Busi­ness deal­ings be­come heated topic in gover­nor’s race

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By An­gela K. Brown

FORT WORTH — Gov. Rick Perry and his Demo­cratic chal­lenger ac­cused each other Mon­day of ly­ing about or try­ing to hide their prof­its in the oil and gas in­dus­try, the lat­est es­ca­la­tion in an in­creas­ingly nasty gu­ber­na­to­rial race.

Perry, seek­ing an un­prece­dented third full four-year term, said for­mer Hous­ton mayor Bill White lied about prof­it­ing from his in­vest­ment in an oil ex­plo­ration com­pany he founded.

White con­firmed in a pub­lished re­port Sun­day that he has made $1.7 mil­lion in cap­i­tal gains and $1.1 mil­lion in net profit from the sale of more than 1.4 mil­lion shares of Hous­ton-based Fron­tera Re­sources since 2006. He still owns nearly 96,000 shares but re­signed his chair­man­ship in 2001.

“Just this last week­end, we find out he was ly­ing about mak­ing money off of Fron­tera,” Perry told re­porters Mon­day af­ter speak­ing at a Com­bined Law En­force­ment As­so­ci­a­tions of Texas meet­ing in Fort Worth. “He needs to be hon­est with the peo­ple of this state. There’s some­thing in his records that he doesn’t want the peo­ple to know.”

Dur­ing his first may­oral run in 2003, White said he had made noth­ing on his in­vest­ment in the com­pany. That was true at the time, said his spokes­woman Katy Ba­con, who added that White didn’t profit un­til af­ter the mar­ket turned around and the com­pany went pub­lic in 2005.

White has never tried to hide his busi­ness deal­ings, and his prof­its were in his tax re­turns, which he has re­leased since 2003, when he was elected to the first of his three terms as Hous­ton mayor, she said.

White’s cam­paign ac­cused Perry of try­ing to dis­tract the pub­lic from his own trou­bles, in­clud­ing two re­cent ethics com­plaints filed by the Texas Demo­cratic Party over his al­leged fail­ure to dis­close debts and in­come on his home in Col­lege Sta­tion.

“Gov. Perry was caught red­handed hid­ing a debt, so now he’s at­tack­ing me for start­ing an oil and gas com­pany, then sell­ing the stock when the com­pany was suc­cess­ful,” White said in a state­ment. “Perry’s han­dlers don’t want him to an­swer un­scripted ques­tions in a de­bate or from ed­i­to­rial boards. Perry wants to hide from his record of nearly dou­bling state spend­ing, dou­bling state debt, and help­ing cre­ate an $18 bil­lion bud­get hole.”

White’s cam­paign also said Perry should “come clean” about his con­flicts of in­ter­est, say­ing he has made mil­lions while in of­fice.

White said that one of Perry’s most profitable as­sets has been his in­ter­est in MKS Nat­u­ral Gas, a com­pany with about $3.4 mil­lion in min­eral rights in the Bar­nett Shale, one of the nation’s biggest nat­u­ral gas fields.

But Perry’s cam­paign said White was the one with some­thing to hide, say­ing he has re­fused to re­lease his tax re­turns be­fore 2003, in­clud­ing his time as deputy en­ergy sec­re­tary in the mid-1990s.

“Gov. Perry did the right thing by putting all of his as­sets in a blind trust to avoid a con­flict of in­ter­est,” his spokesman Mark Miner said.

White re­ported more than $9 mil­lion in cam­paign cash on hand Thurs­day, well ahead of Perry’s $5.9 mil­lion.

White, Texas Democrats’ best hope in years to take the gov­er­nor­ship, also raised more than Perry in the re­port­ing pe­riod run­ning from late Fe­bru­ary through June. White’s cam­paign said it raised $7.4 mil­lion in that span, com­pared with Perry’s $7.1 mil­lion.

Perry, who has never lost a race in his 25 years in state govern­ment, had to spend a big chunk of his money on a highly com­pet­i­tive spring Repub­li­can pri­mary against U.S. Sen. Kay Bai­ley Hutchi­son and a strong third can­di­date, De­bra Me­d­ina.

No can­di­dates in the Demo­cratic pri­mary posed a se­ri­ous threat to White.

Rick Perry is sub­ject of two ethics com­plaints.

Bill White has said he made money on oil firm.

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