During a special session that ended July 1, the Texas Legislature, at Governor Rick Perry’s urging, added language to a school finance bill that will seal the governor’s travel records for 18 months — until after the 2012 presidential election.
One Republican legislator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the governor as “extremely concerned” about keeping his records sealed, and said Perry was actively lobbying key legislators to get it passed in the waning days of the special session. The legislator said Perry’s wife, Anita, also was pressing legislators on the issue.
Texas newspapers have tried for years to see Perry’s travel records, which would include the costs of the governor’s security detail. But the state Department of Public Safety, run by Steve McCraw, a former FBI official and a longtime Perry friend, has said that the safety of Perry and his family could be jeopardized if the public knew how many officers accompany them, where they stay and Perry’s traveling patterns.
Records reported in 2005 by the Austin American-Statesman showed that Perry and staff members had traveled the previous year to the Bahamas for a meeting with top campaign donor James Leininger and Grover Norquist, a national anti-tax advocate. The records showed $4,200 in taxpayer money was spent for the six state troopers who went along, including costs for renting scuba gear, golf cars and cellphones, according to the newspaper.
Perry said later that the trip was to discuss education policy and finance with his political and technical advisers “in a setting removed from daily distractions.”
In 2009, Perry traveled to Israel where he was given the “Defender of Jerusalem” award. According to a local television report, he and his wife flew first class at more than $5,000 per ticket, paid for by an energy company financier. Four security detail officers also went on the five-day trip at a cost of more than $70,000 to taxpayers. The expenses included $17,000 for rooms at the King David Hotel, nearly $13,000 for food and more than 350 hours in overtime pay.