This is Avik Roy.
He said it was kind of a “stuffy” photo of him from the Manhattan Institute website. Yes indeed. Looks more like Madame Tussauds. Doesn’t look at all like the engaging guy I talked to on the phone yesterday.
Here he is from Twitter. Whoa. Much better.
Yesterday, Rick Perry’s prospective presidential campaign made some important policy hires, beginning with Roy.
AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry’s leadership PAC, RickPAC, is proud to announce new, senior policy advisers.
“For more than two years I’ve focused on being substantially better-prepared to discuss policies I believe will help create a better, more secure America,” said Gov. Perry. “I’m thankful for all the experts who have briefed me on a wide range of issues, especially Avik Roy and Abby McCloskey, whose erudition on complex challenges will serve as great resources as I outline my vision for the future of our country.”
As Senior Advisor, Avik Roy will share his expertise on a wide range of policies and help guide communication on all policy-related issues. Roy is a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the Opinion Editor at Forbes. In 2012, Roy served as a health care policy adviser to Mitt Romney. Roy is the author of Transcending Obamacare and How Medicaid Fails the Poor, and co-authored Fixing Veterans Health Care.
“Over the last 15 years, no leader has expanded economic opportunity in more ways for more people than Gov. Rick Perry. I can’t wait to come home to Texas and work with RickPAC because I’m convinced that the creative, conservative reforms he implemented as governor can make life better for every American,” said Roy.
Abby McCloskey will serve as RickPAC’s Policy Director. Abby has been leading policy briefings for the governor with a wide range of experts for over a year. Prior to joining RickPAC, McCloskey was the Program Director of Economic Policy at the American Enterprise Institute. She also has experience as the Director of Research at the Financial Services Roundtable, as an Adviser to Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), and as a Policy Associate with the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. McCloskey has a M.S. in Applied Economics from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. in Economics from Wheaton College.
“Texas’ economic success under the leadership of Gov. Rick Perry is unmatched in our country. I look forward to working with the governor on policies to unleash economic growth and increase opportunity for all Americans,” said McCloskey.
Brett Fetterly joins RickPAC as Foreign Policy Coordinator. As a graduate student at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington D.C., he studied under Dr. Eliot Cohen and Ambassador Eric Edelman. This May he earns his master’s degree in Strategic Studies and International Economics.
“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to work with the governor and respected policy experts to develop foreign and defense policies that encourage strong and unwavering American leadership,” said Fetterly.
The naming of Roy, especially, stirred a lot of positive buzz in political circles.
All right. I’m game.
I reached Roy late yesterday afternoon at Austin Bergstrom, where he was waiting for plane back to New York City, and asked him what all the fuss is about.
Why is it considered such a big deal that Perry had snagged him for his campaign?
Obviously, I’m flattered that people think that but I think it’s the other way around and I’m honored to have the opportunity to work with the governor. I think he’s done a tremendous job here in the state and if you’re a guy like me who’s passionate about public policy and the ability of public policy ideas to make life better for every American, I think the governor is a guy who has embraced that side of being a politician, of being in politics.
I don’t think anyone would say that he’s sat around the last 14 years and coasted. I think he’s put forward a lot of initiatives that have been, from my point of view, have been fairly innovative and entrepreneurial and applied conservative principles to a broad range of policy problems. I think if you’re a guy like me who believes in the possibility of policy to make a difference, that’s the kind of guy you want to work with.
He said he expects to continue with his responsibilities at the Manhattan Institute and at Forbes. Roy said he’s happy that he will get to spend time in Texas again.
I went to high school in San Antonio, so I have Texas ties and have followed the governor’s career for a long time. I met him, I want to say it could be 2012 maybe 2013. He spoke at a Forbes health care summit in New York and I interviewed him in that context and got to spend some time with him.
We met in Austin a few times last year to brief him on health care and entitlement issues at the behest of Jeff Miller, his main man down here. And those discussion led to further discussions about being more involved in advising the governor, and here we are.
I’ve been in discussions with a number of the people who are thinking about running in 2016. My plan had been to not really get involved in the primaries, just talk to anyone who cared what I thought and just try to be as helpful to the field as possible. But Gov. Perry made me an offer I couldn’t refuse in this role for him, so here I am.
What was so attractive about the governor’s offer?
Having the ability to further develop his agenda and apply what he’s done in Texas to the national stage, not just on health care but on the broad sweep of policy issue.
The first attraction is what I said already. Gov. Perry is a guy who is an innovative and entrepreneurial policy maker. If you’re interested in public policy, that is the kind of guy you want to work for. And then the secondary consideration is that my involvement would be at a fairly senior level in terms of helping the governor develop the agenda broadly not just on health care and entitlement reform, which is my traditional focus, but I have spent a lot of time on a lot of other issues and when you’re in the think tank world, you have to kind of pick a specialty because that’s how think tanks work. There really aren’t think tank generalists. But so it’s kind of like that whole thing with movie actors or actresses who get typecast in a particular role, part of you wants to break out from that. The opportunity to apply my interest on a broad range of issues to Gov. Perry is attractive.
Like, for instance …
One of the things I’ve really admired about the governor is his attempt to create a $10,000 bachelor’s degree, which was somewhat controversial in Austin.
If you actually think of it from a macro level, one of the biggest barriers to economic mobility for lower and middle-income Americans is the high cost of a college education because there’s a huge gap between the income of people with college degrees and people without college degrees, and if you want to make a college degree more accessible there are basically two ways to do it. You can spend more federal taxpayer dollars or state taxpayer dollars to subsidize the high cost of a college education, or you can attempt to do to something to make the underlying costs of a college education lower, to make it less expensive, which is a much more sustainable solution.
If the cost of a college education goes up eight percent every year forever, that’s not sustainable. But increasingly, a college education as a component of the American dream that is associated now with a college education is increasingly out of reach for more and more Americans and so, what did the governor do? He said, `Let’s try to do something about this, let’s try to make a college education less expensive and let’s take advantage of all the new technology to make a college education less expensive.”
And when Gov. Perry started talking about this issue, this was at a time when nobody was talking about this issue. You couldn’t read the white paper from the Manhattan Institute, or the American Enterprise Institute or the Hoover Institution about how you make a college degree cost $10,000. This is something the governor did on his own with some help from local scholars like the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
That’s an example. There’s sort of something, not everyone in the conservative movement was working on. This was something that Gov. Perry said, “I’m going to do this. I think this is an important problem for a lot of people in my state and I’m going to do something about it,” and again, applying conservative principles to the problem instead of simply saying, “Were going to tax people more and spend more money in papering over the high cost of higher education, let’s actually try to use market principles to make a college education less expensive.” And so that to me is a classic example of what the governor brings to the table on a whole suite of issues because that’s what we need in the Republican Party.
I think to a large degree when I follow the policy debate out there on the national scene, a lot of people are saying the same things they’ve been saying for 10, 20, 30 years, and I think the policy challenges we face today require us to think anew about a lot of these issues with maybe a timeless set of principles, but to apply those principles in ways they haven’t been applied up to this point.
I think what Gov. Perry can speak to is, “I applied conservative principles in an innovative and entrepreneurial way to make my state better.”
That record, to me, is very impressive and I think under-appreciated by observers across the country.
Had you worked on a presidential campaign before advising Mitt Romney in 2012?
No, 2012 was my first. I have not spent my adult life in the political realm. I went to medical school and, after that, I worked in the business world for a dozen years and totally got involved in policy. I started writing about Obamacare in 2009, 2010, when it first started to go through Congress. My blog just kind of took off as a kind of hub for commentary on health care policy and entitlement reform policy, and one thing led to another. I got involved with the Manhattan Institute and started working for Forbes, and Gov. Romney asked me to join his effort in 2012. One thing led to another and then, all of a sudden I was a policy wonk – an accidental or unintentional career change you could say, but I have really enjoyed the opportunity to make a difference on an issue that affects so many people.
When you went to medical school did you contemplate a career in policy instead of practicing medicine?
I was always interested in policy but there was never any intention of pursuing a career in policy. I was the chairman of the Conservative Party of the Yale Political Union, a debating society at Yale, which a lot of interesting characters have come out of. At the Conservative Party, we didn’t really debate policy questions, we debated questions of first principles. For example, we talked about things like the tension between traditionalist conservatism and libertarianism, things like that. I found that stuff just very intellectually interesting.
For example, there has been no force that has done more to lift people out of poverty than free markets and so it’s so funny when people on the left say that, well, if you believe in free markets, you are against the poor, when, in fact, the history of the world is that free markets have done more to lift people out of poverty than any other institution in the history of civilization. The funny thing is, oftentimes as conservatives, we don’t talk about that. We talk about freedom being a good for its own sake, which of course it is, but it’s also good for what it actually does to help people.
One of the reasons, I would argue, the main reason that Ronald Reagan was so successful politically was that he was able to make that connection between the values of a free society not just morally but economically.
You were able to find time while in medical school to debate political philosophy?
You know we all of have our hobbies. I was fortunate to be at a place like Yale, where those opportunities existed. If I had gone to someplace like UT Southwestern, which is obviously a fantastic medial school that opportunity would not have been there, so it’s all about taking advantage of the resourceswhere you are.
Where did you get your undergraduate education and what did you study?
MIT. Majors at MIT have numbers. I was Core 7, which I usually translate for people as molecular biology. The official title is biology, but biology at MIT means a lot of genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology.
Where did you go to high school?
I graduated Keystone, a small school in San Antonio.
You had your choice of candidates and, right now, Gov. Perry is considered a long-shot. Why not make a safer bet?
I went with who I considered to be the best candidate. If you really care about the ability of public policy to make a difference in people’s lives, you want to be involved with someone who is entrepreneurial about policy, and to me, that’s the most important thing.
I’m told the conventional wisdom about doing these things is you work for a guy who you think is going to win – if your guy wins you get a plum job in Washington. To me that’s not my first priority. My fist priority is to advance ideas that makes a difference for people. If that leads to more opportunities to make a difference for people, that’s great. But if I were in a role with another candidate who didn’t have that entrepreneurial attitude about how to apply policy to problems facing average people, it wouldn’t matter whether he was more likely to win or not.
I’ve followed his career. I was certainly was always favorably inclined toward him. I thought he has done some very impressive things down here in Texas.
I didn’t have the intention of getting involved in the primaries. My goal was to improve the quality of the debate, so I thought the way to do that was just to talk to anyone who cared what I had to say, which wasn’t necessarily everyone, but to talk to anyone who would listen to what I have to say and be neutral.
I was happy to just kind of work with whomever was interested because I wanted to advance the ideas through discussion and all that. As I spent more time with the governor, it became clear that this could be a really attractive way to make a difference.
He’s a charmer.
Most successful politicians, they have that, they are blessed with those qualities. But I don’t think that it’s that at all.
I think he genuinely brings a lot to the table and I get why in the salons of Manhattan, maybe people have a different view right now, or maybe many of them do, but that doesn’t concern me.
I look at it like Rick Perry’s an undervalued stock and, when you have undervalued stock, eventually if you’re right about the fundamentals of that stock, that stock goes up, and I feel like the fundamentals of Rick Perry are very, very strong, both in terms of who he is and what he has done, and the record he has had in Texas. There’s no one in the field who has anything close to the governing record of Rick Perry and I think there are going to be plenty of Republican voters who are going to take a look at him at some point if he decides to run and decide, this is a guy who really should be taken seriously.
You know it’s a very talented field on the Republican side. Everybody has their favorites and you can’t fault anybody for having a particular view as to who they like. I like a lot of the people in the field. I would be very surprised if the Republicans don’t nominate someone who I would be happy to support, whoever it is.
But yeah, when the governor approached me about this particular opportunity, and I sought out advice from my trusted confidantes and things like that, they were all unanimous in saying, `You’ve got to do this.” That was even if they were aligned with somebody else.
It’s so easy in stories about staffers to overemphasize the staffer. I would want to emphasize to you that what this is about is what the governor brings to this.
If the governor weren’t the governor and didn’t have the record he has and the temperament that he has and the philosophy that he has, my role wouldn’t matter. To me that’s what’s going on here. I’m just here to help him develop what he has spent 14 year or longer developing the public support for, which is a governing mandate of his conservative philosophy.
Roy was headed back to New York Monday after a trip to Austin to look for “a place to stay, where I might hang my hat.”
He was joined by his fiance, Sarah Williams, who was a PhD student in French literature at Yale and founded Pro Bono Speaks, an interpretation and translation agency that assists victims of torture seeking asylum in the United States.
They will divide their time between New York and Austin, and are looking for a walkable location here.
My goal will be to be here quite a bit but we’ll just play it be ear and do what makes sense for everybody. She’s being very supportive and flexible, but it’s up to me be flexible and supportive as well.
Right now they live in Manhattan. So you’re not a Brooklyn hipster?
I’m not a Brooklyn hipster, though my prejudice about Austin is that it’s Brooklyn married to Texas, that if Brooklyn and Texas created an offspring it’s Austin and I haven’t been dissuaded about that. It has a very Brooklyn feel to it.
I think Austin’s great. I love craft beer and homemade sausages and good tacos, so I’m having a great old time. I’m looking forward to getting to know Austin better and taking advantage of what the city has to offer.
I don’t share the political outlook of a lot of Austinites, but that’s OK. I live in New York City right now and I’m pretty used to that.
Avik is pronounced Ovik, a function of imperfect transliteration from the Bengali.
“It’s something I’ve had to explain to every single person I’ve met in my entire life. It’s an ice breaker at cocktail parties,” Roy said. His fiance mispronounced it for a long time until she wondered why everyone else was pronouncing it “wrong.” Such is love, he had simply never corrected her. Avik is good for a Twitter handle – @avik – because it’s “such an unusual, strange name.”
His father came to the United States from the Bengal region of India in the late 1950s or early 1960s to work on his PhD in biochemistry, and was joined by Roy’s mother. They had an arranged Hindu marriage. Roy was born in Rochester, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. In 1988, when he was 15, the family moved to San Antonio. He graduated from high school in 1990.
Of his time in Texas, he said:
It was a brief period but a formative one, those teenage years. My first driver’s license is a Texas driver’s license. That’s when you’re tooling around, going on your first prom dates. Those memories. I remember when I watched Boyhood, that was my life. You see those streetscapes and you recognize them. It was mostly shot in San Marcos, but it’s pretty similar to San Antonio. I still have fond memories of my times here and that’s definitely had an impact on me, in shaping who I am today and I’m really happy to get to spend some time here.
And, does he already have a pair of ostrich boots?
I don’t have a pair of ostrich boots. One of the things that I’ve got to do when I get down here and get to spend a little more time is to get a proper pair of boots.
Meanwhile, there’s still this, which even SuperRoy can’t help him with.
From Peggy Fikac at the San Antonio Express-News:
AUSTIN – The special prosecutor in the case against Rick Perry is asking a judge to deny the former governor’s latest two efforts to quash the indictment against him.
Perry, meanwhile, is once again showcasing a high-profile group of legal scholars who think the case against him should be dismissed.
The two filings by special prosecutor Michael McCrum of San Antonio – and the filing on behalf of Perry by lawyers from Republican and Democratic backgrounds – are the latest moves in a long court dance that has taken place since Perry was indicted last August.
Perry is accused of abusing his veto power in 2013 to try to force out a locally elected official by killing funds for a program she oversees.
Perry, who is actively positioning himself for a presidential run, filed his latest trial-court motions to quash the indictment against him in January and February with state Judge Bert Richardson.
Those filing the amici curiae brief on behalf of Perry included former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former U.S. Solicitor Generals Ted Olson and Ken Starr, former Texas Supreme Court Justices Harriet O’Neill and Raul Gonzalez, Stanford Law professors Nathaniel Persily and Michael McConnell, former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas Johnny Sutton, UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, former Lubbock County District Attorney John Montford, Alan Dershowitz, and Jeff Blackburn, founder and chief counsel of the Innocence Project.
From the brief: “Governor Perry has been charged with attempting to ‘coerce’ a lawful, official act (the voluntary resignation of a public official) by threatening to take a lawful, official act (the veto of an appropriations bill). That is protected free expression, and the Governor cannot be prosecuted for it. ”
According to the brief, that would be like prosecuting members of Congress for threatening to act against Sen. Larry Craig, the Idaho Republican, after he was arrested for indecent conduct at a public restroom, or Rep. Anthony Weiner, the New York Democrat, after he sent lewd tweets, unless they stepped down from office.