Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Bill White mystifies Rick Perry—my friends

Rick Perry TV ad, "The Most Mysterious Liberal in the World," 10/1/2010

A video advertisement posted online Oct. 1 by GOP Gov. Rick Perry's campaign casts Bill White as the most mysterious liberal in the world, though don't look for beer bottles. We noticed some familiar statements.

For instance, Perry says White "once made a half-millions dollars off Hurricane Rita," which slammed Texas in September 2005. The Perry camp offers as back-up a June 8 Associated Press news article quoting White discussing his efforts as mayor after the hurricane to line up a private company to provide emergency power generators so the city of Baytown could maintain its water supply. A year later, White personally invested about $1 million in the company, BTEC Turbines, later reporting a profit of about $500,000 from that, the AP story says.

In August, we rated False a Perry statement based on the same events; Perry had said that White "profiteered"--reaped excessive profits--in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita. We confirmed that White made a lucrative investment about a year after the hurricane blew in. We concluded, though,that  that wasn't equivalent to profiteering from the hurricane.

Still, White might be open to conflict-of-interest criticisms in connection with the events at issue.

The big skinny: White previously served on BTEC's board by virtue of his job as president and CEO of the Wedge Group, a private Houston investment company with interests in oil service companies, commercial real estate and hotels. It bought a 70 percent stake in BTEC in December 2001, according to a December 2001 Houston Business Journal report. So, White had a prior relationship with BTEC when he played a role in the company"s getting post-hurricane work, and he also later made a profitable investment in the company.

In the new ad, Perry says White likes Democratic President Barack Obama "so much he taught him how to spend taxpayers" money – liberally." Perry's campaign cites as back-up a May 8 Houston Chronicle news blog about advice on energy policy that White e-mailed to Obama shortly after the senator won election as president in November 2008. We reviewed White's e-mail for a June article, ultimately rating Pants on Fire a statement by Perry that White's message to Obama said "here's how you need to sell cap-and-trade to the American people." (Cap-and-trade plans typically try to ratchet down air pollution by making a set number of pollution allowances available to industry. Companies can trade or sell the allowances if their facilities pollute less than they're allowed.)

White's 2008 e-mail urges Obama to accelerate the use of vehicles that use 40 miles per gallon or more. It also advises the president-elect to fund a program to retrofit 1 million homes and apartments occupied by low-income residents and, it says, he should encourage new power plants to use cleaner-than-coal natural gas. We didn't find the message adding up to a how-to guide on selling cap-and-trade.

Perry also says in his new ad that White "made millions from private corporations while serving as mayor of Houston." We have not tested this claim, which Perry's campaign traces to a March 16, 2010 Houston Chronicle news article tallying White's income from his service on the board of gas well services company BJ Services, and a Sept. 7 Dallas Morning News article stating that one of the "most striking things about White's tenure as Houston mayor, from 2004 to 2009, was how much money he made: nearly $12 million, according to the adjusted gross income amounts he listed on his tax returns for those years," counting about $1 million in mayoral compensation.

Among other elements of the ad: A reference to Perry's previously lofted charge that White left the city of Houston $1.7 billion in the red. The Truth-O-Meter is grinding on that one.