Perryman said Anita Perry organized conferences, and he did not recall any policy discussions with her over the years. "She asked me for a job, and I thought she'd be great, so I hired her. Everybody in the office loved her and still does," he said.
Along the way, Anita Perry demonstrated an ability to raise money. The annual Texas Conference for Women, which she hosts, has many corporate sponsors. She also spearheaded fundraising to restore the governor's mansion after an arson attack.
"She would talk about the passion, and I would talk about the specifics," said former U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein Pamela Willeford, who worked closely with Anita Perry on the mansion drive.
FIGHTING SEXUAL VIOLENCE
In 2003 Anita Perry was hired to use her fundraising skill at Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, where, in a single year, she tripled donations to $124,523. Perry pulled in 35 major donors who gave a total of $613,500 over the years. Most of TAASA's work is directed at raising public awareness about sexual assaults. But it became best known for its effort to promote a so-called "pole tax" on strip-club patrons, after the pole dancing common in such establishments.
In 2007 TAASA successfully revived a languishing proposal to impose a $5-per-customer fee on strip clubs, with the revenue earmarked for sexual-assault prevention programs and health insurance for low-income Texas residents. The fee was challenged in court, but so far has been sustained. The state has already collected more than $15 million under the law, but no funds have been distributed because of the ongoing court battle.
TAASA insists that Anita Perry had no role in this or any other legislative initiative. "She does fundraising. I have never been in any meeting on a policy issue - strip club or otherwise - with Mrs. Perry," said association lobbyist Lawrence Collins. Others in the state capital echoed that view.
"Mrs. Perry is proud of her efforts on behalf of sexual assault survivors, helping to raise money to assist sexual assault survivors and raise awareness about the travesties of sexual violence," the governor's office said in a statement. "In her capacity with TAASA she draws on her experience as a nurse to patients who were sexual assault survivors."
The governor's office also confirmed that both Anita and Rick Perry oppose abortion, while TAASA officially supports a woman's right to choose an abortion.
"I think it's possible for a group and an individual to work together for a particular cause and not see eye to eye on every particular aspect," said TAASA deputy director Torie Camp. "I am not aware of the first lady's views on abortion. I have not asked her about them. It's never been a conflict when we work with her."
TAASA's tax filings include information on 35 donors who gave more than $5,000, all of whom started giving after Anita Perry joined the staff. Twenty-two of those have donated to Rick Perry's gubernatorial campaign as well.
The filings show that in 2004, among the 10 listed donors, $10,000 was donated by Contran Corporation, whose chief executive, Harold Simmons, is among Perry's biggest contributors. Peter Holt, CEO of Holt Industries and owner of the San Antonio Spurs, who has donated $537,740 to Rick Perry's campaigns since 2002, also gave $7,500 to TAASA in 2005 and another $10,000 in 2009.
The biggest individual donor - and perhaps the most colorful - was Republican politician Clayton Williams, who gave $100,000 to TAASA in 2008. Williams infamously quipped during his own campaign for governor in 1990 that rape was like the weather: "If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it."