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TribBlog: Watchdogging Perry's "Creature Comforts"

Texans for Public Justice, a nonprofit watchdog group, filed a complaint today urging the Texas Ethics Commission to require Gov. Rick Perry to provide detailed reports of campaign expenditures on the Governor's Mansion.

Texas Governor's Mansion Austin, Texas.

Texans for Public Justice, a nonprofit watchdog group, filed a complaint today urging the Texas Ethics Commission to require Gov. Rick Perry to provide detailed reports of campaign spending on living and entertainment expenditures related to the Governor's Mansion.

TPJ alleges that Perry violated campaign disclosure laws by not itemizing how it spent more than $800,000 for such items as food, beverages and flowers. Instead of itemizing the spending, the campaign routinely reports lump sums as much as $63,000 as simply "Mansion Fund." Since 2001, the campaign reported 145 “Mansion Fund” expenditures totaling more than $816,000, according to TPJ.

Separately, Perry spent almost $600,000 in public money over the past two years on a luxurious rental property just outside of Austin, The Associated Press reported last month. TPJ obtained a copy of a related “Mansion Fund” campaign expense ledger that the Governor’s Office initially provided to the AP. The ledger shows payments for items such as alcohol, flowers and cable television totaling $129,020 from October 2007 through December 2009, according to TPJ. “The law requires politicians to disclose every expenditure so the public can see if they are spending campaign money on their own, personal creature comforts,” said Craig McDonald, TPJ director.

Perry campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said there's no need for an itemized listing of the mansion expenditures. "Everything is in accordance with the law and the practice of past governors," Frazier said.

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