AUSTIN — Rep. Lon Burnam is seeking answers from the Department of Public Safety over taxpayer money that the agency used to provide security for Gov. Rick Perry during his ill-fated five-month presidential bid.
"I am concerned about the use of public funds for campaign-related activities, particularly at a time when the state budget is under such strain," the Fort Worth Democrat said in a letter to Col. Steve McCraw, DPS director.
House Democrats say DPS security for Perry's campaign cost $2.6 million from his entrance in the race in mid-August until his withdrawal Jan. 19. The DPS has reported $800,000 in security expenses for the part of the campaign from September through November.
Rep. Jessica Farrar of Houston, the leader of House Democrats, has suggested that Perry pay the $2.6 million.
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Perry's office has said the expenditures are proper because the governor must have security wherever he goes. Spokeswoman Lucy Nashed has said that "not a dime" of taxpayer money went to cover Perry's political expenses.
Burnam, a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, said House Democrats are still examining Perry's security costs and could push legislation to prohibit the use of taxpayer-funded security expenses for political travel. But he said no decision has been made on a "legislative remedy."
In his letter to McCraw, Burnam submitted a series of questions to clarify the department's security policy. Burnam also asked how much overtime the security detail accrued while traveling with the governor, noting that the DPS figures in late January did not include overtime expenses.
Burnam also wanted to know whether the Public Safety Commission, which oversees DPS, has the authority to adopt rules "clarifying that DPS will not provide" security travel for activities unrelated to a governor's official duties.
"The Governor's travel during those five-plus months was unrelated to his duty as Governor of Texas, and the expenses were incurred exclusively outside the state of Texas," Burnam wrote.
"I'm sure you will agree that we must make every effort to ensure that taxpayer funds are used judiciously."
DPS spokesman Tom Vinger declined to comment on the letter.
To read more, visit www.star-telegram.com.