Wednesday, August 19, 2009

McDonnell's Money Deserves Closer Look

Is Bob McDonnell for sale?

Between 2007 and 2009, a Houston, Tex. couple, Bob and Doylene Perry, contributed $55,000 to Mr. McDonnell’s campaign.

Bob Perry, it turns out, was the largest contributor to the oxy-moronically named Swift Boat Veterans for Truth back in the day. This has been extensively reported in the Virginia blogosphere.

If all Mr. and Mrs. Perry were involved in were the spreading of vicious smears against decent, patriotic Americans on behalf of GOP candidates, I wouldn’t bat an eye. Such tactics have become de rigueur in the Republican playbook these days.

Of more concern to me was an alarm raised in March about the Perrys from the blog “Clearly New Mexico,” a project of the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Civic Action based in Albuquerque, about the Perrys donating money to politicians in the Land of Enchantment. Here is what the blog had to say:
New Mexico was one of only five states in the nation with no caps whatsoever. Texas is another. [aznew – as is Virginia].

Perhaps that’s why Bob Perry, the multi-millionaire Houston homebuilder, and his wife Doylene Perry have found New Mexico politics so hospitable. In 2008, Bob wrote campaign checks to the New Mexico Republican Party totaling $240,000. In the 2006 cycle, the Bob and Doylene dropped a total of $361,000 into the state.
In 2002, Perry gave NM Republican gubernatorial candidate John Sanchez a cool $250,000.

So what ever does Perry expect to get in return for all of this generosity? Good government?

Well, no, good government was not the right answer. In explaining, Clearly New Mexico cites this March 28 story from NPR:

Bob and Jane Cull bought the home of their dreams in Texas. It was built by one of the most powerful and politically connected homebuilders in the country (Perry) — and it was defective. Thus began a 13-year odyssey that would teach them some unhappy lessons about money, power and influence…

The Culls’ new home was undergoing “foundation heave.” The clay soil underneath was expanding and contracting like a sponge as it got wet and dried out. The edges of the foundation began lifting, and the wooden frame began to bow under the stress.

… Since 2006, Bob Perry has contributed more than $21 million to political candidates and judges — including the nine Republican justices who make up the Texas Supreme Court.

“They all took money,” [said the research director of Texans for Public Justice]. “Not a single member of that court should have sat and heard a case involving Bob Perry Homes.”

Six years after winning in arbitration, the Culls’ $800,000 award was thrown out. In a 5-4 decision, the Court disallowed arbitration and sent the case back to the courts.

Read the entire tale of how Perry’s political clout, bought and paid for, screwed the Culls here.

Also, read here about how the Perry’s money helped buy a favorable regulatory environment for homebuilders in Texas. According to Texans For Public Justice:

Out of 181 legislators, there are only six who don't take money from the Texas Association of Builders. So when the homebuilders come to Austin to lobby, the most powerful politicians in the state pay their respects.

After a welcome message from the governor, the rallying homebuilders fanned out to the offices of every legislator, bearing small gifts and a message: Save the Texas Residential Construction Commission.

[A]n even bigger problem with the [Texas Residential Construction Commission] is that the agency has no ability to discipline bad or even criminal builders. In Texas, there is no state licensing of builders, and builders of new homes are not required by law to disclose known defects, unlike sellers of existing homes.

Even if a builder is repeatedly negligent and deceptive, there's little the state can do about it. In five years of existence, the Texas Residential Construction Commission has revoked just one builder's registration. Archer says when it comes to protecting buyers of new homes, the Lone Star State is not exactly leading the pack.

"I would say we're dead last," he says. "I don't believe there's any state in the country where the homeowner is up against more obstacles and more impossible tasks in terms of getting relief than they face here in Texas."

So, what is this Texas builder up to in Virginia with his fifty large? Is he just an ideologue willing to spend a lot of money to elect Republicans in states far away from his home, or is this a down payment so that, once the recession lifts and he sees an opportunity in Virginia’s home-building industry, he will have friends in Richmond, much as he did in Austin? In all honesty, who knows? But his history and reputation are troubling.

Do we need or want to run this risk in the Virginia? Why would Bob McDonnell let a Texans millionaire with a history of buying favorable treatment from state regulators and judges come into our beautiful Commonwealth? So that he can rip us off with his political connections and shoddy workmanship?

Look, to tell the truth, I don’t for a minute believe that Bob McDonnell wants that. As deceptive as I think his campaign has been, and despite my profound differences with him on social and other issues, I do not think that he is a dishonest person at heart or quite that evil.

Still, this is an issue that, first, it goes to Mr. McDonnell's judgment, and second, shows that while Mr. McDonnell works hard to pass himself off as a moderate to Virginia’s independent electorate, the far right wing of the Republican Party aren’t paying attention to the smoke Mr. McDonnell is blowing in our direction. They now just how Conservative he really is.

The fact is that McDonnell took Perry’s money, and it is fair to ask why he did so. It is also fair to ask whether, in light of Perry’s history, what favors he believes he can expect down the road from a McDonnell administration.

It remains to be seen whether there is a questionable pattern in Mr. McDonnell’s contributions. I would only note for now that about half of Mr. McDonnell’s total contributions come from outside of Virginia, and over the past two years, 44 different individuals or small businesses have donated more that $20,000 to Mr. McDonnell’s gubernatorial campaign. Most of these donations seem fine, but some come from places like Tarrytown, NY, New York City, and Boca Raton, FL, and I wonder what they want?

1 comment:

  1. Check out the Bob Perry stories on our website (keyword search), and you might just view Bob Perry as the front man for Tort Reform and the National Association of Homebuilders and gain insight into his objectives.

    Homeowners of Texas (HOT) is the new non-profit corporation that convinced State lawmakers to abolish the Residential Construction Commission, a state agency established with Bob Perry's money and influence. We defeated the $35 Billion Texas homebuilding industry and two Astroturf consumer groups that were coopted by the builders and supported their bill.

    With the meager funds we provided ourselves, we opened our doors in August 2008 just two blocks from the State Capitol in Austin to facilitate bi-partisan consumer advocacy, lobbying and education of homeowners, policy makers, builders, and other stakeholders. And in just nine months, we achieved what the other consumer groups couldn't do in 20 years as the plight of Texas homeowners steadily worsened.

    * DISPUTE RESOLUTION. Defeated HB 2295 in the 81st legislature, abolishing the TRCC and removing removing roadblocks to legal remedies.

    * WARRANTIES. Repealed illusory state warranties and restored the implied warranty of habitability.

    * ENGINEERING. Helped pass HB 2649 to require properly engineered slab foundations for homes on expansive soils.

    Although HOT was a newcomer in the fight to improve Texas homebuilding, our success was hardly a coincidence. We came onto the scene with a fresh approach, a big-picture perspective, strong analytical capabilities, an ability to craft legislative solutions, a background in construction law, experience in lobbying, a strategically-chosen set of witnesses to testify, an office near the Capitol, and a consistent and strategic message and focus. As they say, “Some problems are so difficult that they can’t be solved in a million years… unless you THINK about them today.”