Ordinarily, before a presidential candidate makes an official campaign announcement, they resign from their positions on any boards so that there is no conflict of interest. However, former Texas governor Rick Perry is no ordinary candidate, one who refuses to be constrained by petty concerns over “morals” or “ethics”. Not only did he refuse to resign from the board of the energy company he works for, his boss is the biggest contributor to the Super PACs backing him.
When Rick Perry’s term was up as governor, he went to work for the oil and gas industry that he had protected while he was in office. Perry landed a job on the board of directors for Energy Transfer Partners. It comes as no surprise that Perry promised that if he won the race for the White House that he would make sure the Keystone XL pipeline came to fruition.
Perry hasn’t been able to raise as much money as the other Republican presidential candidates; partly because he started his campaign later than the rest of them, and maybe because his 2012 attempt to win the Republican nomination was a huge, embarrassing failure. Although his official campaign has only raised $1.07 million so far, the three Super PACs that support him have raised $16.8 million. The biggest donor to his Super PACs are none other than the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners, Kelcy Warren.
Warren has donated $6 million dollars to his campaign- and that’s not all. Not only is Warren his biggest donor and boss, the wealthy billionaire is also the finance chairman for Perry’s presidential campaign.
Democrats and President Obama have been saying for years that the biggest threat to our democracy is the money flooding our elections and drowning out the voices of everyday Americans. Perry’s deeply unethical relationship with his donor is a perfect example of why it needs to be overhauled.
His biggest donor has a prominent position on his campaign, which poses the question of how is this not illegal? Things like this and the tens of millions of dollars Jeb Bush was allowed to raise before his “official announcement” are allowed to happen because the Federal Election Commission (F.E.C.) has been paralyzed by Republican partisan politics.
The F.E.C. is made up of six commissioners, three Democrats and three Republicans. Earlier this year, the head of the commission Ann M. Ravel gave an interview and explained just how bad the situation had deteriorated:
“The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim,” she said. “I never want to give up, but I’m not under any illusions. People think the F.E.C. is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional.”
The reason for the paralysis is that Republican board members block the Democrats every single time they try to address violations or attempt to fix the glaring problems the system has. Republicans are happy with the status quo because they have the most to gain from the screwed-up electoral system. They have allowed themselves to be bought, like Perry has, which leads to the focusing of all of their energy on influencing legislation to favor the rich. The Republican candidates aren’t even trying to hide their violations anymore.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.