Perry Making News Again!

Perry's Secret Jerusalem Trip Raises Questions Reporting
Bennett Cunningham FORT WORTH (CBS 11 / TXA 21) ¨D Click to enlarge1 of 2
Texas Governor Rick Perry and Guma Aguiar.
Click to enlarge2 of 2
Governor Rick Perry

The city of Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and it has a new defender: Texas Governor Rick Perry.

In August, Perry was given the "Defender of Jerusalem" award. So Perry and his wife flew first class to Israel at more than $5,000 per ticket. The governor's security detail of four Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers was also along for the trip.

They all took the 7,000 mile journey to accept the award at a time when the governor was asking everyone else in state government to cut back on travel. During a speech in Houston, Perry directed state agencies to "curtail taxpayer funded travel."

According to state documents, the taxpayers' bill just to take Perry's security officers on the 5-day trip was more than $70,000. The breakdown includes $17,000 for rooms at the swanky King David Hotel, nearly $13,000 for food and more than 350 hours of overtime.

The specific price tag for the governor and his wife are secret. So when CBS 11 asked to see the governor's expense records for the trip, we received four pages and no specifics. Perry refused to do a formal interview with us and would only say, "Going to Israel or other countries is a wise investment for the state of Texas."

Keith Elkins is executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. Elkins and his organization fight for government transparency. Elkins says, "This Governor operates under the premise of 'believe what I say, not what I do.'" While Elkins suggests, "There is something else going on here," he doesn't know what that 'something' is.

Records obtained by CBS 11 show the governor's airfare and trip costs for he and his wife were paid for by Irwin Katsof, a financier for energy companies around the world. And the man who presented Perry with the Defender of Jerusalem award, Guma Aguiar, owns a company that made billions of dollars in the Texas natural gas industry. Aguiar also created the award given to Perry.

Just two weeks before Aguiar and Perry posed for pictures in Israel, Aguiar posed for a mug shot in Florida. He was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana. Aguiar pleaded no contest.

Sheila Krumholz is the executive director of the Washington D.C. based Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the effect of money on public policy. She says, "There is just too much of a potential for a conflict of interest with these trips particularly with privately sponsored trips." Krumholz also wonders, "Is this the real deal or a sleight of hand to provide political cover of those attending?"

CBS 11 obtained a list of people on the trip. The organizers describe those attending as "an elite cadre of 20 executives in, gas and oil, biotech, finance and technology." The list includes an out of state Congresswoman and Texas Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo, whose agency regulates the oil and natural gas industry in Texas.

Carrillo says he paid his own way but refused to show CBS 11 any of his expenses. Also on the list of travelers: a host of energy executives, the governor's family -- which included his son's fianc¨¦e -- and a member of the State Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Juan Hinojosa of McAllen. Hinojosa told us the trip was not about energy. "I don't recall discussions about oil and gas with the business people there," he said.

The governor and others met with the President of Israel, the Prime Minster and Israeli soldiers. They toured the old city of Jerusalem and snapped photos of Aggie souvenirs (the governor is a graduate of Texas A&M). Perry even took time to do an interview with an Israeli TV station. Remember, the governor is doing all this while asking other state employees to "curtail travel."

Like the governor, State Senator Hinojosa's entire trip was paid for by Katsof, the financier. Hinojosa also received the Defender of Jerusalem Award. But unlike the governor's four pages of documents, Hinojosa gave us everything he had -- fully disclosing the nature of the trip.

Hinojosa maintains there was no conflict of interest by accepting the trip. "We as public officials have to make decision on public policy. Not who contributes money or pays for a trip," he explained. But Krumholz disagreed, saying, "This trip raises real concerns for the potential for a secret junket."

The trip also had its share of perks. CBS 11 obtained private emails and found the organizer, Katsof, asked attendees what kind of scotch they preferred for a "scotch and cigar bar" where they would admire "a starry Jerusalem." Krumholz says trips like this "can be a lucrative way to conduct business. You pay for vacation and in return you may get contracts or government brokered deals worth millions of dollars."

In late May a Texas appellate court ruled that all DPS expense reports for the governor's security detail were to be made public. A few days later, the state legislature passed a bill to get around that court ruling, allowing DPS to hide the expense reports of the governor's security detail from public view. The law took effect immediately.
"Going to Israel or other countries is a wise investment for the state of Texas."

A good relationship with Israel is good for the economy of Texas.
How about a good relationship with Mexico? That will do wonders for the economy of Texas!
I'll never understand the extreme Rick Perrynoia that has reared its head the last few months.
fgf: its just a bunch of people who actually think the Texas Governor has any power.

If you take away the blemish of the TTC, Perry is the next Sul Ross.
How about a good relationship with Mexico? That will do wonders for the economy of Texas!

Define "a good relationship with Mexico" and then tell me how it benefits the state socially and economically.

I don't disagree with you, but the practical definition is the problem.
maybe I misunderstood the article, but didn't the Israelis pay for the trip?

what bearing does that have on Perry asking state funded agencies to cut back on travel spending? has Perry told them they could not go on trips paid for by people investing in Texas? If not, the criticism has zero merit.
Do they expect him to fly coach?
Do they expect him to fly coach?

Well, Israelis ARE Jewish. It's not unusual for them to be , how dare I say, "frugal".

The Israelis paid for the trip's cost, save for the salary of his security detail, which he would have had whether he was in Austin or Zimbabwe.

WTF is the big deal?
The KBH machine at work....
I wonder if OP has a problem with the Obamas going to NY for a show or to Copenhagen to receive the NPP.

I didn't read the article, but if Israel paid for the trip, the OP should really check himself for being overly partisan.
Pathetic excuse for journalism. The trip wasn't secret. Perry's office put out a press release on the trip while he was over there.

He met with Israeli President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and business and academic leaders.

Gov. Perry continues to be a staunch supporter of Israel. After a trip to the area in 2007, the governor supported Texas’ divestment from companies that do business with Iran, a main opponent of Israeli freedom. Additionally, as a result of meetings with Israeli leadership during the governor and first lady’s visit to Israel in 2007, the Texas-Israel Chamber of Commerce was created to help launch future commercial interests and solidify the strong business and cultural connections between the two states.

Texas is Israel’s fourth largest American trading partner. Texas and Israel’s commercial relationship began with agriculture and natural resources, and has grown in recent years to include a variety of major business sectors, including information and communication technologies, aerospace and defense, medical technologies, homeland security initiatives and renewable energies.

A trip with a Press Release on it is "Secret". Good stuff!!!
Somehow the DMN found out about this "secret" trip and spoke to him on the phone while he was in Isreal!! Amazing!!

In Israel, Perry compares Mexico to Gaza strip

12:00 AM CDT on Saturday, August 15, 2009
By TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News

TEL AVIV, Israel – Gov. Rick Perry compared Mexico to the Gaza Strip this week, saying Texas can learn from Israeli security efforts after touring a town that has been hit by Palestinian rockets.

Perry, who has demanded a heightened U.S. troop presence along the Rio Grande, went to Israel's border with Gaza and was briefed by Israeli army officials.

"Kassam rockets have killed 28 Israelis over the last eight years. Well, 1,000 people have been killed in Juárez since the beginning of the year," the governor told the Jerusalem Post in Friday's editions, referring to the drug-related killings across the border from El Paso. "So we're trying to find ways to secure that border, because just like it's important to Israelis to keep heavy security on their border with Gaza, it's important to citizens of Texas to keep out the illegal activities that are going on with drugs."

maybe I misunderstood the article, but didn't the Israelis pay for the trip?

You misunderstood. Rick and his wife were covered, but the taxpayers footed a $70,000 bill just for the security agents he took.

There were numerous other guests whom CBS could not determine if they were paid for by taxpayer money or not.

To me this is simple. If the trip was needed and on the up and up......Rick......release all the records. The freedom of info act does allow us to see them. How difficult is that??

Maybe when KBH releases info on all the work she's pipelined to her hubby's law firm?

The governors security detail goes everywhere he goes. Period. When Bush was running for president they went with him everywhere. Its their job and its in the DPS budget. As the article says that is the only taxpayer expenditure on the trip.

If you are so concerned about taxpayer funded trips perhaps you should look into congressional junkets.

And as usual you have your facts wrong. If you care to read up on the Texas public open records act the Attorney General has some good publications I would recommend.

[This message has been edited by AustinAG (edited 11/4/2009 11:49a).]
can we just secede and be done with it?
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