the day of the execution, Perry’s office got a faxed clemency report about the Willingham case. But it is not known if the governor read it, as his office has declined to release any of his or his staff’s comments or analysis of the reprieve request.
The Houston Chronicle has filed suit in an effort to get access to the report. “When it comes to human life, there is no place the governor should be more transparent in his decision-making,” said Jonathan Donnellan, an attorney for the Chronicle and its corporate parent, Hearst Newspapers, when the suit was filed.
Earlier this year, Perry’s office was found to be ignoring state law that requires all state agencies to be “accountable and transparent” by posting their stimulus spending reports on their websites. Only after an Austin American-Statesman reporter’s inquiry did the governor’s office begin posting the reports, many of which were months old. According to the Statesman, the governor’s spokeswoman would not elaborate on why Perry chose not to follow the law that other state officials were expected to follow.
Do-Nothing Governor Rick Perry Complains About Others – After a single bullet believed to be from a gun battle in Mexico struck a building in El Paso, Texas Governor Rick Perry complained that “It’s time for Washington to stop the rhetoric and immediately deploy a significance force of personnel and resources to the border.” Perry did not mention that he (Perry) did nothing to stop this incident despite having the Texas Nation Guard at his disposal. I suggest that Perry use some of that spare time in his schedule to go to El Paso and stop those stray bullets.
If Republicans Win in November, Don’t Get Sick – House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said that if Republicans win the U.S. House in November, a House Republican majority will work to defund the agencies responsible for implementing health care, they will end the building of bike paths, and may roll back their ban on earmarks.
“One thing is we have, in the last 20 months, shown that we’ve gotten serious about spending,” Cantor said. (And they don’t care who they hurt in the process. They plan to withhold funds from health care to prove that the new health care provisions don’t work. Too bad for you if you get sick. – JLV)
George W. Bush’s Chief of Staff for NASA Guilty of Conspiracy Involving $600,000 – Courtney A. Stadd, who previously served as NASA Chief of Staff and White House Liaison under George W. Bush, has entered a guilty plea to conspiracy charges in connection with actions he took to obtain and receive funds from a $600,000 sole-source contract from John C. Stennis Space Center to Mississippi State University (“MSU”) on a remote sensing study.
Stadd also attempted to stop the NASA Office of the Inspector General from continuing to investigate his activities. Stadd admitted that, to further conceal the conspiracy, he created false documents in response to a Federal Grand Jury subpoena.