Perry cam­paign paid Bell to set­tle suit over ’06 race

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ja­son Em­bry

Gov. Rick Perry’s cam­paign paid for­mer Demo­cratic chal­lenger Chris Bell more than $400,000 ear­lier this year to set­tle a law­suit al­leg­ing that Perry did not prop­erly iden­tify his cam­paign con­trib­u­tors when he beat Bell in 2006.

The $426,000 pay­ment to Bell was re­vealed Fri­day when the Texas Ethics Com­mis­sion posted Perry’s lat­est cam­paign fi­nance re­port.

Asked to ex­plain why the Perry cam­paign set­tled with Bell, Perry spokesman Mark Miner said, “Due to the un­nec­es­sary cost and time fac­tors of lit­i­ga­tion, both par­ties have de­cided to pur­sue other strate­gies.” He de­clined to elab­o­rate on those other strate­gies.

Bell al­leged that Hous­ton home­builder Bob Perry tried to hide a $1 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion to Rick Perry (no re­la­tion) late in the 2006 cam­paign by send­ing it to the Repub­li­can Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion, which then sent $1 mil­lion to Perry.

Bell named the Perry cam­paign and the gov­er­nors as­so­ci­a­tion in his law­suit. Be­cause the cam­paign did not prop­erly iden­tify the group on state fi­nance re­ports, donors to the gov­er­nors’ group were not prop­erly dis­closed to the pub­lic, Bell al­leged. Perry’s lawyers have pre­vi­ously said that, at worst, Perry made a re­port­ing er­ror.

Perry’s cam­paign is no longer part of the

Con­tin­ued from A1 law­suit, pre­sum­ably be­cause it set­tled with Bell. Buck Wood, Bell’s lawyer, would not dis­cuss the case against Perry.

But Bell is still su­ing the gov­er­nors’ group, al­leg­ing that it did not take all of the steps re­quired by state law be­fore con­tribut­ing to Perry’s cam­paign. The suit is cur­rently be- fore state District Judge John Di­etz, an Austin Demo­crat.

Mean­while, the Demo­cratic Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion is tak­ing a much more ac­tive role in this year’s Texas race as Perry tries to fend off a chal­lenge from ex-Hous­ton Mayor Bill White, a Demo­crat. The group has given White more than $1.5 mil­lion since Fe­bru­ary.

The Demo­cratic gov­er­nors’ group is get­ting ma­jor help from Texas trial lawyers. Steve Mostyn of Hous­ton sent the group $400,000 last month, and Beau­mont trial lawyer Wal­ter Um­phrey sent $225,000. The Hous­ton law firm Wil­liams Kherkher Hart Boundas sent $125,000 in May.

Whereas the Bell law­suit al­leged that Perry did not prop­erly re­port con­tri­bu­tions from the gov­er­nors’ group in 2006, White spokes­woman Katy Ba­con said White’s cam­paign made the re­quired dis­clo­sures when his out-of-state money came in. The Ethics Com­mis­sion con­firmed that the proper re­ports were filed.

Mostyn said he con­trib­uted to the gov­er­nors’ group to show other donors from around the coun­try that Texas Democrats be­lieve the White-Perry race is winnable.

“One of the first ques­tions out-of-state donors will ask is,

Chris Bell re­ceived a $426,000 pay­ment.

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