The rivals for governor of Texas traded barbs during and after short speeches in Austin this morning, each implying the other was hiding financial information that would be of interest to voters.
Rick Perry and Bill White were never in the room at the same time. Perry spoke first to a gathering of the Texas Association of Broadcasters at an Austin hotel, giving his standard stump speech on the strength of the Texas economy, on the problems the state has with the federal government and about some of his campaign proposals, such as requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature before taxes can be raised (right now, a simple majority can raise taxes). Perry again scolded the Obama administration for not sending more troops to secure the border and said "it's only a matter of time" before drug cartel violence in Mexico spills over into Texas.
White's pitch had some elements of Perry's. He touted the state's economic strength, taking time to argue that Perry had nothing to do with the state's present prosperity, and he said the state should focus on education to maintain its economic position. He took Perry to task on ethics, saying people on state boards and commissions shouldn't be raising money for the governor's re-election campaign and scolding the governor for having (until recently) a top campaign fundraiser who is also married to his chief of staff.
Perry told reporters after his talk that he's willing to debate, but only if White will release personal income tax returns from the years when he was deputy U.S. secretary of energy. He said White needs to be more transparent, suggesting the former Houston mayor hasn't released those returns because he has something to hide.
White, after his talk, said voters know more about his finances than they do about Perry's, suggesting the governor's blind trust is invisible to voters but not to the governor. He pointed to recent reports of real estate deals in which the governor was involved but were not reported in his public disclosures. White said he's willing to debate, to appear in public forums and to talk with newspaper editorial boards between now and Election Day. Perry ducked the papers during the primary, and his campaign staffers told the Austin American-Statesman he'll do the same in the general election, skipping the editorial boards while making himself available to reporters.
White unveiled an ethics policy that would limit contributions from a governor's appointees back to that governor. He himself has accepted roughly $2 million in contributions from people he appointed to various boards and commissions while he was mayor but says the city's contribution limits were within what he's proposed for the state. And he said Perry has been particularly abusive, with more than 1,000 appointees listed among his donors and 44 appointees who've given $100,000 or more.