Friday, July 16, 2004

Gov. Rick Perry raised $3.2 million during the first six months of this year, including $100,000 on a single day from gambling interests, his most recent campaign finance report shows.

Gambling interests among Perry's big contributors

Raises $100,000 on a single day

By R.A. Dyer, Houston Chronicl
July 16, 2004

AUSTIN - Gov. Rick Perry raised $3.2 million during the first six months of this year, including $100,000 on a single day from gambling interests, his most recent campaign finance report shows.

Among Perry's top donors are Houston developer Robert Perry, with four donations of $25,000 apiece, and San Antonio businessman Jim Leininger, who made a March 15 donation of $25,000.

Dallas millionaire T. Boone Pickens donated $25,000 on March 22, and Texas chicken magnate Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim contributed $25,000 on April 21.

But the largest single contribution came Feb. 11, when the Maxxam Texas political action committee contributed $50,000, according to the report, which covers the first six months of 2004.

Operated by Houstonian Charles Hurwitz, Maxxam Inc. pushed for the expansion of gambling during the most recent legislative session on school finance.

Maxxam owns the Sam Houston Track in Houston -- a horse-racing venue -- and Valley Race Park in Harlingen, which races greyhounds, according to Texans for Public Justice analyst Bill Medaille.

Texans for Public Justice, a nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics, also reported that Maxxam has applied for a license to operate another track in Laredo.

Including the Maxxam contribution, Public Justice found 15 contributions made Feb. 11 from those with gambling interests. Each of the donations was for at least $500, and they totaled more than $100,000, according to the Public Justice analysis.

The contributors include James Helzer, who donated $20,000; Joe LaMantia, $10,000; and Robert and Gordon Johnson, who also gave $10,000, according to the Public Justice analysis.

During the recent special session, Perry floated a controversial plan that would have brought thousands of slot machines to Texas horse-racing tracks.

"The gambling interest paid the piper and it looks like they called the tune," Medaille said.

But a spokesman for Perry said the governor is not swayed by special interests.

"Governor Perry enjoys support from Texans on both sides of the issue," said Deirdre Delisi, his deputy chief of staff. "Governor Perry makes decisions based on what he believes is right for Texas."

Perry's report also shows more than 4,500 separate contributions, including more than 60 of at least $25,000. He also reported 1 cent contributed June 1 from a Whitney resident. Perry's campaign reports that it now has more than $5 million in the bank, up from less than $500,000 one year ago.

Meanwhile, Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, considered a possible challenger to Perry in 2006, announced she has $3.7 million cash on hand and has raised nearly $1.2 million in the last six months.

Strayhorn has also supported slot machines at Texas racetracks and likewise received thousands of dollars from those with gaming interests, according to her report.

Among those are Dallas real estate magnate Harlan Crow, who contributed $50,000 to Strayhorn on June 16, the report says. The Crow family, former owners of Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie, retain an interest in future revenues from slot machines if they are eventually legalized.

Strayhorn's report shows contributions of $473,310 between Jan. 1 and April 8. Between April 9 and June 30, she raised an additional $704,040, her campaign reports. "In my decades of public service, I have never had this level of support this far out from the election," she said in a statement.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a millionaire who has largely self-financed his campaigns, reported contributions of $1.9 million during the first six months of 2004. His report also indicates that Dewhurst has $372,728 cash on hand.

The lieutenant governor has spent some campaign cash on outstanding election debts and to maintain political operations, one of his representatives said.