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The Brief: Feb. 17, 2012

Rick Perry seems to want back in the presidential race — on the money side, that is.

Gov. Rick Perry in Iowa on Dec. 29, 2011.

The Big Conversation:

Rick Perry seems to want back in the presidential race — on the money side, that is.

The Tribune's Jay Root reported Thursday that Sal Purpura, Perry's presidential campaign treasurer, has asked the Federal Election Commission whether Perry can use some of his $270,000 worth of leftover campaign cash to start a federal political action committee. Purpura said the campaign has also considered an option that would allow Perry to start a Super PAC, with which the governor could raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of other candidates.

The campaign offered no indication what Perry would do at the helm of such a PAC. Perry spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said the governor "just wants to look at what options there are," adding, "He's going to continue, regardless of what happens, to work to promote policies of fiscal and social conservatism, and he's going to work to support causes and candidates with those same goals in mind."

Though Perry endorsed Newt Gingrich after dropping out of the presidential race last month, he has yet to campaign with Gingrich publicly and in recent public speeches has avoided mentioning Gingrich by name. The Austin American-Statesman reported this week, though, that Perry has made several fundraising calls on Gingrich's behalf.

One challenge for Perry on the PAC front: Many donors to his campaign have begun asking for their money back. Purpura said the campaign has received refund requests for about $100,000 of the funds left in the governor's coffers.

Purpura also asked the FEC if Perry, in the event that the federal PAC request is rejected, can transfer the money to his state gubernatorial campaign committee. Though the governor recently said he'd "absolutely" consider running again for president in 2016, he also hasn't ruled out running for governor again in 2014.

Culled:

  • The Canadian company looking to build the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline is asserting eminent domain authority to acquire property rights for the project, and as Jay Root reports, it's sparking a backlash in a conservative swath of Texas.
  • In a potential boon for Ron Paul, the Maine Republican Party on Thursday said it will recommend that the results from the Washington County caucus — which was postponed until this Saturday due to inclement weather — be included in the state's final vote totals. Though Mitt Romney on Saturday was declared the winner of the state, Paul lost by fewer than 200 votes, and his campaign had loudly protested an original decision to exclude Washington County from the final totals, hoping a strong showing for Paul on Saturday could erase Romney's victory.
  • Groups that advocate for juvenile justice reform are calling for an investigation of violence at Texas Juvenile Justice Department facilities after the Tribune's Brandi Grissom reported last week that the rate of confirmed youth-on-youth assaults there has tripled since 2007. In a letter, the groups said the reported statistics confirmed anecdotal reports they have received in recent years.
  • State Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, will speak Saturday at a rally held by God and County, a new Texas-based group formed to fight the separation of church and state and to, as it proclaims on its website, "draw a line in the sand and aggressively and publicly defend those certain unalienable rights endowed by our creator." The group was formed in December in response to protests against a Nativity display on a courthouse lawn in Athens, Texas.

"I haven't made a decision about endorsing, but I do think Republicans need to get on with it. I think it is hurting our party." — U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchsion, who has signaled support for Mitt Romney, to MSNBC on the prolonged fight for the Republican presidential nomination

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