Rick Perry and his wife facing questions for using Texas campaign cash for travel expenses
It has been four years since Energy Secretary Rick Perry served as governor for the state of Texas, but the Trump administration official is reportedly still using his campaign money to fund present-day travel for his wife as she accompanies her husband on work trips.
According to a report from the San Antonio Express-News published last week, Perry and his wife Anita have been globetrotting using leftover funding from his Texas campaign days, with Perry using federal funds while his wife relies on the campaign money.
This year, Anita Perry has traveled round-trip to London for Saudi nuclear meetings, to the tune of $17,000 — all money that came from her husband’s gubernatorial campaign account.
That continues a trend. Anita Perry traveled abroad last year for the Department of Energy, visiting Paris and delivering a speech about women in energy before International Energy Agency member countries and CEOs. She also visited South Africa, where the Energy Department said she engaged with both “public and private energy stakeholders” on behalf of the United States.
At the time, it was unclear where funding for her travel might be coming from, although the Energy Department insisted taxpayer money had not paid for Anita Perry’s expenses. But finance records indicate that excess campaign funding is covering the costs.
Texans for Rick Perry reportedly had nearly $80,000 as of its last filing in July, money that is seemingly being used to fund travel for the Perrys. Under state campaign finance laws, that also appears to be legal, and the Texas Ethics Commission has previously approved such funds being used by federal officeholders after transferring positions. At least $60,000 in Anita Perry’s travel expenses have been paid by the campaign, according to the Express-News.
Perry isn’t alone, however, in courting controversy relating to travel expenses.
A number of Trump administration officials have run into trouble relating to their lavish travel and spending decisions. Former Health and Human Services (HHS) administrator Tom Price and former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt are only two of the more high-profile administration members to find themselves out of a job following headline-grabbing spending scandals, among other gaffes. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has also attracted controversy over his own expensive business and first-class travel.
While he has largely avoided the scandals of his peers, Perry’s travel expenses previously drew scrutiny after he cost taxpayers $63,500 alone on flights during his first seven months heading the Energy Department last year.
The presence of his wife is also sparking questions. Anita Perry lacks a security clearance, and while she does not need one for the meetings she has attended, her presence is still unusual for someone in her capacity.
In a statement, Energy spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes asserted that “no taxpayer dollars have been spent on Mrs. Perry’s air travel” and that no federal travel regulations have been violated through her travel.
House Democrats have previously pushed for more information about the Perrys’ travel. With Democrats set to assume control of the House beginning in January, such questions could translate into more aggressive inquiries. Perry himself is also likely to face scrutiny over his department’s efforts to revive the dying coal industry, as well as his close ties with fossil fuel insiders like coal executive Bob Murray.