AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Rick Perry spent 126 days outside Texas during his unsuccessful run for president, and the state paid more than $32,000 for the lieutenant governor or Senate pro tem to fill in for him over that time, The Associated Press has learned.
When Perry is out-of-state for a full day, $410.96 in acting governor pay goes to fellow Republican and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, or, if Dewhurst is also absent, to state Sen. Mike Jackson, a Republican from La Porte. That worked out to $32,466 while Perry was crisscrossing the country in pursuit of the GOP presidential nomination between Aug. 13 and Jan. 19, the governor's office reported Monday in response to a request filed under the Public Information Act.
Dewhurst, who has a personal net worth of at least $200 million, is now running for the Republican nomination to fill the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. He and all state senators make just $7,200 annually in base salary to serve in a Texas Legislature that convenes every other year.
Perry's absence meant quite the windfall, with Dewhurst collecting $29,589 and Jackson receiving $2,876. As governor, Perry is paid $150,000 per year, no matter how many days he spends outside the state.
Perry became an almost overnight frontrunner when he entered the presidential race in August, but a series of embarrassing debate flubs and public gaffes saw his popularity plummet and he dropped out two days before the South Carolina primary. In all, he spent five months and six days on the campaign trail, most of those in early-voting states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, though fundraising efforts also took him to the likes of Washington and California.
No acting governor pay is provided when Perry spends at least part of his day in Texas. That's what happened Jan. 19, when Perry announced he was dropping out of the presidential race before lunchtime in South Carolina and was back home by 3 p.m.
He spent parts of 49 other days in-state while still in the presidential race, meaning no acting governor pay was issued — even on days like Oct. 20 and 21, when he arrived at 1 a.m. and left again at 8 a.m. the following day.
Lucy Nashed, a spokesman for Perry's office, said he "is governor of Texas 24/7, no matter where he goes."
"The Texas Constitution has provided for an acting governor since the 1800s to fulfill specific functions that require the governor to be in the state," Nashed said, adding that pay for the acting governor comes from the governor's office budget.
But Matt Glazer, president of Progress Texas, a left-leaning advocacy group, said "add this to the growing invoice of the governor's expenses from his presidential run."
"While he's out embarrassing Texans on the campaign trail, this is money that went to people back home doing his job," Glazer said.
The Texas Department of Public Safety reported last month that it spent almost $800,000 for security teams to protect the governor and his wife, Anita, from September through part of November, including travel expenses for 48 out-of-state-trips.
Progress Texas has joined the chairwoman of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston, in urging Perry to pay back all security costs the state incurred while he was running for president.