Austin judge denies motion to have former rival's suit against governor thrown out

Marilyn Tennissen May 7, 2009, 6:13am

Rick Perry

AUSTIN – Rick Perry may have won the Texas governor's election in 2006, but his supporters have lost a step in a legal battle with his former opponent.

On May 5, Travis County District Judge John Dietz denied a motion for summary judgment by Texans for Rick Perry and the Republican Governors Association. The groups are defendants in a suit filed by plaintiff Democrat Chris Bell, who ran against Perry in 2006.

"The Court finds that Plaintiff has raised issues of material fact with respect to his claims against Defendant," Dietz wrote. "Accordingly, Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment is denied."

Bell and Clean Government Advocates for Chris Bell filed suit in 2007, alleging the RGA did not follow state procedure when it made a $1 million donation towards Perry's re-election in the final month of the campaign. Bell claims the RGA was not legally set up to make donations at the time.

The lawsuit alleges that the Houston homebuilder Bob Perry actually donated the $1 million, which was funneled through the RGA to the governor's campaign. Bob Perry is no relation to the governor

"Bob Perry, during this period, was the largest single contributor to RGA," the lawsuit states. "In fact, no other contribution even came close to the amount of Bob Perry's contributions to RGA."

As evidence of his allegations, Bell claims that within a month of Bob Perry's contribution to RGA, the Republican governors' group made a $1 million contribution to the Rick Perry's re-election campaign.

"These donations were made on Oct. 26 and Nov. 1, 2006, both for $500,000," the suit states.

Bell claims that the Republican Governors Association was not an out-of-state committee under Texas law as it claimed, and had not disclosed its contributions and expenditures as required as an attempt to keep the public and the media from learning of the real source of its contributions.

The candidate also claims that Rick Perry's campaign treasurer fraudulently signed off on campaign reports showing donations from the RGA Political Action Committee.

Lawyers for Texans for Rick Perry and the Republican Governor's Association have said that any filing errors were unintentional and so minor that they were no fines from the Texas Ethics Commission.

Bell is also seeking summary judgment in the case, but Dietz did not address that in his ruling.

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