Friends With Benefits: Rick Perry’s Biggest Donors

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The most important insight into the state of the Republican presidential race won’t come from the continuing series of GOP debates, but from fund raising figures that will be released at the end of September. All the candidates want to show they can build up cash by the Sept. 30 third-quarter disclosure deadline, especially the late-starting Texas Governor Rick Perry. But Perry has an advantage that the other top candidates lack: As a sitting governor, he has a fresh record of delivering for his big donors.

A quick look at the list of Perry’s high-dollar donors shows that those who’ve given generously to the Texas governor have received generous rewards in return. Here’s the list of the top ten donors, compiled by Texans for Public Justice:

$4,000,000 Republican Governors Association PAC

$2,531,799 Bob & Doylene Perry Perry Homes Houston

$1,120,000 Harold C. Simmons Contran Corp. Dallas

$750,000 Republican National State Elections Committee Washington

$715,308 Thomas Dan Friedkin Friedkin Companies Inc. Houston

$705,000 Kenny & Lisa Troutt Mt. Vernon Investments LLC Dallas

$612,000 Friends of Phil Gramm PAC Friends of Phil Gramm PAC Helotes

$563,334 George Brint & Amanda Ryan Ryan & Co. P.C. Dallas

$537,740 Peter & Julianna Hawn Holt Holt Companies/San Antonio Spurs Blanco

$506,740 AT&T, Inc. PAC AT&T Austin

Bob Perry and his wife, Doylene, have contributed a total of $2.5 million to Rick Perry since 2001, the second-largest amount after $4 million in donations from the Republican Governors Association PAC. Bob Perry, who founded Perry Homes and is no relation to the governor, benefited from policies the governor advanced. According to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Bob Perry drove the creation of a commission home builders wanted to help defuse consumer disputes. Perry Homes legal counsel, John Krugh, helped write the legislation Rick Perry passed into law creating the commission, according to the paper.

“His [Bob Perry’s] fingerprints are all over it,” said Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch, a citizen advocacy group.

But Bill Miller of the Austin-based HillCo Partners lobbying firm, which represents the home builder, said there was nothing improper behind Bob Perry’s efforts involving the commission. “It’s not a bit unlike trial lawyers trying to pass tort law,” said Miller. “Paying attention to your business is just smart business.”

Since 2001, Texas waste management billionaire, Harold Simmons, has given $1,120,000 to Rick Perry. In late 2007, Simmons was granted a permit to build a nuclear waste dump over the objections of local environment officials from both parties. Reports Bloomberg:

“Everybody was aware that this was an important item for the people that were seeking the license as well as for the governor’s office,” said Larry Soward, a Perry-appointed, Republican member of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at the time of Simmons’s permit application.

Simmons, who has donated more than $1.2 million to Perry’s campaigns, was granted the permit over the objections of some TCEQ staffers concerned the site threatened the Ogallala Aquifer, a water source for much of the plains.

At least three commission employees resigned in protest and Soward voted against the permit. Meanwhile, a state employee who advanced the permit became a lobbyist for the company a month after it was approved.

Most recently, Perry’s third largest individual donor, Thomas Friedkin, got a more direct benefit from Perry. Friedkin has donated over $715,000 to Perry over the years. In August, Perry appointed him to head the Texas Parks and Wildlife commission, which makes influential decisions on conservation issues. He replaces Perry’s sixth-ranked individual donor, Peter Holt.

Perry spokesman Mark Miner denied any impropriety in the appointment, per the Texas Tribune:

“The governor appoints people based on their qualifications, and just like other governors have done in the past, he has the responsibility to appoint people to boards and commissions,” Miner says. “He appoints people that are qualified to serve.”

Quid pro quo or not, it’s clear that top individual donors made out well under Perry.