The weak and compromised Governor Perry

I will write at length some other time about what I regard as truly atrocious coverage of Texas Gov. Rick Perry by national reporters who seem more interested in a clean story line about the Republican presidential horse race than in the truth of what the man says, particularly when it comes to what he says he’s done in office, particularly when it comes to the economic position of the state. The idea that the Texas economy is remarkably affected by what a Texas governor — any Texas governor — does is just silly. It cannot be overemphasized what a weak office the governorship of Texas is. Here’s a good explanation of my assertion, courtesy of the University of Texas:

Compared to the U.S. President or the chief executives of other states, the Texas Governor occupies a “weak” office. The main source of the relative weakness of the Texas Governor can be found in the historical conditions surrounding the Texas Constitution of 1876. Mindful of the experience of Reconstruction – the period after the Civil War when Republican governors wielded extensive executive powers and were resisted by conservative elites in the state – the authors of the new constitution sought to rein in future governors. They did so by dispersing power that might otherwise be lodged in the chief executive’s hands among a vast array of independently elected officials. Broad powers over the legal system, state budget and finances, education, transportation, agriculture, public utilities, and land development are delegated to officials who need not share the policies nor even be of the same political party as the governor. The dispersal of power among different officials creates what is often called the plural executive. Unlike the federal system, where the cabinet secretaries and the other top executive officers serve at the pleasure of the President, the voters elect the corresponding officials in the Texas system, giving the Governor no direct authority over them.

But today, rather than spouting torrents of bile at journalistic colleagues, I will end by sighting, in the sea of bad Perry coverage, a tropical island  of solid reportage in the Los Angeles Times that deserves special commendation. If anyone thinks the power of big money and large business interests is a problem in federal governance, he or she ought to think many, many times about choosing someone coming from the Texas system to be president of the United States. As I’ve said many a time, and based on my 10 years of reporting there, Texas government is not what people in much of the rest of the country would recognize as American representative democracy. It’s a strange hybrid, in which the forms of American politics are applied as a thin, attractive veneer that masks an inner reality that is hard to distinguish from a banana republic oligarchy. The, ahem, payoff paragraphs from the Times:

Perry has received a total of $37 million over the last decade from just 150 individuals and couples, who are likely to form the backbone of his new effort to win the Republican presidential nomination. The tally represented more than a third of the $102 million he had raised as governor through December, according to data compiled by the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice.

Nearly half of those mega-donors received hefty business contracts, tax breaks or appointments under Perry, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis.

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