Texan was largest donor to campaignsReport: Houston homebuilder gave $16M to state, federal races
December 6, 2006
By WAYNE SLATER / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – Homebuilder Bob Perry appears to have been the biggest political contributor in the nation this year, with $16 million in donations to state and federal races, according to a new report.
The Houston businessman put $6.7 million into Texas contests and $9.3 million to national candidates and committees seeking to elect Republicans to Congress.
The effort had mixed results, with Mr. Perry losing more races than he won in the Legislature and in sharply contested congressional races nationwide.
At the same time, the GOP slate of statewide candidates he backed, from Gov. Rick Perry (no relation) down the ballot, won decisively.
"Bob Perry is a kind of Texas political cash machine," said Andrew Wheat of Texans for Public Justice, a nonprofit group that tracks campaign contributions. "He believes in Republican hegemony in Congress and the Texas Legislature, and he seems willing to pay just about any price to get it."
Anthony Holm, a spokesman for Mr. Perry, dismissed Texans for Public Justice as biased and beholden to Democratic-leaning trial lawyers for its funding.
"Bob Perry is acting in the open and in a transparent environment, unlike TPJ," Mr. Holm said. "Until TPJ comes out of the shadows, they lack the credibility to debate this issue in the public arena."
The Austin group is not required by law to disclose who finances its research. Its federal tax filings indicate nonprofit foundations and personal-injury trial lawyers provide some of its money.
Mr. Perry has emerged in recent years as the state's biggest political contributor. He prefers candidates who pledge to limit government interference with business, especially those who support strict limits on lawsuits. Although much of his money goes to Republicans, he supports Democrats in some legislative races.
According to the study by Texans for Public Justice, Republicans got 92 percent of the money Mr. Perry contributed directly to candidates in Texas elections this year. The governor was the biggest beneficiary, with $380,000 in the 2006 election cycle, followed by $320,000 to Attorney General Greg Abbott and $285,265 to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, both Republicans.
He gave more than $1 million collectively to his top GOP legislative candidates, but only two of them won – Senate contender Dan Patrick and House candidate Jim Murphy, both of Houston.
He gave more than $200,000 to Democratic state House candidates, most of whom faced little or no opposition. All won.
Texas has no limits on the size of campaign contributions to candidates in state races.
Nationally, Mr. Perry has emerged as the single largest contributor to so-called 527 groups – independent expenditure organizations that can support candidates without campaign limits.
He put $5 million into the Economic Freedom Fund, $2 million into Americans for Honesty on Issues and $1 million for the Free Enterprise Fund, which funded television commercials and automated telephone calls against Democrats in closely contested congressional races from West Virginia to Oregon.