Local 2 Investigates Texas' Top Political Donor
August 29, 2008
KPRC Local 2 Houston
Local 2 investigative reporter Amy Davis unmasked the top donor and explains why some say he's giving so much.
Gov. Rick Perry and the top statewide elected officials in Texas have more than just politics in common. When it comes to padding their political campaigns, one man gives them far more than any other donor.
"Bob Perry's automatic checkbook raises the eyebrows of what used to be high-rollers in Texas," said Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice, a non-profit policy and research organization, which tracks the influence of money in Texas politics. "He (Perry) is just off the charts."
Bob Perry has become arguably the most influential political contributor in Texas. Perry lives in Nassau Bay and is the owner of Perry Homes, a homebuilder in neighborhoods across the state.
While Perry's donations are legal and part of the public record, his critics claim his "off the chart" spending is buying influence and even political favors. However, chances are you've never seen Bob Perry or ever heard him say a word about those donations.
Local 2 Investigates added up all of his Texas political cash.
* Since 2005, Perry has paid more than $9.7 million to candidates, office-holders and political committees across Texas.
* He was Gov. Rick Perry's top donor. Bob Perry donated more than $380,000 to Rick Perry's campaign during the last election and gave another $30,000 in 2007.
* Bob Perry is also the top donor to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst -- donating $335,000 during the 2006 general election. Perry gave a total of $125,000 in 2007 and 2008.
* Bob Perry is the top donor to Attorney General Greg Abbott -- donating more than $320,000 during the 2006 general election. Perry has given another $30,000 since.
* Bob Perry donated $250,000 to State Comptroller Susan Combs during the 2006 general election. That was four times more than any other donor. Perry has given another $30,000 since.
* In fact, Perry was also the top donor to 26 state representatives and senators in the last major election. That accounts for around 15 percent of all Texas lawmakers.
* While Perry primarily gives to Republicans, he also gives to many Democrats, especially in Houston.
You may remember Perry was also the initial contributor to "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth." The group put out political ads against John Kerry during his presidential bid in 2004.
"Bob Perry may be reclusive, but his money speaks for him," said McDonald. "He has a team of lobbyists that pursue the policy interests he wants in the state of Texas."
McDonald claims Perry spends millions in part to keep government regulation out of his business and to help keep his home-buying customers from suing his company.
"People would say he's the only individual who could afford his own state agency," said McDonald. "They say his political donations actually resulted in the creation of the Texas Residential Construction Commission."
The commission was advertised as giving customers a place to sort out problems with faulty builders before going to court. Just last week, a sunset advisory committee recommended shutting down the commission.
"It (TRCC) has been a failure. It really supports the home building industry and doesn't support consumers," Mc Donald said.
"Millions of Texans vote and millions of Texans are donors," argued Anthony Holm, a spokesman for Bob Perry. "There isn't an opportunity for a single person to have the impact."
Holm is the closest we or anyone else can get to interviewing Bob Perry. Perry does not do interviews. Holm says Perry receives too many requests from the media.
"Why does Bob Perry give so much money?" asks Davis.
"Bob Perry spends every day trying to better society through charitable concerns and certainly helping to create a better government," Holm answered. "These are important causes. He's a patriot."
Holm describes Perry as humble and says Perry gives to candidates who have what he calls "Texas" values. Holm tells us Perry doesn't want his millions in donations to make him a public figure.
Critics like McDonald say those millions limit your influence at the capitol.
"When Bob Perry's checkbook drowns out the voices of other Texans, we lose our voice," said McDonald.
Local 2 Investigates quickly found out Perry isn't the only one who's tight-lipped about the generous donations.
We requested an interview with the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and state comptroller. We gave each of them a full month to respond. Each of those elected officials declined to talk with us about their biggest donor -- Bob Perry.
We finally tracked down Attorney General Greg Abbott at an Austin news conference on an unrelated subject.
"How much you could tell us about your top contributor Bob Perry?" asked Davis.
"Well, what I can tell you about Bob Perry is that I've met few people in this country who care more about the country and state they live in and about ensuring the integrity of the state and of it's legal system," said Abbott. "I can also tell you Bob Perry has never asked me for anything."
Comptroller Susan Combs later sent this statement: "Bob Perry is a legendary Texas entrepreneur. He has a long record of participation in the political process on the national and state levels. He has a strong belief in good, solid, conservative government."
Local 2 Investigates has not received any response from Gov. Perry or Lt. Gov. Dewhurst.
The state ethics commission has a searchable database to track all political donations.
You can track all donations at www.ethics.state.tx.us/main/search.htm.
If you have a news tip or question for KPRC Local 2 Investigates, drop them an e-mail or call their tipline at (713) 223-TIPS (8477).