Reporting Bennett Cunningham
The city of
In August, Perry was given the "Defender of Jerusalem" award. So Perry and his wife flew first class to
They all took the 7,000 mile journey to accept the award at a time when the governor was asking everyone else in state government to cut back on travel. During a speech in
According to state documents, the taxpayers' bill just to take Perry's security officers on the 5-day trip was more than $70,000. The breakdown includes $17,000 for rooms at the swanky
The specific price tag for the governor and his wife are secret. So when CBS 11 asked to see the governor's expense records for the trip, we received four pages and no specifics. Perry refused to do a formal interview with us and would only say, "Going to
Keith Elkins is executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. Elkins and his organization fight for government transparency. Elkins says, "This Governor operates under the premise of 'believe what I say, not what I do.'" While Elkins suggests, "There is something else going on here," he doesn't know what that 'something' is.
Records obtained by CBS 11 show the governor's airfare and trip costs for he and his wife were paid for by Irwin Katsof, a financier for energy companies around the world. And the man who presented Perry with the Defender of Jerusalem award, Guma Aguiar, owns a company that made billions of dollars in the
Just two weeks before Aguiar and Perry posed for pictures in
Sheila Krumholz is the executive director of the
CBS 11 obtained a list of people on the trip. The organizers describe those attending as "an elite cadre of 20 executives in, gas and oil, biotech, finance and technology." The list includes an out of state Congresswoman and Texas Railroad Commissioner Victor Carrillo, whose agency regulates the oil and natural gas industry in
Carrillo says he paid his own way but refused to show CBS 11 any of his expenses. Also on the list of travelers: a host of energy executives, the governor's family -- which included his son's fiancée -- and a member of the State Senate Committee on Natural Resources, Juan Hinojosa of McAllen. Hinojosa told us the trip was not about energy. "I don't recall discussions about oil and gas with the business people there," he said.
The governor and others met with the President of Israel, the Prime Minster and Israeli soldiers. They toured the old city of
Like the governor, State Senator Hinojosa's entire trip was paid for by Katsof, the financier. Hinojosa also received the Defender of Jerusalem Award. But unlike the governor's four pages of documents, Hinojosa gave us everything he had -- fully disclosing the nature of the trip.
Hinojosa maintains there was no conflict of interest by accepting the trip. "We as public officials have to make decision on public policy. Not who contributes money or pays for a trip," he explained. But Krumholz disagreed, saying, "This trip raises real concerns for the potential for a secret junket."
The trip also had its share of perks. CBS 11 obtained private emails and found the organizer, Katsof, asked attendees what kind of scotch they preferred for a "scotch and cigar bar" where they would admire "a starry
In late May a