living the high life in the hills

Rick Perry loves decorating (not that there's anything wrong with that)

Rick Perry loves decorating (not that there's anything wrong with that)

Popular culture is littered with dozens of good-life-loving dudes: Oscar Wilde led the aesthetic movement; George Clooney owns a lavish villa on Lake Como; Elton John has one of the largest fine art photography collections in the world.

And then there's Texas Governor Rick Perry, who in the midst of a budget shortfall exceeding $18 billion, splurges $10,000 a month on a posh pad in the Austin hills overlooking the state capital. According to documents recently obtained by The Associated Press, the rent covers the five-bedroom, seven-bath mansion, which is expertly appointed with pecan-wood floors, a gourmet kitchen and three dining rooms, where the governor has dropped $130,000 for lavish, alcohol-drenched parties.

Reports of the "incidental" indulgence accompany Perry's announcement that state agencies will cut their budgets by five percent and that furloughs and shortened workweeks for state employees are on the way.

The rambling, three-acre Barton Creek Estates crib, that Perry has called home since the Governor's Mansion went under repairs and was the site of unsolved arson in 2007, is the perfect playground for a clandestine budget meeting. Perry's shopping list personifies the West Austin metrosexual:

  • custom Neiman Marcus window adornments: $1,001.46
  • "emergency repair" of the ice machine: $1,000
  • sundry housecleaning products: $18,000
  • wardrobe rack: $700
  • subscription to Food & Wine Magazine: $70

Along with such upkeep addictions as the $44,000 gardening bill and $8,400 pool heater care, Perry has charged well over half a million dollars to Texas taxpayers and campaign contributors for his temporary home. That figure pales in comparison to the total $810,000 he has spent since 2001 as living expenses and "unspecified services."

"If that's the best cut anybody's got of leadership in the state of Texas, then bring it on," Perry told the Associated Press in response to questions about his 10-grand-a-month pad.

Ironically, Perry is promoting his administration's transparency as a major aspect of his re-election campaign. The administration has neglected to follow requirements that "Mansion Expenditures" be itemized with detailed descriptions. Yet another key point of his campaign boasts the administration's purported fiscal conservatism.

Citizens can thank the Texas Public Information Act for the tip, but the governor's office is still guarding 10 e-mails about the temporary crib.

Today's expenditure exposure follows the most recent poll by right-wing Rasmussen Reports, which showed Perry gaining a double-digit lead over Democratic gubernatorial candidate, former Houston mayor Bill White, who has promised to rent his own home if elected governor. The original mansion, which is state-owned and carries no rent, will not be completed for two years.

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The original 1856 Texas Governor's Mansion
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A suave Perry addresses a crowd at Houston City Hall on the May 6 National Day of Prayer Photo by Steven Thomson