Unraveling Perry’s air travel using FEC disclosures


Earlier this month the New York Times revealed that Texas Governor and Republican presidential nominee-hopeful Rick Perry often uses the private planes of businesspeople — some long-time donors — to travel the country for free for various political events and even lobbying.

The use of the plane is legal under Texas ethics guidelines but it obviously raised some questions. A Perry spokesman said the governor was trying to save tax dollars. After the stories, Perry disclosed to the Federal Elections Commission some new travel-related campaign expenses — eight of them totaling more than $227,000, all travel costs.

Under FEC guidelines, candidates have to reimburse plane owners the amount it would cost to rent a similar plane for the same trip. This was a 2009 update to the FEC guidelines, which put in place a travel provision from the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. (PDF)

Candidates were formerly only required to pay jet owners the amount of the lowest first-class plane ticket, and the FEC mandated that the travel provider be paid within seven days of the flight. Now the candidate must reimburse the plane owner “within a commercially reasonable time frame after the date on which the flight is taken.”

The Times reported that Perry had been paying plane owners for the number of individual seats his campaign used — which is what the old regulations allowed — versus the cost of the entire plane. In some cases he didn’t pay the owners at all but has indicated that he will in the amended filing.

So among those 200 free flights worth around $1.3 million over the last decade, as reported by the Times, how many — and which ones — did Perry’s camp reimburse last quarter, and what’s their connection to him?

In his amended filing on Nov. 4, Perry disclosed eight new travel debts owed. Some are additional payments to plane owners whose aircraft were used for earlier trips and others are new payments for travel on undisclosed dates. Most of them are Texas individuals or businesses, but California and Colorado are also represented.

Here are the eight new disclosures:

— $45,435.16 owed to Friedkin Aviation, a company owned by Thomas “Dan” Friedkin, who’s a big Perry supporter. The Perry campaign paid the company $39,996.37 on Sept. 20 for travel between the 12th and 16th of that month. Those dates included a Republican debate in Tampa, Fla., fundraisers in Florida, speeches in Boston and Virginia, a trip to New York City for dinner with Donald Trump and campaigning in Iowa.

Friedkin and his wife, Debra, each gave $2,500 to Perry’s campaign, as did their two sons, who are college-aged and listed as students in the FEC filing. Friedkin runs investment and holding company The Friedkin Group, which works mostly in the automotive industry. Dan and his billionaire father — the “Toyota King of Texas” — have given at least $700,000 to Texans for Rick Perry since 2000.

At least thirteen other Friedkin employees gave to Perry between the end of July and mid-September, nine of them giving the legal maximum of $2,500. Friedkin is chairman of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission, to which he was appointed by Perry in 2005 and reappointed in August.

— $22,931.15 owed to Brian Pardo, president and CEO of Life Partners Holdings, a Waco, Texas financial services company that offers life-settlement investments. Pardo gave the maximum $2,500 contribution to Perry’s campaign in mid-September. He gave $50,000 to Texans for Rick Perry in 2010.

In three separate payments for travel on August 13th and 27th, Pardo was paid nearly $21,000. Perry spent the 27th in Iowa and the 13th in South Carolina. His company is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for account and disclosure practices, as well as the Texas State Securities Board and the California Department of Corporations.

— $16,456.19 owed to Aspect Aviation II, LLC in Denver, Colo. That’s a jet that belongs to Alex Cranberg, who’s chairman of Aspect Holdings, LLC, which includes energy company Aspect Energy and oil-exploration company Aspect Resources. He gave Perry $2,500 in late July. Perry appointed Cranberg to the University of Texas system board of regents earlier this year.

The business was also paid $20,062.09 on Sept. 1 for travel on Aug. 25 and 26, when Perry was in Iowa. Cranberg’s political donations are extensive, and he gave money to Mitt Romney before the 2008 election.

— $66,362.50 owed to Javaid Anwar, the founder, president and CEO of Texas oil company Midland Energy, Inc. Anwar and his wife, Vicky, each gave the maximum allowed $2,500 to Perry’s campaign in early September.

— $15,666.26 owed to Buzbee Transportation Inc., an Atlanta, Texas company owned by Anthony “Tony” Buzbee, a personal injury and wrongful death attorney. Buzbee hosted a $1,000-per-person fundraiser for Perry in Florida at the end of October. He’s a Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton in the last election and has made many Democratic contributions, but is now aiming to help Perry take the White House.

Buzbee Transportation was paid $16,771.62 on Sept. 6 for travel between Sept. 2 and 3. The Texas Tribune’s PerryTracker puts Perry in South Carolina on the 3rd.

The Houston Chronicle reported this week that Buzbee wrote on Facebook about helping Perry improve his debating skills.

— $11,783.56 owed to North Point Advisors in San Francisco, Calif. The investment banking firm was founded by David Jacquin, who gave Perry $2,500 in mid-September. Other employees also made contributions, including $2,500 each from managing director Matthew F. Kelley, assistant Katherine E. Jorgensen and investment bankers Parker L. Johnson, Cooper McKee, Michelle Anderson Silveira and Jennifer L. Trahan.

— $29,626.27 owed to Doggett Company, a Houston, Tex. business owned by William L. Doggett. That’s industrial-equipment company Carruth-Dodgett Inc., which has a Toyota forklift deal, among other businesses, at the address on the FEC disclosure form.

— $19,414.98 owed to RJ Machines in Marble Falls, Tex., a machining and parts company.

The disclosure (PDF) said “all air charter travel additions made to the amended debt schedule have been paid in full and will be reported accordingly on the Year-End (Q4) Report.”

Who else is Perry paying for travel? Among the various airlines, hotels and employees reimbursed for travel in the 3,500+ page disclosure is a $690.25 travel payment to his wife, Anita, on Sept. 20.

Austin newspaper The Statesman in September reported that Anita Perry’s $60,000-a-year salary is paid by donors to her husband, state contractors and companies that have business with the state.