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Rick Perry is perhaps not the best Republican presidential candidate to take up the banner of cleaning the corruption out of Washington, but he's charging ahead anyway. Playing off the 60 Minutes' report this past Sunday showing how some members of Congress have gotten very wealthy with legal and well-timed trades could have been informed by their access to legislative information, Perry will call for making that a crime in Iowa on Tuesday, Politico's Mike Allen reports. "Any congressman or senator that uses their insider knowledge to profit in the stock market ought to be sent to jail, period," Perry says in a new web ad. "And Congress ought to pass a law that says so right now, no ifs, ands, or buts." It's a noble stance, for sure, but strange coming from Perry who has spent the last 30 years in elected office, becoming a millionaire in the process.
Perry might be trying to capitalize on outrage over lawmakers well-timed trading
, but a lot of Perry's wealth has come from well-timed real estate investments. As the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
's Aman Batheja
reported earlier this year, Perry has long faced criticism that he used his political connections to make money. There was the time in 1993 when he bought 10 acres of undeveloped land that happened to occupy the space between computer magnate Michael Dell's home and municipal sewer lines. Two years after buying it, Perry sold the land to Dell for $465,000 -- more than triple the price he paid. There was the time in 2001 when Perry bought some land in Horseshoe Bay, Texas, for $314,770 and sold it six years later for $1.1 million -- to a guy who was a business partner of with the man Perry bought the land from in the first place. And Perry made some lucky trades himself: In 1996, Perry made $38,000 by selling stock in Kinetic Concepts, a medical supply company founded by a donor. Perry has taken flights on a lot of fancy private jets
thanks to campaign donors over the years -- and his presidential campaign decided to reimburse
some donors in October after reports that the flights could violate campaign finance laws.
Perry will say in Iowa today that, "It is time to tear down the monuments to bureaucratic failure and in their place build a smaller, more efficient federal government that puts the American people first," Politico reports. He'll call for reform to all three branches of government; No. 1 will be to encourage a "Citizen Congress" by cutting "congressional pay in half and repeal the rules that prevent members of Congress from holding real jobs in their home states and communities." That sounds like he's modeling the changes on the way Texas' state legislature operates. Texas lawmakers there truly are part-time -- they meet for 140 days every two years and earn just $7,200 for doing so. But that hasn't made Texas a shining example of good governance. Legislators make out quite well despite the low pay, and not because they have regular jobs outside their government gig, as the Texas Observer
's Dave Mann and Abby Rapoport
reported earlier this year. In "Lifestyles of the Corrupt and Elected," Mann and Rapoport looked at the case of Texas state senator Troy Fraser, whose seat is so safe that his closest reelection campaign in a decade was in 2008, when he got just 85 percent of the vote.
Yet Fraser has amassed one of the largest campaign funds in the Legislature, nearly $1.3 million. Nearly all of the money he’s raised in the past two years—about 97 percent—was contributed by special interests ... You might wonder what Fraser, with no competitive election in sight, is doing with all this campaign money.
He’s living off it. Fraser, like all Texas legislators, is allowed to use campaign money to augment his lifestyle: to rent a condo, take his family on opulent trips and stay in exclusive hotels and resorts. Since he was last elected in 2008, Fraser has spent more than $388,000 in campaign funds, most of it unrelated to any election. Fraser tapped campaign money to help pay for a trip with his wife to Park City, Utah, during ski season. He and his wife also used the money to travel to Hawaii, San Francisco and Monterey, Calif., England, Spain, Russia, Germany, Puerto Rico, Panama and Costa Rica, where they stayed at a $400-a-night resort nestled among some waterfalls.
Congress has an abysmally low
approval rating, but it seems unlikely Americans would be bigger fans of Capitol Hill if it was run more like Texas.
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is the former politics editor for The Wire