Group may have funneled Perry aidBuilder denies he back-doored $1 million to the governor's bid for re-election
Jan. 18, 2007
By R.G. RATCLIFFE
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
AUSTIN — As much as $1 million from controversial Houston homebuilder Bob Perry appears to have flowed into Gov. Rick Perry's re-election campaign last year indirectly through the Republican Governors Association Political Action Committee.
Bob Perry could have legally donated an unlimited amount of money to the governor's campaign. But campaign reform activists say he may have preferred to pass it through a committee to hide the source of the funds for political reasons.
Gov. Perry was not the only GOP candidate financially supported by the RGA last year, but the timing of two of Bob Perry's donations to the RGA leaves the impression that it was a back-door donation to the governor.
In one instance, a $500,000 RGA donation was made to Gov. Perry's campaign one day after the RGA received a like amount of money from Bob Perry.
A spokesman for the homebuilder said any coincidence between the timing of Bob Perry's donations to the RGA and association contributions to Perry's campaign are a "happenstance."
The RGA also denied earmarking Bob Perry's money to the governor's campaign.
The association had never contributed to Perry's campaigns prior to last year's re-election bid, according to the Texas Ethics Commission.
Bob Perry was the nation's biggest donor in the 2006 elections, giving more than $16 million to state and federal candidates and campaign groups.
The homebuilder is Gov. Perry's largest donor through the history of his governorship and donated $275,000 directly to his re-election campaign last year.
But in October, Perry's campaign attacked Democrat Chris Bell with TV commercials for taking $1.5 million from Houston trial lawyer John O'Quinn. In an e-mail assault, Perry's campaign called O'Quinn a "billionaire trial lawyer sugar daddy."
Bob Perry, who isn't related to the governor, donated $500,000 to the RGA on Oct. 31, 2006, according to RGA reports filed with the federal Internal Revenue Service. The very next day, the RGA made a $500,000 donation to Gov. Perry's re-election campaign.
Earlier in October, Bob Perry gave $1 million to the RGA. Later in the month, the RGA donated a separate $500,000 to Gov. Perry's campaign.
Link called hard to prove
Andrew Wheat, a campaign finance reform advocate with Texans for Public Justice, said proving the donations were intentionally linked would be difficult.
"The timing doesn't sound coincidental. It sounds like something that was set up to be a pass-through ... to water down the degree that Governor Perry is Bob Perry's patsy," Wheat said.
RGA Executive Director Nick Ayers said there was no "earmarking" of any of Bob Perry's donations for Gov. Perry's campaign.
Ayers said the association complied with all campaign laws and publicly disclosed both contributions it received and donations it made.
Anthony Holm, a spokesman for Bob Perry, said the timing of the donations were "happenstance." Holm said the homebuilder is a long-standing supporter of the RGA and gave the association another $500,000 earlier in the year.
"Mr. Perry has been a standing supporter of the RGA because he believes in their mission," Holm said. He said Perry did not specify where his donation should go and has no control over how the RGA decides to spend it.
Holm said if Bob Perry had wanted to give $1 million to Gov. Perry's campaign, he would have done it directly.
Gov. Perry has been criticized for his support from Bob Perry and the creation of the Texas Residential Construction Commission.
The commission is supposed to settle disputes between homebuilders and unhappy buyers, but reform advocates say the commission actually just protects homebuilders from lawsuits. An effort may be made in this legislative session to give the commission greater enforcement authority over shoddy workmanship.
Robert Black, a spokesman for Gov. Perry, said the RGA supported his re-election because he "is the most successful, conservative Republican governor in the nation."
Former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, and two of his political allies are under money-laundering indictments for passing $190,000 in corporate money through the Republican National Committee in exchange for a like amount of funds that could be given legally to several Texas House candidates.
However, in that case, corporate money could not be legally given directly to the candidates.