Kissing the ring and fueling public policy

Anyone out there want to meet Gov. Rick Perry? Want to spend a few seconds of quality time with the longest serving governor in Texas history? Maybe compare notes on the quality of rental houses? Or pick up a couple of pointers about how to blow away a coyote?

Well, if you don’t have anything better to do this Thursday evening (Sept. 2), drop by the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin about 6 p.m., and maybe you will get your chance to kiss the regal ring. But don’t come emptyhanded. Bring money, lots of money, because the price of admission won’t be cheap.

If you’re a teacher, don’t expect to find many of your colleagues there. Instead, you will be treated (if that’s the right word) to a Who’s Who of Austin lobbyists, representing the monied special interests that provide the fuel for Perry’s election campaigns and issue the marching orders…umm, advice…he follows when dealing with public policy.

The event may resemble a preelection coronation more than anything else. Technically, however, it is a fundraiser for the governor’s reelection campaign.

Host and sponsorship levels start at $5,000 and top out at $50,000. Givers at those levels also get a private reception with the governor. Tickets to the general reception are $1,000.

Yes, it is the same fundraiser that Perry’s Democratic opponent, Bill White, is criticizing in a new TV ad. And, yes, Bill White also is raising a lot of money, including from special interests, as are hundreds of other political candidates. But few fundraising lists are as heavyladen with special interests as is Perry’s. And few of Perry’s special interests have the needs of the public schools, educators and school kids anywhere near the top of their wish lists.

The corporate giants of telecommunications, health care, insurance, real estate, energy and finance that are sponsoring the event are far more interested in protecting themselves from higher taxes (or enhancing their tax breaks, even in the face of an $18 billion revenue shortfall) than they are in helping state government meet the needs of mere mortals..

Attendees will include a lot of selfanointed education “experts.” You know the kind . voucher advocates, “accountability” gurus and others seeking to make big bucks from public school contracts.

The real education experts, however, won’t be there. Priced out of admission, many will be at home, grading papers, or meeting parents at “Back to School” night.

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