AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry is flying to Istanbul, Turkey, today to speak at the super-secret Bilderberg Conference, a meeting of about 130 international leaders in business, media and politics.
The invitation-only conference was started in 1954 and named for the Dutch hotel where the conference was first held. Those who attend promise not to reveal what was discussed, security is tight, and the press and public are barred.
The conference has been the subject of conspiracy theorists and even Christian groups who wonder about its influence.
Robert Black, the governor's press secretary, said the governor was invited to attend and speak about state-federal relations. Mr. Black dismissed the conspiracy theories.
"He's looking forward to learning the secret handshake," Mr. Black joked.
He said that Mr. Perry is paying for the trip and host hotel, usually among the top in the world, out of campaign contributions from his Texans for Rick Perry committee.
Previous speakers at the conference have included such GOP stalwarts as outgoing World Bank chief Paul Wolfowitz and former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Last year, the conference was held in Ottawa, and the Toronto Star reported that it had received an unsigned press release saying that the 2006 group included David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, Queen Beatrix of Holland, New York Gov. George Pataki, media moguls, high-level officials from Spain and Greece, and the heads of Coca-Cola, Credit Suisse and the Royal Bank of Canada.
Bilderberg chairman Etienne Davignon, a former Belgian diplomat, granted the British Broadcasting Corp. a rare interview two years ago in which he brushed aside myths surrounding the organization.
"When people say this is a secret government of the world, I say that if we were a secret government of the world, we should be bloody ashamed of ourselves," Mr. Davignon said.
Mr. Black said that the governor was going because he was invited. "He looks forward to talking to them about the system of federalism here in the United States," he said.
Regarding the secrecy surrounding the event, Mr. Black said: "It's their conference, and I suppose they can run it anyway they want. The governor was honored that they would ask him to come speak on the American experience, and he's happy to do it."
Mr. Perry returns to Texas on Monday.