Rick Perry: From Texas governor to Florida lobbyist

After three decades in public life, including 14 years as governor, Rick Perry, private citizen, has registered as a lobbyist in Florida representing a dental benefits management firm whose top brass were the biggest contributors to his second failed presidential bid last year.

Perry has signed on as chief strategy officer for MCNA Dental, the largest privately held dental insurance company in the country and a leading administrator of dental benefits for Medicaid, the federal Children’s Health Insurance Plan and Medicare programs. It serves nearly 4 million members across the United States and offers one of two dental plans that provide Medicaid and CHIP services across Texas, with 1,327,000 Medicaid clients and 151,600 CHIP recipients, according to the state Health and Human Services Commission.

The company’s regional office in San Antonio has more than 300 employees to serve Medicaid and CHIP enrollees throughout the state.

On Tuesday, Politico Florida reported that Perry had met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott in Tallahassee to lobby him on Medicaid dental service issues. The two are political allies who forged a friendship while serving as governors of their respective states.

Perry couldn’t be reached for comment about his latest move, but Jeff Miller, who ran Perry’s presidential campaign, confirmed that Perry was now working with MCNA and had registered as a lobbyist in Florida “out of an abundance of caution.”

An email inquiry and phone calls to MCNA offices weren’t returned.

MCNA officials contributed $37,800 to Perry’s presidential campaign last year, more than any other single company, according to OpenSecrets.org. Of that, Jeffrey Feingold, MCNA’s founder and CEO, contributed $8,100 to Perry’s presidential campaign and an additional $5,000 to Perry’s leadership political action committee — RickPAC. Feingold, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., also contributed slightly more generously to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign and leadership PAC.

Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, a nonprofit public interest group, said Perry’s new line of work was sadly predictable.

“This demonstrates that when politicians run for office they often pay back their donors in one way or the other, and this is a classic example of the kinds of problems that result from our corrupt system of campaign contributions,” Smith said. “He’s using his influence with other Republican governors on behalf of those people who have given him money.”

A similar critique was offered by Andrew Wheat, research director for Texans for Public Justice, an Austin-based watchdog group that filed the complaint against Perry that led to his indictment on abuse of power charge.

“This governor was the longest-serving governor in the history of Texas, and he and his administration raised the revolving door to an art form,” Wheat said. “There are dozens of people walking around this town who have made millions of dollars on that revolving door, and it’s no surprise that the governor has ended up there as well in that ignoble tradition of (former Gov.) Ann Richards and others.”

As of now, Perry hasn’t registered as a lobbyist in Texas.

State records indicate that from 2010 through 2015, MCNA paid for 39 annual lobby contracts worth $1.7 million to $2.9 million, Wheat said. The company’s top lobbyist is Stan Schlueter, who served in the Texas Legislature from 1977 to 1989, and its No. 3 lobbyist is Albert Hawkins, who left his job as first secretary to the Cabinet in President George W. Bush’s administration, to accept Perry’s appointment as executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, beginning in January 2003.

Feingold and his wife, Barbara, donated $250,000 to the School of Dentistry at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and for the construction of the Center for Oral Health Care and Research, where the atrium is named for Feingold. Perry spoke at the school’s 45th anniversary gala in May 2015, where Feingold was honored.

A year ago, shortly after leaving office, Perry joined the board of Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline company headed by Kelsey Warren, the finance chairman of his presidential campaign and CEO and chairman of the board.

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