From the Houston Chronicle Blog...
If Rick Perry’s life is a winding stream, its course bound and constrained by the conservative rural values of his West Texas boyhood, it’s a life that also has been shaped by a handful of close friends, colleagues and advisers, most of whom continue to exert an influence.If Rick Perry’s life is a winding stream, it’s now completely dried up in the Texas drought. The land on either side, once lush and verdant, supporting thriving farms and ranches, is a blackened moonscape, devoid of animal or plant life. But… I digress.
Today, we’re taking a look at Perry’s trusted circle of advisors. While presidential campaigns typically bring in outside advisors, our Secessionist-in-Chief relies on people he knows and trusts. This explains a lot. He’ll eventually figure out, as everyone else has, that Texas is not really just a smaller version of the US. Still, the kind of back-alley dirty tricks that work in Texas might come in handy in a presidential campaign.
So pull up a chair, and maybe a barf bag, and follow along below the brain drain as we venture into the creepy world of Rick Perry’s inner circle.
Ric “Nitro” Williamson
Little-known fact: Perry began his political life as a Democrat in 1985 as a representative in the Texas House. Democrats were much more prevalent in those days, and his party affiliation was a natural fit from his family and his West Texas roots. Always one to jump in front of a parade, he soon realized, with the help of Ric Williamson, another conservative Democrat, that the tide was about to turn, and along with Williamson, hopped the fence to the GOP side.
Nicknamed “Nitro” for his bombast and his volatile personality, the Weatherford oilman approached a range of issues with a restless, creative intellect.“Mike the Knife” Toomey, AKA “Governor Toomey”
“Perry misses him,” a Perry associate said. “Ric was a guy who had 100 ideas and 95 of them may have been a little goofy, but five were the best ideas.”
Williamson, whom Perry named to head the Texas Transportation Commission in 2001, conceived and executed the Trans-Texas Corridor for the governor. An ambitious failure, the multi-modal transportation system vies with Perry’s 2007 decision on HPV vaccinations as the most controversial initiative of his tenure in the governor’s office.
Remember that heart-rending story about the 31-year-old woman with cervical cancer who supposedly inspired Perry to sign the executive order mandating Gardasil vaccinations for all 12-year-old girls in Texas? That all happened after he’d signed the executive order. Get over it. Perry simply does not care about the health and well-being of Texans. Just follow the money, and you’ll understand his philosophy:
A high-powered Austin lobbyist and Perry’s former chief of staff, Toomey represents Merck Pharmaceutical, the company that stood to make millions from the governor’s order, which lawmakers ultimately overturned. Toomey — who also had been chief of staff to the state’s first Republican governor, William P. Clements — was so tight-fisted as a lawmaker representing the Houston suburbs that he was dubbed Mike the Knife.Dave “Karl Rove Squared” Carney
He also earned a reputation as a fierce and unyielding ideologue. Williamson once said of Toomey: “He sees the world as good and bad, evil and pure, right and wrong. You’re not a little bit right.”
Those hard-edged qualities came in handy when Perry wooed him from the private sector to serve as his chief of staff from 2002-04. The governor’s trusted adviser, he pushed a conservative agenda that included tort reform and resistance at any cost to raising taxes. He became the most powerful, and the most feared, non-elected official in the state. Some called him Gov. Toomey.
He also served as Perry’s attorney in a deal involving the governor’s sale of prime residential property to computer magnate Michael Dell for a $330,000 profit. These days, Toomey runs the pro-Perry political action committee, “Make Us Great Again,” a so-called Super-PAC that expects to spend $55 million to help his old friend win the Republican presidential nomination.
Dave Carney, Perry’s campaign guru, has a reputation for placing the interest of the campaign and the candidate above all else. The pattern was established early when Carney succeeded Karl Rove as top adviser to Perry’s 1998 campaign for lieutenant governor…That’s pretty much all you need to know. Karl Rove not cut-throat enough for ya? Call Dave. Remember: don’t pay attention to Perry’s ham-handed debate performances. Keep your eyes on what’s going on behind the curtain. Unfortunately, given our horrible police forensic laboratories, nobody will ever identify the true culprits, but I’m tellin’ ya…there’s some very shady dealings…
… As Perry’s campaign strategist, he has developed a reputation over the years as a tough, no-nonsense professional who’ll do pretty much whatever it takes to win.
Dierdre "Nickname To Be Determined" Delisi
While Dave Carney is burying the bodies, Dierdre Delisi is pulling together the hit list.
The most influential of all, with the exception of Carney, is arguably Dierdre Delisi, chair of the Texas Transportation Commission and a former Perry chief of staff. Earlier this month Perry named her “policy and strategy director” for the presidential campaign.Of all the people on the team, Dierdre’s got the biggest challenge: molding Perry’s incoherent ramblings into a “message” that’s got the Texas swagger and heartless brutality that endears him to the ankle-biting Teabaggers, while convincing the GOP establishment that he’s not going to shame their party into oblivion. Good luck with that.
Delisi, 38, is one of the younger members of the core group, but she has been with the governor since 1997 and has had a hand in policy triumphs and failures, including the HPV vaccine issue. She was a major influence in the ’98 lieutenant governor’s race and managed his 2002 gubernatorial campaign against Democratic challenger Tony Sanchez.
Perry sees her as a winner; he trusts her instincts. Delisi makes sure that Perry plays to the base. She has a talent for keeping the campaign focused on a message that appeals to core voters.
Phil “The Godfather" Gramm
This explains a lot:
Perry has relied on a number of people for policy ideas that buttress his conservative inclinations, including former Sen. Phil Gramm, who taught economics at Texas A&M and who is, in essence, the governor’s political godfather.Those Aggies gotta stick together.
Perry has called him “a mentor to me in Texas politics.” Gramm reportedly told then-fledgling Republican Perry that as a convert to the party he had to be more Catholic than the pope. He’s followed that advice ever since, veering to the right of every opponent he’s ever faced. Gramm continues to have the governor’s ear on tax cuts, de-regulation and privatization of government programs.
James “The Wallet” Leininger
It looks like San Antonio businessman James Leininger is getting his money’s worth as one of Perry’s top donors and influential puppeteers…
Leininger, who hosted a Christian Right retreat for Perry last month, has donated more than $200,000 to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns and another $100,000 to the Republican Governor’s Association when Perry was its chairman in 2007.As you can see from the people who hang out with Perry, evolution seems to have hit a dead end here in Texas, so clearly, Leininger’s evil plan is working out for him. [PS: thanks to some DKos activism, we were able to elect some thinking people to the State Board of Education this time around to supplant some of the religious fanatics].
Perry and Leininger are close friends, and Perry shares his benefactor’s twin obsessions: tort reform and school vouchers.
Leininger also helped bankroll — along with another huge Perry donor, homebuilder Bob Perry (no relation) — the campaign for the anti-gay marriage state constitutional amendment that the governor championed. In addition, Leininger pumped tens of thousands of dollars into State Board of Education races on behalf of Christian conservatives.
Be on the look-out for these shady characters...