Saturday, January 30, 2010

"Perry clings to a failed policy of privatized, foreign-owned toll roads using sweetheart deals that grant monopolies to the private operators."

Toll roads front and center in gubernatorial debate


by Terri Hall
Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom
Copyright 2010

The debate over toll roads took a front row seat in last night's final Republican gubernatorial debate. The lead question to start the debate, posed by reporter Wayne Slater, asked candidates Kay Bailey Hutchison, Debra Medina, and Rick Perry what they feel is the best way to fund roads: more debt, raise the gas tax, or more toll roads.

While no candidate came out and said they'd raise the gas tax, both Hutchison and Medina said an audit and total house cleaning at TxDOT was in order before any new money would be considered. Both challengers rejected Perry's version of reliance on strictly toll roads to build infrastructure. Hutchison emphasized no tolls on existing freeways (touting her amendment to two appropriations bills that forbids tolling existing interstates, though it has a loophole for "managed" toll lanes added to the middle of existing paid-for right of way), and no gas tax increases without a public election (which seems to indicate support for the local option gas tax being pushed by officials in urban areas).

Medina stated the need for greater transparency at TxDOT to identify the waste, and she emphasized state sovereignty, saying no gas tax should leave the state to get pilfered in Washington. Perry stubbornly clung to his failed policy of privatized, foreign-owned toll roads using sweetheart deals that grant monopolies to the private operators (which result in toll rates of 75 cents PER MILE to access public roads).

Perry's "YOU LIE!" moment

Perry's greatest fib of the day was his insistence that the Texas legislature passed a bill in 2005 prohibiting the conversion of free lanes to toll lanes. However, the truth is, the bill, HB 2702, tells precisely how TxDOT can LEGALLY convert existing highway lanes into toll lanes by simply downgrading the free lanes to access roads.

The bill also contains other gaping loopholes that allow the Transportation Commission (all appointed by Perry) to override the "prohibition" if it determines the toll lanes "improve mobility in the region" as well as grandfather clause that exempts virtually all the toll projects currently on the table.

Perry's elitist "you can eat cake" attitude is: if you can't afford the toll lanes, you can sit in congestion on the stop-light ridden access roads. The fight to stop the conversion of all existing FREEway lanes on US 281 (and 16 miles of Loop 1604) into a tollway has languished precisely because of the loopholes in HB 2702.

Challengers: Perry's sweetheart deals must go

Later, Hutchison emphasized Perry's approach to building roads grants sweetheart deals designed to protect the interests of the private operators, not of the traveling public, by limiting the potential "competition" of surrounding free roads.

In her closing, Hutchison decried Perry's cronyism relating to the toll deals, where lobbyists, not Texans, get their interests represented. Medina closed by lumping Hutchison into the mix saying "both want to sell Texas to the highest bidder" (an allusion to Hutchison's support of private toll roads, though Hutchison stops short of foreign ownership and wants certain public protections in the contracts).

It's interesting to note, only Medina actually asked for Texans' vote on March 2. She also noted the career politicians tout big name endorsements, but Medina emphasized, as she looked right into the camera at the millions of viewers, "the only endorsement I care about is yours."

© 2010 Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom:

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Friday, January 29, 2010

"While the Governor is living high-off-the-hog, Texas families are struggling to feed their children and pay their bills."


Debra Medina Calls "Bullshit" on Perry Before Debate

bum steer


by Nelda Carrizales Skevington
Medina for Texas
Copyright 2010

DALLAS, TX, Friday, January 29, 2010 -- According to Governor Rick Perry, under his leadership, Texas is the strongest state in the nation, but the devil is in the details.

In a recent interview at the Blogger's Summit, Governor Perry said that ending the property tax in Texas was a very intriguing and positive idea. However, he fell short of embracing the end of property tax or any significant change in management of the state's current fiscal crisis, maintaining that Texas is on the right path. "Well, I'm saying "bullshit" and here's why," Medina said.

Not only have we seen loss of jobs in the private sector, the most recent State Comptroller's Fiscal Notes shows total state tax collections have fallen by over 20%, while funds from the federal government to the state government have risen nearly 34% so far this year over last year, to plug the huge hole in Governor Perry's state budget.

Furthermore, while Texas families and businesses have been tightening their belts during that same year, and while Governor Perry is boasting about our solid economic footing, he has spent nearly $1.7 Billion in his own department, 13.5% more this year than last!

"A double-digit spending increase is not sound management. It feels like state theft, pure and simple. He is taking food from the mouths of Texans," says Debra Medina. "While the Governor is living high-off-the-hog, Texas families are struggling to feed their children and pay their bills."

© 2010 Medina for Texas:

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

CDA ban ignored: Privatized freeway tolls gain a foothold on I-35 in Denton

I-35E expansion to be completed in stages


The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2009

Rebuilding Interstate 35E from Dallas to Denton will have to be done in stages, even if Texas contracts with a private toll firm to build and finance most of the work, state transportation officials said Wednesday.

The full project – which would stretch 28 miles and include four rebuilt free lanes and two tolled lanes in each direction – would cost $4.3 billion, Texas Department of Transportation officials said.

Trouble is, the only money Texas has now for the project – or will likely have in the near future – is $592 million set aside from the billions North Texas Tollway Authority paid for the State Highway 121 project, deputy executive director John Barton said.

To stretch that money, Barton said, the department is considering seeking private partners to help build a 12-mile segment of the road. The scaled-down project would also begin with just three free lanes in each direction plus the tolled lanes. Frontage roads would also be added or rebuilt.

The segment would stretch from the Bush Turnpike in Dallas to FM2181 in Denton County.

But even to do this much of the project will take a new approach by the department and a rule change by the Texas Transportation Commission. It will take the agency about 12 months to select a private firm to do the work, Barton said.

The rule change is necessary because the state would seek to use a so-called pass-through toll agreement with a private company to build the 12-mile segment. The company would agree to build and finance the road in return for an upfront payment – usually a portion of its construction costs – plus guaranteed payments from future toll revenues.

If toll revenues are higher than expected, Texas would see a windfall, but if they are lower, it would still have to cover the promised payments to the firm.

Denton County Judge Mary Horn said she strongly favors the approach, because she believes the state has no other way to pay for the badly needed widening of Interstate 35E.

"Yes, I hear people objecting to the idea because it is a toll road, but I do not see this as a toll road," she said. "The traveling public will have a choice. For the anti-toll road people, if they feel that strongly about it, well bless their little hearts, there will be free lanes right beside the tolled lanes and they certainly won't have to use the toll lanes."

A similar hybrid approach to tolls – with rebuilt free lanes being joined by brand-new tolled lanes – will be used on LBJ Freeway in Dallas, which should begin construction early next year.

© 2010 Dallas Morning News:

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Toll equity loans for 161: "...could tie up millions of dollars a year in highway funds that otherwise would be spent on nontoll projects."

Southwest Parkway and Texas 161 toll road projects clear big hurdle


Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Copyright 2010

AUSTIN — A deal approved Thursday all but assures that the proposed Southwest Parkway toll road in Fort Worth will be under construction later this year.

The Texas Transportation Commission agreed to use the state’s gas taxes as collateral on two projects being developed jointly — Southwest Parkway and Texas 161 in Grand Prairie — even though those projects are toll roads.

The move, approved Thursday morning by a voice vote, could tie up highway funds normally used on nontoll projects for years. Nonetheless, it strongly improves the chances that the first eight miles of Southwest Parkway, from Interstate 30 near downtown Fort Worth to Dirks Road on the city’s southwest side, will be under construction by the end of the year and open by mid-2013.

Officials from the Texas Department of Transportation and the North Texas Tollway Authority agreed that the two roads would be developed together and would share revenue until each was paid for.

"I believe there is less risk doing the projects together than doing the projects separately," said state Rep. Rob Orr, R-Burleson, who spoke to the commission along with state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.

Still, Thursday’s action was a preliminary step. Over the next 30 days, both sides must hammer out specific legal language to make the agreement stick.

Key question

A crucial question is whether the agreement can be structured to pass muster with bondholders, who may not approve of combining finances for the two projects and may insist that their investments be restricted to one road or the other.

The Transportation Department also wants an assurance in the contract that the tollway authority will release the state’s gas tax fund — Fund 6 — as collateral as early as possible.

Commissioner Ned Holmes of Houston expressed doubt that the two sides could agree on language that satisfies that concern by Feb. 28, the tollway authority’s deadline for deciding once and for all whether to take over the Texas 161 project.

Texas 161 runs parallel to Texas 360 in Arlington and is expected to be a main path to Cowboys Stadium, especially for fans coming from north Dallas.

"I don’t know how you’ll be able to do that in the next 30 days," Holmes said. "It’s been going on for some time now."

Still, with the state’s highway fund as a backstop, the North Texas Tollway Authority expects to get a much higher credit rating on the bond market. As a result, it will enjoy a better interest rate — and will raise about $400 million more for the project through bond sales than would have otherwise been possible.

Despite that infusion of $400 million, there is still a $300 million funding gap between the estimated cost of the projects and the amount of revenue the tollway authority can raise.

Funding gap

The long-term risk for Texas taxpayers is that if either toll road project struggles financially at any time during the next four decades, the state may have to dip into its gas tax reserves to help the tollway authority pay its debts.

The arrangement — a toll equity loan — could tie up millions of dollars a year in highway funds that otherwise would be spent on nontoll projects.

Transportation commissioners originally opposed taking that risk but ultimately decided to go along with it. The alternative, they noted, was to not build Southwest Parkway.

In recent years, lawmakers have severely restricted the Transportation Department’s ability to build its own toll projects — especially if private developers were involved. In Dallas-Fort Worth, the tollway authority, which is a public agency, has first dibs on any project, according to state law.

"The tools that have been taken away from this agency need to be returned so we can be creative in our delivery," said Deirdre Delisi of Austin, the Transportation Commission chairwoman. "There’s only so much capacity we have. It ties our hands for future projects."

Meanwhile, the North Central Texas Council of Governments, the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s official planning body, is searching for other funding sources to close the $300 million gap, transportation director Michael Morris said.

One option is securing a federal transportation infrastructure loan, although that’s considered a long shot. Another could be a state infrastructural bank loan, although that source likely wouldn’t be available until September at the earliest.

"We’ve got 30 days to close a $300 million gap," Morris said.

GORDON DICKSON, 817-390-7796

© 2010 Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"No matter which one of these two wins the GOP Primary in March, the Trans Texas Corridor is still very much alive."

The TTC is alive


Eye on Williamson
Copyright 2010

DMN political writer Wayne Slater wrote an article yesterday about Kay Bailey Hutchison’s campaign donations from a corporation that builds toll roads.

Kay Bailey Hutchison has railed against the Trans-Texas Corridor, but she counts one of the state’s premiere toll-road builders among her major financial contributors.

Bartell Zachry, whose San Antonio-based construction company partnered with the Spanish company Cintra to develop the multi-billion transportation project, gave Hutchison $25,000, according to a campaign finance report filed with the state.

Hutchison campaign spokeswoman Jen Baker said the senator was happy to accept money from the toll-road builder, even though she has denounced the Trans-Texas Corridor as a land grab and has pledged to curb toll-road construction if she’s elected governor. [Emphasis added].

Notice it says “curb”, not end toll road construction. But the most illuminating analysis of this article are competing GOP’er blogs on this.

First a pro-KBH blog shows where Perry stands, Watch Your Tenses.

Rick’s spokesman responded to this development with a disturbing choice of words:

Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner said Hutchison is being hypocritical.

“The senator criticizes the project, yet she has no hesitation taking money from the company building the project,” Miner said.

“Building the project”?

Don’t you mean “that was going to build the project”?

Because the Trans-Texas Corridor is “dead”… Right?


And here’s the pro-Rick take on the Kay’s corporate cash.

Here is my theory on what happened here… Rick’s TTC already got shot down… so the company that was to have built the TTC is thinking the only way to get it built is with a different governor who also believes in the project… but the new governor will be able to roll it out better than Rick did in terms of public relations. Let’s face it, Rick’s peeps did as bad a job on that as anyone could ever do…

Zachry though is thinking Kay is a blank slate and she will be able to get it through because they will be much quieter about it and just build it in pieces without a lot of fanfare… that’s why the company responsible for the Trans Texas Corridor is giving Kay such a large sum of money.

I wonder if this big donation has anything to do with Kay pulling down her advertisements about toll roads and replacing them with her border security commercials…

Ah, corporate toll roads repackaged and sold to us by KBH. All of this goes to show, that no matter which one of these two wins the GOP Primary in March, the TTC is still very much alive.

© 2010 Eye on Williamson:

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To view the Trans-Texas Corridor Blog click HERE


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TTC contractor Zachry hedges bets in Republican Primary race

Kay Bailey Hutchison accepts campaign cash from toll-road builder


The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2010

AUSTIN – Kay Bailey Hutchison has railed against the Trans-Texas Corridor, but she counts one of the state’s premiere toll-road builders among her major financial contributors.

Bartell Zachry, whose San Antonio-based construction company partnered with the Spanish company Cintra to develop the multi-billion transportation project, gave Hutchison $25,000, according to a campaign finance report filed with the state.

Hutchison campaign spokeswoman Jen Baker said the senator was happy to accept money from the toll-road builder, even though she has denounced the Trans-Texas Corridor as a land grab and has pledged to curb toll-road construction if she's elected governor.

"Clearly, Zachry agrees with 60 percent of primary voters that don't have any interest in four more years of Rick Perry," said Baker, referring to Perry's 39 percent share of the vote when he won re-election in 2006 in a four-way race.

Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner said Hutchison is being hypocritical.

"The senator criticizes the project, yet she has no hesitation taking money from the company building the project," Miner said.

Zachry has been one of Perry's major benefactors over the years, delivering more than $200,000 from officers and the company's political committee since Perry became governor in 2000.

A company spokeswoman said the construction executive has long supported both Hutchison and Perry in their separate races but had to choose between them in the GOP primary.

"Bartell has supported Sen. Hutchison since she first ran for the U.S. Senate," said Zachry Group spokeswoman Vicky Waddy. "He has a history of supporting her that probably as long as his history of supporting Gov. Perry. And he had a tough decision to make."

The Trans-Texas Corridor – which envisioned a network of highways, railroads and pipelines criss-crossing Texas -- was a major Perry initiative. But it faced strong public opposition and has been declared dead by state transportation officials.

In a campaign commercial, Hutchison warns voters that the only way to make sure the corridor is dead is to elect her governor. She would push the Legislature to revoke authority for development of the project. But in her larger transportation plans, Hutchison does not call for the elimination of new toll-road projects.

Such projects continue to be developed in several parts of the state, and Zachry remains involved in those projects.

Baker of the Hutchison campaign said the candidate remains committed to de-emphasizing toll roads.

"When she's elected, the days of the toll-road-only mentality and land grabs that give foreign companies the land so they can build toll roads and tax Texans is over," she said.

Zachry's two sons, John and David, head different parts of the family business. David contributed $10,000 to Perry, while John gave the same amount to Hutchison.

"It's really pretty rare for us to split," Waddy said. "But David believed that Gov. Perry has worked with him during the legislative sessions, and he believes that Gov. Perry should be able to continue to work he has started as governor of Texas."

Asked whether Bartell Zachry's support for Hutchison was in his own business interest, Waddy said the state will continue to need highways and the company can do it however the state chooses to build them.

"Whether they are built as toll roads, as free roads, as managed lanes, we are able to build them. So it may impact our business in that these projects don't happen as quickly as certainly the driving public would like. But regardless of the delivery method for the projects, we can still build them," she said.

She noted that others in the company have divided loyalties in the race.

General Counsel Murray Johnson has given $2,000 to Hutchison. And Vice President Cathy Obriotti Green is a statewide coordinator with the Hutchison campaign. Waddy has given $1,000 to Perry.

"There are longstanding personal relationships in play and everybody's doing what they think is the right thing to do," Waddy said. "And we hope whoever is elected, we'll be able to work with them."

© 2010 Dallas Morning News:

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Monday, January 25, 2010

"Republican and Democratic voters alike oppose privatization"

Privatize Illinois' tollways? Voters say no


Richard Wronski
WGN News (Chicago)
Copyright 2010

Politicians who hope to gain traction with voters by urging that the Illinois Tollway be leased to a private company might want to rethink their strategy.

By overwhelming numbers, Republican and Democratic voters alike oppose privatization of the tollway system and believe it would lead to higher tolls, according to a Tribune/WGN-TV poll.

The statewide poll of likely primary voters, conducted Jan. 16 to 20, shows Democrats opposing privatization 72 percent to 14 percent, with 13 percent undecided. Republicans oppose the idea 65 percent to 16 percent, with 19 percent undecided.

Why? Among Democrats, 71 percent say tolls are certain to increase if the tollway is leased to a private company; 68 percent of Republicans feel the same way.

The idea of leasing the tollway has been floated -- and shot down -- before, in Illinois and elsewhere. Several states are considering similar plans.

GOP gubernatorial contender Jim Ryan recently became the most prominent candidate to suggest the plan. The former Illinois attorney general noted that a long-term lease of the 286-mile system could generate billions of dollars to fund public works improvements across the state.

Ryan pointed to Indiana's lease of the Indiana Toll Road for $3.8 billion as a guide.

A consultant's report commissioned by the General Assembly in 2006 estimated Illinois could receive up to $23.8 billion by leasing the tollway system under a 75-year contract. The estimate assumed increases in tolls by 50 percent every 20 years.

These days, however, experts say a tollway lease would command far less because of the poor economy. The global credit crunch killed Chicago's proposed deal to lease Midway Airport for $2.5 billion last year.

Tollway officials had no comment on such a plan.

Critics say privatizing public assets amounts to a temporary fix. Many point to how Mayor Richard Daley's deal to lease the city's parking meters provided a one-time windfall but led to steep rate hikes, broken machines and unhappy users.

Frequent tollway user Alex Sidorowych, 56, of Lake Zurich, called tollway privatization a "bad idea."

"It's a taxpayers' asset, and I think it should stay with the state," said Sidorowych, a property manager who drives the tollways for business.

Motorist David Cromley, 52, a salesman from Sugar Grove, agreed: "There's no doubt private industry could run the system better ... based on the mismanagement in the public sector. But the private sector has to show a profit. I think prices would go up more, and maintenance would go down to a worse level."

Chicago leased the Chicago Skyway to a Euro-Australian consortium in 2004 for 99 years for $1.83 billion. Since then, the toll for cars on the 7.8-mile stretch has risen to $3 from $2.

The lease allows tolls to rise to $3.50 in 2011, $4 in 2013, $4.50 in 2015 and $5 in 2017.

A benefit of the skyway lease is it frees the city from having to maintain the toll bridge, while providing long-term funding, said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation, a non-partisan fiscal watchdog group.

But the parking meter lease turned into a fiasco because the deal was struck with no public scrutiny, he said.

The worst thing the state could do is use the proceeds from a tollway lease to relieve pressure on the state's operating budget, which faces a $12 billion deficit, Msall said.

State Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg, D-Evanston, proposed leasing the tollway in 2006, but the idea was doused by suburban GOP legislators.

Schoenberg said he finds it "somewhat ironic if not amusing" that some Republican candidates for governor are now talking up the same idea.

"It's quite different from the harsh criticism many of them were lobbing my way a couple of years ago," he said. "Now they're more interested, and I'm more skeptical."

Schoenberg also disagrees with those like Ryan who would suggest using lease proceeds for roads or infrastructure. The most prudent path, Schoenberg said, is to use the funds to pay down the state's massive unfunded pension liability, estimated at $80 billion.

This past fall, the tollway wrapped up its $6.1 billion rebuilding and widening program. But the five years of construction have saddled the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority with $4 billion in debt that won't be paid off until 2034.

And state law requires toll revenues to be reinvested in the tollway, not channeled to other agencies or the state's general fund.

Keeping the system the way it is works just fine for Tammy Clayton, 46, of Harvey, a postal worker who commutes 100 miles a day on the tollway.

"I like the way things are now," Clayton said while on a dinner break at the Hinsdale Oasis on the Tri-State Tollway (I-294). "The tolls would probably go up extremely (with a lease). It would make things pretty difficult for me."

© 2010 WGN News:

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Astroturf Burns: Perry scheme to gin up phony grassroots support going up in smoke

Exclusive: Perry voter turnout project signs up felons

Money can't by Rick Perry love


The Dallas Morning News
Copyright 2009

Gov. Rick Perry's campaign has unknowingly paid convicted felons as part-time workers under its incentive program to turn out voters for the Republican primary.

The campaign lists about 300 part-time workers on the financial disclosure forms it filed with the state, recruits under the "Perry Home Headquarters" program that pays people to get others to sign up as a Perry supporter and pledge to vote. A handful have criminal histories, a Dallas Morning News review shows.

Beyond that, the program has become a money-making opportunity, especially for those with extensive social networking profiles. Some may be in it more for the cash than the candidate. For instance, one lists herself as a Facebook fan of President Barack Obama, an unlikely political pairing.

Campaign officials don't screen those who sign up to be part-timers. They say that both the re-election effort and the workers benefit from the Home Headquarters program.

"People in life make mistakes," said Perry spokesman Mark Miner. "It doesn't mean they can't get a second chance and work hard. That's what these people are doing. They are out there trying to change their lives and make a difference."

Perry has described the campaign as a grass-roots effort that would help sweep him past Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the primary. But the voter turnout program has been problematic, requiring campaign staffers to spend crucial time verifying the voters who are recruited, campaign e-mails show.

And the revelation that some have criminal histories, including some for drug-related crimes, could open the campaign to charges of carelessness. Perry's report shows that the campaign has paid more than $360,000 to part-time employees. That's nearly 8 percent of the expenditures listed in his report, which covers the last half of 2009.

"Most consultants and large campaigns absolutely hate large numbers of volunteers just because it's complicated," said veteran Republican consultant Royal Masset, who is not involved with the campaigns of Perry or Hutchison. "It's so much easier just to have an organization that's basically all fundraising and media. I was surprised that he was paying people at all. Maybe he needed to do it to prove that he had grass-roots support."

Perry's opponents have criticized the program.

"Rick Perry's campaign finance reports prove real grass-roots movements cannot be bought," said Hector Nieto, a spokesman for the Texas chapter of Organizing for America, the Democratic group that grew out of Obama's campaign. "OFA-TX and its unpaid volunteers remained focused on finding real solutions to the problems that have surfaced under Perry's administration and are currently plaguing our great state."

Miner said the program is operating as intended.

"It's working well," Miner said. "We have a lot of people out there working hard on behalf of the governor. We've always said that this is going to be the largest grass-roots organization this state has ever seen."

But e-mails written by Perry campaign officials indicate there have been problems. The messages, obtained by The News, show that the campaign was overwhelmed by Internet-savvy workers who were earning too much money. The Perry team has stopped paying workers under one segment of the program: Recruiters are no longer paid for bringing in other recruiters.

Campaign officials have also complained that they had to verify the names of registered voters submitted by the more than 300 people looking to get paid.

Criminal pasts

A review of Perry's latest campaign report shows an array of people with criminal convictions.

Gema Gonzalez of El Paso was convicted in 2004 of felony possession of between 5 and 50 pounds of marijuana, public records show. Gonzalez also has a misdemeanor assault charge on her record.

She earned $13,440 to recruit voters over the last six months.

Reached by phone, Gonzalez said: "I can't make a comment about it, but I have a number in Austin for you to call if you'd like."

Britany Wiggins of Abilene, charged with drunken driving in 2004 and sentenced to a year of probation, was paid $3,240 for her grass-roots work. On Facebook, she lists herself as an Obama fan. She could not be reached for comment.

And Joshua Furrh of Fort Worth, convicted of possession of a controlled substance and sentence to three years probation in 2007, was paid $480 by the Perry campaign.

He acknowledged that he was on probation but declined to discuss his case any further or to talk about the Perry program.

"He's going to make a great governor, again," Furrh said.

Another Perry worker, Bryce Hudnall of Saginaw, has been convicted on charges of criminal mischief and attempted credit card abuse. He earned $20 for his work for Perry.

"That's what happens when you hire them out of the blue," said Masset, the GOP consultant.

Most are clean

The majority of the part-time workers have clean records, and most identify with the governor and his core beliefs. But at a minimum, the program has been expensive for a campaign that needs every dollar for a costly campaign-advertising war with Hutchison and, if Perry wins the primary, a possibly tough challenge from Democrat Bill White.

Perry's use of turnout workers is reminiscent of the successful grass-roots campaigns before him, including Obama's 2008 run and the trailblazing ground game used by George W. Bush in 2004. Those campaigns offered incentives, but not cash payments. For example, workers received campaign merchandise, choice tickets to campaign events, or photos with the candidate.

Other campaigns have paid cash, though.

East Texas politicos had a successful system of paying "haulers" to give voters rides to the polls. During their heyday decades ago, the haulers got as much as $8 per voter.

But straight cash is a rare reward, though perfectly legal. Statewide campaigns usually have a relatively small number of full-time employees but an array of consultants. Campaign structures vary, but grass-roots efforts are usually funded by hiring a consultant to handle the work of turning out voters.

Perry's program is unique because of how it's set up.

Workers are asked to recruit friends and neighbors, referred to as Perry Home Headquarters. Those recruits pledge in turn to recruit 11 more people to vote for Perry in the March primary.

The initial recruiters get $20 for each Perry Home Headquarter they bring in, plus another $20 for every 11 voters that the "headquarter" signs up for the primary.

The potential voters can go out and recruit more Perry Home Headquarters and voters.

The money adds up quickly, which attracts a wide range of folks looking for fast money.

Enterprising workers use their Twitter and Facebook accounts to help them recruit. Shaniqua Curry of Denton earned $3,420 for her effort, which included a plaintive Twitter plea: "HELP ME RAISE MONEY FOR MY NEXT CAR!!! COPY, PASTE, AND SIGN UP TO SUPPORT RICK PERRY!" the tweet read.

Clicking on links sends you to a Perry campaign Web page that appears to have a unique identifier so the recruiter can be paid.

Cash vs. the cause

Critics say the strategy is ripe for abuse, though any shenanigans would probably be perpetrated on the campaign itself, with workers eager for as much money as possible turning in names that won't support Perry in March.

The campaign appears mindful that all the part-timers may not be in it for the cause.

Communications from Perry campaign leaders and their grass-roots workers show that some part-time workers had failed to secure their batches of 11 voters promising to cast ballots for Perry.

"As a reminder, you have the potential to receive an additional $20 for each headquarter that fulfills their commitments of voting early in the primary (Feb. 16-26) and recruiting 11 voters," wrote Elyse Derian, the Houston regional director for Perry's campaign. "Please take these next few weeks to encourage your headquarters to recruit those 11 individuals to commit to vote!"

Needing to focus on getting voters to the polls, the Perry campaign scrapped part of its incentive pay.

"For those of you that are being compensated for your work, the campaign will not compensate you from this point forward for any new" recruiters that are brought in, Derian wrote this month. "However, the bonus for getting your [recruiters] to identify and turn out 11 registered voters is still as is."

Derian also urged the workers to make sure the people they recruited were registered to vote. Many of the names turned in by the part-time workers were either not registered to vote or lived outside of Texas.

Campaign officials remain confident the program will help Perry at the polls.

"It's doing what we said it would do," Miner said. "When you're taking on an unprecedented effort like this, there is always room to grow."

Staff researcher Darlean Spangenberger contributed to this report.


Here's how the program, known as Perry Home Headquarters, works:

1. Volunteers are asked to recruit friends and neighbors, who are called Perry Home Headquarters.

2. The "headquarters" pledge in turn to recruit 11 more people to vote for Perry in the March primary.

3. The initial volunteers get $20 for each Perry Home Headquarter recruited, plus another $20 for every 11 voters each headquarter signs up to vote in the primary. The campaign has recently quit paying out for the recruitment of an additional headquarter.

•The campaign paid out $360,000 to "part-time field staff" in the second half of 2009, and more than 300 people were listed on Perry's report as "part-time workers."

The lowest amount paid out was $20. The highest total was $34,060 to Jeff Cline of Rockwall.

© 2010 Dallas Morning News:

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