Rick Perry has taken to the skies over 200 times in complimentary private planes provided by donors, business executives, and lobbyists. The free flights cost a total of $1.3 million over eleven years, reports the New York Times after a knee-deep dig through the Texas Ethics Commission records.
Perry pal Lonnie Pilgrim, founder and chairman of poultry producer Pilgrim's Pride, flew the governor to Washington twice to lobby on the industry's behalf. Those trips cost $9,179, or 456 Pilgrim's Pride breaded chicken breast patties.
But it's not just big agriculture. A Texas oilman also gave Perry a free trip down to Mexico in August 2007, where he tried to convince President Felipe Calderón and Mexican energy officials to team up with Texas oilmen.
Other trips are far more confusing. When Perry traveled up to Washington to testify about hurricane relief, the flight was paid for Danny Janecka, the owner of a Texas food-processing company and a major Perry donor. As the Times puts it, "a group of well-heeled businessmen has effectively helped underwrite some of Mr. Perry’s activities as governor."
Perry supporters say he was saving taxpayer money with his usual, fiscal conservative élan; Perry detractors say it "smells to hell." All it leaves us wondering is whether or not in-flight refreshments were served on his flight to New Hampshire.