- Asher Price American-Statesman Staff
Aiming to make a clean break ahead of confirmation hearings to be U.S. energy secretary, former Gov. Rick Perry has moved to cut financial ties with oil and gas companies, according to filings he has made to federal officials.
The public financial disclosure report, released this week by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, and a letter Monday to the U.S. Energy Department, provide a glimpse of Perry’s finances, including ties to two pipeline companies controlled by a key supporter of Texas Republicans.
Last year, Perry earned about $270,000 for serving on the boards of Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics Partners.
Perry also owns up to $250,000 in stock from each of the companies.
The companies are headed by Dallas billionaire Kelcy Warren, who, in 2015 and 2016, contributed more than $1.5 million to the Opportunity and Freedom Political Action Committee, which supported Perry’s latest run for president, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics. In 2010 Warren also contributed $20,000 to Texans for Rick Perry.
Perry will divest his interests in the two companies “as soon as possible after confirmation and not later than 90 days after my confirmation,” he wrote in a letter Jan. 9 to Susan Beard, an ethics official at the Energy Department. “I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter that to my knowledge has a direct and predictable effect on the financial interests” of the companies until he is divested from them.
The letter says that on Dec. 31 Perry resigned from his board positions with the companies.
Energy Transfer Partners is building the Trans-Pecos pipeline in the Big Bend region and the Dakota Access pipeline in the Great Plains. The pipeline in North Dakota is routed to cross beneath the Missouri River, not far from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Tribal leaders have said the project could jeopardize the reservation’s water supply.
The Obama administration has blocked construction of that pipeline’s disputed segment, calling for an examination of alternative routes. President-elect Donald Trump has said he supports the pipeline’s completion.
Last year, working as a consultant, Perry also earned $245,837 from MCNA Insurance Company, whose top officials were among the biggest contributors in 2015 to his second failed presidential bid, as well as $177,402 from McKenna & Associates and $175,000 from Celltex Therapeutics, a Houston biotechnology company.
He also has stakes in Grey Rock Energy Fund, which handles oil and gas leases, worth as much as $265,000. Grey Rock was founded by Perry’s son, Griffin Perry.
Perry also resigned, effective Dec. 31, from his corporate positions at MCNA, Celltex and Grey Rock, according to the letter.
The steps are meant “to avoid any actual or apparent conflict of interest,” Perry wrote.
The Energy Department sets policy on the handling of nuclear material and oversees energy-related research.
Environmental groups have suggested Perry’s industry ties disqualify him for the job.
Perry also receives as much as $15,000 a year in oil and gas leases in North Dakota for participation in an entity called WPP Investments and as much as $250,000 a year in San Antonio rental property. He pledged, within 90 days of his confirmation, to divest his interests in those companies, as well as in companies like Tesla Motors — the financial disclosure form says his wife, Anita Perry, owns stock worth up to $50,000 in that company.
The disclosure form also sheds light on the going rate for a former Texas governor to speak at corporate and think tank confabs.
Omnitracs, a transportation logistics company, paid Perry $28,000 to give a keynote address at its Dallas conference on Feb. 1, 2016.
He was paid $20,000 for a July 27 speech at the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a pro-business group, about criminal justice reform. The event was sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank.
He earned $28,000 for a Nov. 10 address to the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, which tries to “bring Jewish people into a personal relationship of faith” with Jesus, according to the group’s website.
“I strongly believe God has appointed us to hear from Gov. Perry this year,” institute Executive Vice President Nic Lesmeister told supporters ahead of the fundraising event at the Arlington Convention Center in North Texas.