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Perry Blasts Spending on the Arts, Amtrak

In a new fundraising letter for a fiscal watchdog group sent out over his signature, Gov. Rick Perry bashes the federal government for wasteful spending on Amtrak, the National Endowment for the Arts and public broadcasting.

Gov. Rick Perry in an interview with Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith

While Gov. Rick Perry was openly considering a run for the presidency, he was also helping a group of fiscal conservatives raise money in letters bashing the federal government in general and the Obama administration in particular for spending money on programs like Amtrak, travel expenses for federal employees, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

In a four-page fundraising appeal sent over the governor's signature on behalf of a group called Citizens Against Government Waste, Perry writes, "The big spenders in Washington from the president on down need to feel the outrage of the American people."

In the letter, which was landing in mailboxes late last week — after the debt ceiling deal was made and before Perry's plans for a South Carolina presidential announcement were known — the governor writes, "There is an increasing number of examples that show the new majority in the House of Representatives does, in fact, understand the financial crisis we face." The members of the House, he goes on, "are being stymied from taking the most sweeping and important steps by the big spenders in the Senate and President Obama."

Calls to CAGW were not immediately returned. The group bills itself as "a private, non-partisan, non-profit organization … [whose] mission is to eliminate waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in the federal government."

Perry's letter rails against several specific items in the federal budget.

"Here is just a very small taste of what they thought was so important that they could rack up a national debt that is now more than $14 trillion. Our future along with that of our children and grandchildren is being jeopardized so that Washington can spend:

$45 billion this year in what is left of the $862 billion failed 'economic stimulus';

$7.5 billion annually on travel expenses for federal bureaucrats;

$2.5 billion annually for high-speed rail projects that will never make money;

$1.6 billion annually on Amtrak subsidies;

$455 million annually for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting;

$200 million annually for the Market Access Program;

$167.5 million annually for the National Endowment for the Arts; and,

$167.5 million annually for the National Endowment for the Humanities."

It's a fundraising letter and has the overheated qualities of that genre, but parts of it could fit easily into a Republican presidential candidate's speech. "It is almost inconceivable what President Obama and the big spenders are doing to this country. They are setting a financial time bomb that will explode and devastate every American family unless it is immediately disarmed," Perry writes.

Mark Miner, a spokesman for Perry, says the letter doesn't contain anything that would surprise people who know him. "These are issues that he believes should be looked at seriously," Miner says. "The governor has made no secret of the impact that out-of-control spending has had on the country."

Perry isn't calling for the abolition of those programs, necessarily, but thinks that is the kind of spending that ought to be re-examined, Miner says.

In the letter, Perry mentions his long association with the group, starting with the keynote speech he gave at the CAGW convention in San Antonio in 1998 and noting their "common vision of limited government as the best path to prosperity."

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