Cam­paign money pays Perry’s wife’s over­seas travel costs

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Al­lie Mor­ris

AUSTIN — U.S. En­ergy Sec­re­tary Rick Perry left the Texas gov­er­nor’s man­sion four years ago. But he is still tap­ping his Texas cam­paign ac­count to fly wife Anita Perry around the globe for nu­clear talks and to speak at in­ter­na­tional en­ergy meet­ings, records show.

In Paris last year, Anita Perry spoke at a women in en­ergy event. She also ap­peared along­side her hus­band in South Africa on a panel about nat­u­ral gas, so­cial me­dia ac­counts show.

Most re­cently, the cam­paign paid $17,000 to fly Anita Perry to and from Lon­don in March for Sau- di nu­clear meet­ings, fi­nance re­ports show. It’s not clear what role Perry — a nurse by trade — played at the closed-door talks, though cam­paign fi­nance re­ports said she went for govern­ment-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties.

While spouses oc­ca­sion­ally ac­com­pany Cabi­net mem­bers on for­eign work trips, ethics ex­perts said it’s un­usual for them to par­tic­i­pate in official func­tions.

“It’s just not an area where spouses have tra­di­tion­ally been in­volved,” said Univer­sity of Min­nesota law pro­fes­sor Richard Painter, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

“It’s just not an area where spouses have tra­di­tion­ally been in­volved. We don’t have a first lady to the trea­sury sec­re­tary.”

Univer­sity of Min­nesota law pro­fes­sor Richard Painter, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer un­der for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush

“We don’t have a first lady to the trea­sury sec­re­tary.”

The En­ergy Depart­ment said Perry doesn’t have a se­cu­rity clear­ance and hasn’t par­tic­i­pated in any meet­ings re­quir­ing one. All her travel is re­viewed and cleared by a depart­ment ethics official, said agency spokes­woman Shay­lyn Hynes.

Rick Perry is one of sev­eral Trump Cabi­net mem­bers who have come un­der fire for rack­ing up ex­pen­sive bills on chartered jets and first-class flights.

When Anita Perry has ac­com­pa­nied her hus­band on in­ter­na­tional trips, the En­ergy Depart­ment says, tax­pay­ers aren’t pay­ing the bill. State cam­paign fi­nance records show that Tex­ans for Rick Perry, the cam­paign ac­count that bankrolled the Repub­li­can’s runs for gov­er­nor, has picked up the tab for at least $60,000 worth of her flight costs.

“Mrs. Perry has trav­eled with Sec­re­tary Perry on oc­ca­sion, adding valu­able sup­port to him as he ad­vances DOE’s mis­sion abroad,” Hynes said in a state­ment. “As th­ese fil­ings con­firm, no tax­payer dol­lars have been spent on Mrs. Perry’s air travel, and fund­ing for it is au­tho­rized un­der state and fed­eral laws and reg­u­la­tions. The Depart­ment of En­ergy fol­lows fed­eral travel reg­u­la­tions with­out ex­cep­tion.”

‘Health, women, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ad­vo­cate’

Anita Perry grad­u­ated with a mas­ter’s in nurs­ing from the Univer­sity of Texas Health Sci­ence Cen­ter in San An­to­nio and has called her ca­reer in health care “a great source of pride.”

Dur­ing 2017, the cam­paign paid roughly $50,000 to cover her travel to Vi­enna, Cape Town, Rome and Paris for events in­clud­ing Africa Oil Week, a G-7 meet­ing and an In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency con­fer­ence, records show.

Perry trav­eled to Rome in April 2017 for a G-7 en­ergy min­is­ters meet­ing as part of the official U.S. del­e­ga­tion. There, she spoke at a side event called “Africa 2030: Empowering the Con­ti­nent Through Innovation, Green Tech So­lu­tions and Ca­pac­ity Build­ing,” ac­cord­ing to Politico.

In Paris last year, Perry de­liv­ered a speech at a Women in Clean En­ergy event, where she was listed on the pro­gram as the for­mer first lady of Texas and a “health, women and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ad­vo­cate.”

She flew to Cape Town in Oc­to­ber 2017 as part of the depart­ment’s official del­e­ga­tion to Africa Oil Week, ac­cord­ing to trade pub­li­ca­tion E&E News. Rick Perry’s cam­paign ac­count re­im­bursed the depart­ment for the cost of her flights, cam­paign fi­nance re­ports said.

The depart­ment didn’t an­swer spe­cific ques­tions about each trip.

Some raised con­cerns about the use of leftover cam­paign cash to cover Anita Perry’s air­fare, though Ed Shack, an at­tor­ney for Tex­ans for Rick Perry, said the spend­ing is al­lowed un­der state cam­paign fi­nance rules.

Texas can­di­dates who leave of­fice with leftover cam­paign money can give it away to char­ity and po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns or use the money to cover of­fice­holder ex­penses. In past opin­ions, the Texas Ethics Com­mis­sion has said the money can cover those costs when a can­di­date moves to fed­eral of­fice. Spend­ing on a spouse is OK, so long as it’s in con­nec­tion with the of­fice­holder’s du­ties, the com­mis­sion has said.

For­mer mem­bers of Congress have used ex­cess lead­er­ship PAC money to fund travel for spouses, said Melanie Sloan, with Amer­i­can Over­sight in Washington D.C. But Craig McDon­ald of Tex­ans for Pub­lic Jus­tice said the cam­paign money wasn’t given to be used as “a per­sonal travel fund for for­mer state of­fi­cials.”

Tex­ans for Rick Perry still had nearly $80,000 in the bank as of its last re­port in July. The next fil­ing, due in Jan­uary, cov­ers spend­ing in the sec­ond half of 2018.

For­mer En­ergy Sec­re­tary Ernest Moniz took his wife on two for­eign work trips, in­clud­ing one to Brazil that the cou­ple paid for and an­other to a pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ra­tion in Paraguay that was cov­ered by the govern­ment, ac­cord­ing to Politico and E&E News.

Tom Reel / Staff file photo

In 2017, Rick Perry’s Texas cam­paign ac­count paid roughly $50,000 for his wife, Anita, to travel to Vi­enna, Cape Town, Rome and Paris for events in­clud­ing a G-7 meet­ing, records show.

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