By CLAY ROBISON - Houston Chronicle - Aug. 26, 2007
AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry thinks Speaker Tom Craddick is a fine fellow and a great Texan. But he really doesn't care whether Craddick survives the current challenge to his leadership, provided the House majority stays within the Republican family.
That's the official word from the governor's office, but there are doubters, and their doubts are being reinforced by the fact that Perry's chief political consultant is now advising Craddick's political action committee.
Dave Carney, the New Hampshire-based political specialist who helped Perry get re-elected with 39 percent of the vote last year, has been enlisted by Stars Over Texas, a committee founded by Craddick and administered by his daughter to help Republicans win election to the Texas House.
Historically, the PAC has raised funds for Republican incumbents and candidates in selected races against Democrats. But now that several Republican House members are challenging Craddick's leadership, some of the speaker's opponents may be wondering if the committee's resources will be directed against them in next year's GOP primaries.
Officially, the answer is no. The PAC will continue to help elect Republicans, not unseat the party's incumbents.
"Carney, to the best of my knowledge, is not going to be involved in primary fights. He's there to build on a Republican (legislative) majority," said Perry spokesman Robert Black.
Carney didn't return phone calls, but talk persists that he already has been indirectly involved in recruiting primary opponents for some of Craddick's detractors and may become openly involved in Republican primary races for House seats being voluntarily vacated by incumbents.
Since the political game is rife with paranoia, the talkers, both for and against Craddick, don't want to be named.
Perry may not run again and may have been annoyed at Craddick for losing control of the House during the end-of-session rebellion last spring. Moreover, it was hard to tell which of the two — Craddick or Perry — had a rougher session, as many of the governor's priorities took a beating from Republican lawmakers.
But some believe that Perry views Craddick, perhaps because of his fundraising ability, as the best Republican to remain speaker while Democrats try to wage a comeback in House races.
Perry will be governor for at least one more legislative session, and Black insists he intends to be a player — except in House politics.
"The governor is going to work for Republican candidates and campaign for Republicans next year. That's what he's going to do to grow the Republican majority," Black said.
"The governor has always had a good and a strong relationship with Craddick. (But) it does not matter who the speaker is."
Security isn't cheap
My colleague, Peggy Fikac, recently reported that taxpayers paid more than $250,000 in security expenses for 10 foreign trips made by Gov. Perry and his wife since 2004.
Those included business recruitment and other official trips, a Grand Cayman vacation last year and a controversial 2004 trip to the Bahamas, where the governor reportedly discussed education issues with, among others, campaign donors.
Even closer to home, the governor's security — provided through the Texas Department of Public Safety — isn't cheap.
According to new information from the agency, the protective detail racked up $24,630 in expenses July 18-29 to protect Perry and his family on a vacation to San Diego. Perry wasn't there the entire 12 days, but spokesman Black noted that security officers go in a "couple of days early."
The security detail submitted another $5,614 in expenses for a five-day trip to Pittsburgh, where the governor spoke to a Boy Scouts group in April.
Perry's own official travel expenses normally are paid by his political fund or by a privately financed economic development program controlled by his office.
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