Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Report: Rick Perry letter to Obama reveals the ‘difference between a scientist and a politician’

A news story shows Gov. Rick Perry prepared a letter critical of federal policies in part by tapping interest groups (Austin American-Statesman photo, Erika Rich).
A news story shows Gov. Rick Perry prepared a letter critical of federal policies in part by tapping interest groups (Austin American-Statesman photo, Erika Rich).

Rick Perry, the Republican governor of Texas, wrote Barack Obama, the Democratic president, in May saying Texas deserves credit for air pollution reductions in spite of onerous federal oversight.

After Perry made his letter public, we rated as Half True his claim Texas has reduced "harmful pollutants in the air like nitrogen oxide by 62.5 percent, and ozone by 23 percent--a reduction that is  12 percent greater than the national average." His figures were accurate, but his claim (like a similar 2010 Perry statement) reflected on a single NOX source and didn't acknowledge the positive contributions of federal oversight.

Now it's come to light a Perry aide helped prepare the governor’s letter by asking a Republican group for ammunition. Next came guidance from two right-leaning interest groups, according to an Austin American-Statesman news story posted online this weekend.

Not shocking, a university researcher said, but Perry's approach also wasn't scientific.

Reporter Asher Price quoted Michael Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Texas, as saying the consulting of like-minded outsiders was not surprising, but it wasn’t scientific.

"It’s the difference between a scientist and a politician," Webber told Price. "A politician determines by partisan and strategic reasons what the answer is and then finds someone to do research to support it. It drives me crazy. ‘We know Obama is evil: Who can I hire to find this?’ It’s outrageous."

"A scientist raises a question and then does research to find the answer," Webber said. "The sequence of work is the opposite."

The Statesman described Perry’s research approach by citing emails, obtained via an open-records’ request, involving a gubernatorial aide evidently entrusted with drafting part of the letter to the president.

On May 14, gubernatorial policy adviser Nate Hickman wrote the policy director at the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee asking for help "to identify the most deleterious impacts of the Administration’s energy policies on our nation’s energy infrastructure, grid reliability, economy, and job creation."

The policy director, Marie Sanderson, quickly put Hickman in touch with staffers at the National Association of Manufacturing, a trade group opposed to stiffer environmental regulations, and the American Action Forum, a Washington think tank that describes itself as center-right.

Read the full Statesman story, here.

What else?