Gov. Perry’s Secret Deal?

More Texas fun.

Either Texas Governor Rick Perry laundered state funds through a secret, possibly illegal lobbying contract, or Comptroller Carole Strayhorn, who’s running against Perry for governor, is deliberately misconstruing the facts in order to make Perry look bad. Either way, it’s a good story.

As I noted yesterday, Strayhorn halted the state’s lobbying contract with Cassidy & Associates, a $15,000/month arrangement through Texas’ Office of State-Federal Relations. Todd Boulanger, formerly of Team Abramoff, was the lead lobbyist for Cassidy. She wouldn’t say why she’d stopped it, only that her audit had raised “enough questions.”

Enough questions? We’ve been asking plenty of questions about the contract – about, for example, how it’s a bald attempt to route taxpayer money to Republican lobbyists. But Stayhorn, in her few comments, raised a new, much more serious question.From June through August of 2004, she said, Perry’s Office had a contract with Cassidy & Associates for a whopping $302,363. The law requires that such a contract be disclosed, but Cassidy did not disclose doing work for Texas until January of 2005, when they began lobbying for Texas’ Office of State-Federal Relations. That contract was at a much more modest $15,000/month.

So what gives? Today’s Houston Chronicle provides an explanation of sorts.

Strayhorn’s spokesman said the contract was actually with Weber Shandwick, “a public relations firm whose lobby practice includes Cassidy & Associates.” Perry’s spokeswoman shot back, saying that the $300,000 was from a totally different part of the budget, for ” tourism promotion.”

Hmm… So the contract was ostensibly with Cassidy’s parent company, but the Comptroller doesn’t believe it, and says that the contract was really with Cassidy.

Who to believe? Our calls to Perry’s and Strayhorn’s offices were not returned. A full audit is forthcoming. Maybe Strayhorn is just trying to tar her oppponent. Cassidy’s spokesperson, after all, denies they did any work for Texas in 2004.

Either way, something to keep an eye on.