Stumping for president in Newton, Iowa, Texas Gov. Rick Perry denied that he ever supported the 2008 legislation approved by Congress to rescue Wall Street.
A recording of Perry’s Sept. 16, 2011, comments was placed online by Steve Deace, a radio host, who says on the recording that "our very own" Rebekah Maxwell asked Perry about his "past endorsement" of the "controversial (Troubled Asset Relief Program) bailout ... which a lot of people believe launched the Tea Party movement in America."
Our transcript of the Maxwell-Perry exchange:
Maxell: "One thing that I was wondering about was your earlier support for TARP and how that ... makes a difference?"
Perry: "You got wrong information."
Maxwell: "You never supported TARP?"
Perry: "No, ma’am."
Maxwell: "No. I thought I saw a letter where you had actually written encouraging the support of TARP legislation."
Perry: "No, ma’am, you saw wrong."
Did Perry never support the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which established TARP and allowed the bail out of Wall Street?
Fortuitously, this covers turf we plowed in January 2010 in rating Half True a claim by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison that Perry was for the Wall Street bailout before he was against it.
Hutchison said in a Texas gubernatorial debate that Perry signed a letter sent to members of Congress on the day the Senate was scheduled to vote on the bailout bill, urging lawmakers to "pass an economic recovery package."
"You wrote a letter to Congress saying pass this bill, we need to shore up the financial markets," Hutchison said. "…Governor, you asked for it too. You were for it before you were against it."
In the debate, Perry conceded that he co-wrote a letter with West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin. But, he said, he and Manchin "thought you were smart enough to understand what we were talking about--stop the spending and cut the taxes."
"Governor," Hutchison replied, "that’s not what the letter said."
"I wish we’d made it a little clearer for you," Perry said.
Perry probably could have made it clearer for everybody.
This much is certain: On the morning of Oct. 1, 2008, the Republican Governors Association and Democratic Governors Association publicized a three-paragraph letter signed by their respective chairmen, Perry and Manchin, stating: "We strongly urge Congress to leave partisanship at the door and pass an economic recovery package ... If Congress does not act soon, the situation will grow appreciably worse."
The letter doesn’t explicitly endorse the plan then before the Senate. But no other plan was in play that day amid national fears of an economic collapse. And The Associated Press cast the governors' letter as part of a frantic national push for the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street sought by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and President George W. Bush.
Later the same day, Perry issued a contradictory-sounding second statement, partly headlined: "On Protecting Taxpayers."
"In a free market economy," Perry said, "government should not be in the business of using taxpayer dollars to bail out corporate America."
Asked to clarify at the time what Perry wanted the Senate to do, his spokeswoman, Allison Castle, demurred. "The senators have to make their own decisions," Castle said.
Asked in 2009 about Perry's dual messages, Perry spokesman Mark Miner saw nothing confusing. Miner said Perry simply favored tax and spending cuts over bailouts.
"You call on Congress to take action, nine times out of 10, the action they take is wrong," Miner said.
After the Republican gubernatorial debate, we sought out Manchin for his take on the letter. In a comment delivered by a spokesman, Manchin said: "You had to look at the situation our country was facing then. What we were urging was for Congress to work together in a bipartisan effort, and to follow the lead of the governors ... to move the states ahead. That effort continues today."
At the time of the Senate action in 2008, Manchin said he supported his state's two Democratic senators, Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, who voted for the Wall Street package. But he too sounded a contradictory note: "I do not support a bailout. Nobody supports bailing somebody out on the backs of working people … for someone to profit on Wall Street."
All in all, it's easy to see the rationale for charging Perry with being for the legislation. The Manchin-Perry letter urged action on the very day the Senate was poised to take up the bailout package.
Still, Perry is correct that the joint letter didn’t explicitly advocate the Senate plan. Also, his second Oct. 1, 2008, statement could be taken as a timely signal he didn’t want Congress to rescue Wall Street the way it did.
We rate Perry’s claim Half True.