The G.O.P.âs Moneyman
Over the last decade, two Republicans with the last name Perry have dominated the Texas political landscape. One is Rick, the stateâs longest-serving governor. The other is Bob (no relation), the stateâs largest individual political donor during that time. There is no close secon. Since 2000, Bob Perry, a wealthy Houston home builder, has contributed about $28 million to more than 400 candidates and political action committees in Texas, according to an analysis of campaign-finance data by The Texas Tribune... Since 2000, Mr. Perry has also contributed at least $38 million more to candidates and groups outside Texas. That includes $10 million to the Republican Governors Association, according to data provided by the Center for Resonsive Politics.He gave $4.4 million to the Swift Boat Veterans campaign that attacked the Vietnam War record of Senator John Kerry...
New York Times
The G.O.P.âs Moneyman
By MATT STILES
Over the last decade, two Republicans with the last name Perry have dominated the Texas political landscape. One is Rick, the stateâs longest-serving governor. The other is Bob (no relation), the stateâs largest individual political donor during that time.
There is no close second. Since 2000, Bob Perry, a wealthy Houston home builder, has contributed about $28 million to more than 400 candidates and political action committees in Texas, according to an analysis of campaign-finance data by The Texas Tribune.
Big Gifts to G.O.P. Groups Push Donor to New Level (October 22, 2010)
Bob Perry, the Houston home builder, has donated $28 million to candidates for office and political action committees in Texas since 2000.
Gov. Rick Perry, a beneficiary of the largesse of Bob Perry, campaigned Oct. 21 in Conroe. Related
Mr. Perry has been involved in campaigns at all levels, from gubernatorial races ($2.5 million to Rick Perry since 2000) to nonpartisan local contests ($30,000 to the former Houston mayor Bill White from 2003 to 2007). He has backed some Democrats, but he gives overwhelmingly to Republicans, who control state government.
âHe plays big, and he plays often,â said Bill Miller, a principal in the Austin lobbying firm HillCo Partners, which represents Bob Perryâs interests at the Capitol. â âSmallâ is not a word thatâs in his vocabulary.â
Since 2000, Mr. Perry has also contributed at least $38 million more to candidates and groups outside Texas. That includes $10 million to the Republican Governors Association, according to data provided by the Center for Resonsive Politics.He gave $4.4 million to the Swift Boat Veterans campaign that attacked the Vietnam War record of Senator John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. Last week, he made headlines by giving $7 million to American Crossroads, a group founded by Karl Rove, the political strategist and fellow Texan, that has attacked, among other incumbent Democrats, Representative Chet Edwards, Democrat of Waco.
The American Crossroads gift pushed Mr. Perryâs 2010 nationwide total past $15 million, about $4.5 million of which made its way directly to state-level candidates and committees. The largest recipients were the governor ($1.1 million); the tort-reform advocacy group Texans for Lawsuit Reform ($250,000); the PAC established by Mr. Millerâs firm ($200,000); and Larry Gonzales, a Republican candidate for the Texas House ($200,000).
Mr. Perryâs generosity â and impact â is possible because Texas law does not limit donations by individuals to candidates, unlike at the federal level. More than a dozen recipients of his contributions got more than $50,000 in the aggregate as of late October. The average amount is about $34,000, the data showed.
While Mr. Perry, who turns 78 on Saturday, is a high-level player in Republican politics, he is something of an enigma even to insiders, many of whom decline to talk about him publicly. He shuns the limelight, never granting news media interviews (including for this article), and he rarely appears at political events. The causes he has supported include the successful movement to limit damages from tort claims and creation of a state agency to handle complaints against home builders.
His beliefs are not always in line with conservative orthodoxy. He favors affirmative action, for example, and has softer views on immigration issues than many in the Republican Party. His official biography says he supports âfinding an immigration solution that gives hope to those that need it most.â
Unlike some other big givers, Mr. Perry is known for not directly asking candidates and elected officials for anything in exchange for his donations. âHeâs an honorable man,â said Cathie Adams, a former national Republican delegate and state party chairwoman. âCandidates look at the donations as a strong message that theyâre doing a good job.â
But to some others, his end goals include self-interests. Andy Wilson, a campaign-finance researcher at the liberal watchdog group Public Citizen Texas, said he believed that Mr. Perryâs largesse was about creating a climate in which businesses â including his own â could thrive.
âBob Perry gives to specific kinds of conservatives, and no one, outside of maybe Karl Rove, has helped shape the âidealâ conservative Republican candidate in Texas,â Mr. Wilson said. âHe certainly is getting something thatâs helping him protect his bottom line as a home builder.â
Bobby Jack Perry was born in rural Bosque County, the son of a high school principal. After earning a history degree at Baylor University, Mr. Perry taught high school and coached football before moving into construction, settling in Houston in the late 1960s. He earned his fortune by founding Perry Homes. Among the nationâs largest residential builders, the company, based in Houston, had more than $560 million in revenue in 2008, according to Builder, a trade publication. Mr. Perry and his wife, Doylene (whose name often appears on the political checks), have four grown children.
Mr. Perry became a fixture in Texas politics in the mid-1980s, but he began spending large sums, and gaining more notice, only in the last decade. His influence grew as Republicans took over the Texas House in 2003 for the first time since Reconstruction, and his desire to fight the power of trial lawyers continued. His political spending peaked in 2006, when he gave nearly $20 million to campaigns and committees in Texas and nationwide.
Mr. Perry does have competition on the other side of the ideological spectrum. Trial lawyers, for example, have spent more than $13 million this political cycle, according to an analysis by Texans for Lawsuit Reform. Much of that cash, about $7 million, came from Steve Mostyn, a wealthy Houston trial lawyer, records show.
Mr. Mostyn, now the Democratsâ best donor, said Mr. Perryâs spending had prompted him to get more involved. He created the Back to Basics political action committee, which has attacked the governor in advertisements during this yearâs campaign.
âThereâs got to be a counterbalance,â Mr. Mostyn said.
Tort-reformers retort that lawyers like Mr. Mostyn want to roll back efforts to restrict lawsuits and limit damages â changes that they said helped keep the economy in Texas humming.
Mr. Perryâs critics most often point to his involvement with the Texas Residential Construction Commission, a state agency created in 2003 to regulate the home building industry. His corporate counsel helped craft the legislation that endowed the commission with its powers, and the governor later appointed the attorney to help manage the agency, which was shuttered last fall after lawmakers failed to finance it. Consumer groups had attacked the commission â which had been presented as a venue for protecting home owners â as lacking the power to address complaints of shoddy construction.
Supporters of Mr. Perry said his legacy was that of a charitable donor who had devoted tens of millions of dollars to educational causes and to helping children â not politics. His official biography notes his sponsorship of facilities like Casa Hogar, an orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico, that houses more than 100 abused, abandoned or neglected children. Mr. Perryâs political donations, supporters said, arise from a similar sense of civic duty.
âHe believes in being active, in both voting and aiding where one can, but also in charitable concerns and the electoral process,â said Anthony Holm, Mr. Perryâs spokesman. âHe loves the republic.â
Whatever his motivation, Mr. Perry is a force. In 2002, he gave at least $300,000 in direct contributions to the 20 most-competitive legislative races, and most of those candidates won.
His record since has been mixed. In the 2008 election cycle, for example, Mr. Perry spent more than $700,000 in the highest-profile legislative races. Some of those candidates lost.
âPeople like him are just going to chalk that up to the cost of doing business,â said Harold Cook, a Democratic political consultant.
This election cycle, Mr. Perry and groups he has financed have spent similar sums on the hottest race, like Mr. Gonzalesâs effort to unseat State Representative Diana Maldonado, Democrat of Round Rock, a freshman in a swing district.
Mr. Gonzales has worked for tort-reform advocates in the past as a political consultant, but he said he had never spoken to Mr. Perry. He appreciates the support, however.
âItâs confirmation for me,â Mr. Gonzales said, âthat Iâm the pro-business candidate.â .