FORT WORTH, Texas — A 16-year-old investment by Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a firm that rented pornographic movies is drawing new scrutiny in light of his just-launched presidential campaign.
Liberal bloggers and a handful of news sites have been taking the Republican candidate to task for his 1995 investment in the now-defunct Movie Gallery, which at the time was an Alabama-based video store chain that attributed some of its profits from renting pornographic films.
"They sold family-friendly material in the front but had adult rooms in the back," said Patrick Vaughn, general counsel with the American Family Association, a socially conservative group that led the charge for years against Movie Gallery. The association more recently hosted and organized The Response, a high-profile prayer rally in Houston that Perry attended a week before kicking off his presidential campaign.
In 1995, while serving as Texas' agriculture commissioner, Perry bought between $5,000 and $10,000 worth of the company's stock, according to his financial disclosure forms. Perry sold his entire investment the same year, campaign spokesman Mark Miner said.
While critics contend that the investment doesn't match Perry's record as a social conservative, Miner said liberals are trying to create a story where there is none.
"This company was a regional video store that he owned (stock in) for less than a year," Miner said. "This is nothing different than a Blockbuster chain."
Perry has spoken out against pornographers in the past. In his 2008 book, "On My Honor," he criticized the ACLU for "protecting the rights of pornographers" and suggested that pornography plays a role in "turning some viewers into eternal predators."
Miner said Perry's views on pornography have nothing to do with his 1995 investment.
News reports show the American Family Association's Florida chapter protested Movie Gallery stores as early as 1990. Vaughn said the national organization did not embark on its protest of the chain until 2000. He said he didn't think Perry was likely to have been aware of the protests against the company in 1995.
Vaughn also said Perry's investment was too small to be considered relevant now.
"The fact is we were trying to get big institutional investors to take a look at it," Vaughn said. "People are only talking about that $5,000 or $10,000 investment because he has made it known that he stands for family values. I don't think that qualifies him to be a hypocrite.
"It's not like he was making investments in dirty movies," Vaughn added.
Though the investment was available in public documents, it has not become a campaign issue against Perry in the last decade. Some of Perry's other investments have drawn scrutiny in the past, most notably a series of land deals that critics allege were arranged through the inappropriate use of political connections.
Matt Angle, the director of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic research group, predicted the Movie Gallery investment will be brought up by opponents now that Perry is playing on the national stage.
"He doesn't get a pass for something that happened in 1995," Angle said. "He was a statewide elected official in Texas and let me tell you, Rick Perry is not ... the type of candidate who would give his opponent a pass on anything like that."
"These things become problems when they play into an existing narrative about a candidate," said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist. "This turns contrary to what people know about Perry. ... To me, this is so long ago, it's such a minor investment, and I think, it's is a pretty minor deal."
Jason Stanford, a Texas Democratic strategist, agreed that Perry's record since the investment insulates him from any fallout.
"He has pretty convincingly governed like an American Family Association Republican," Stanford said.
(Batheja is a staff writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.)
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