Texans are among biggest presidential campaign donors

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramFebruary 6, 2012 

Texans have been among the biggest donors in this year's presidential race, pumping more than $20 million into candidates' campaigns with 10 months left to go.

And they aren't likely to slow down now, even with Gov. Rick Perry — who received the lion's share of Texas money — out of the race.

"Perry's fall will free up more money for ... whoever appears to have the best chance of being nominated by the GOP," said Lyle Brown, professor emeritus of political science at Baylor University in Waco. "I don't expect that the total from 'regular folks' will be great, but big givers will contribute as much as they think necessary to exercise influence and protect their particular interests."

Perry pulled in $10.9 million last year from Texans for his presidential bid, claiming half of all donations from Texas. Democratic President Barack Obama was a distant second, with $3.2 million, closely followed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with $2.9 million, according to new data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which compiled federal campaign records from 2011 that include the most recent reports of fourth-quarter donations.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, received more than $650,000, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich drew $594,607 and Rick Santorum received $77,475 from Texans, the data show.

Texas was beat out in donations only by California, where residents sent $23.6 million to presidential candidates, compared with the Lone Star State's $20.2 million. New York followed with $16.1 million, Florida with $11.2 million and Massachusetts with $7.3 million, data from the center shows.

The five Texas cities that donated the most last year to presidential candidates: Houston, $6 million; Dallas, $4.4 million; Austin, $2.6 million; San Antonio, $1.5 million; and Fort Worth-Arlington, $1.3 million, according to the center.

While Perry received the bulk of Texans' money last year, those supporters find their votes and money up for grabs.

"The donor pattern ... reflects the uncertain feelings that the nomination electorate ... have not fully coalesced around one candidate," said Victoria Farrar-Myers, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. "The donor patterns seem to also suggest and reflect, on the Republican side, the rifts in the party.

"On the Democratic side, there seems to be a bit of an enthusiasm gap with younger and independent voter contributions as well as the small donor that reflected so well for the president in 2008."

More than anything, Farrar-Myers said, this year's donations show that more and more donors are turning to super PACs, which were allowed through a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that creates opportunities for groups to raise unlimited sums for candidates.

"It appears much of the bigger money donors are hedging their contributions by using super PACs that share their interests as opposed to another candidate, at least at this point in the nomination cycle," she said.

Here's a look at some donations Texans made to presidential candidates last year, according to the Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics.


The governor led presidential campaign fundraising in Texas after jumping into the race in August, drawing early donations from well-known Texans such as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and state Comptroller Susan Combs, as well as from Fort Worth leaders including pianist Van Cliburn and several Bass and Moncrief family members.

During the last three months of his presidential campaign, Perry received more than $1.2 million from Texans, including state Reps. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, and Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi.

Houston home builder Bob Perry, and his wife Doylene, sent Perry $5,000 in donations in early December; U.S. Senate candidate and former ESPN analyst Craig James sent the governor $1,000 in November; professional golfer Ben Crenshaw of Austin sent in $625 in November; and Jones sent $2,500 in October.

More than half of the overall $20 million Perry raised during his presidential bid came from Texans. Perry bowed out of the race Jan. 19.


Despite Texas' status as a solidly red state, the president collected more than 1,000 donations from residents last year, including from Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Maxwell, former chairman Art Brender and Dallas attorney Russell Budd, who hosted a fundraiser for Obama in his home in August.

During the most recent campaign finance period, Obama picked up $800,000 from Texans -- retirees, students, teachers, homemakers, doctors, lawyers -- and $1,000 from Jack Brewer of Grapevine, a former professional football player now with Brewer Capital Management.


The once-again Republican front-runner since his victory in Florida has received donations from more than 1,000 Texans, including Jerry Jones, philanthropist Anne Marion, Houston home-builder Bob Perry and members of Fort Worth's Moncrief family.

In the last three months of 2011, he picked up $800,000 here that included $2,500 from Hillwood Properties President Michael Berry, $1,000 from Taco Bueno CEO John Miller of Westlake, $500 from Fort Worth's Mercedes Bass and $5,000 from Dallas real estate mogul Harlan Crow, who held a fundraiser for Romney at his home late last year.


The former House speaker received Lone Star support not only from Perry's endorsement, which likely helped him win in South Carolina, but also from nearly $600,000 in contributions from Texans. In the last three months of 2011, he received more than $450,000 from Texans -- retirees, self-employed workers, insurance agents, doctors, homemakers, engineers, even unemployed workers.


The politician-lawyer has drawn slight support from Texans. By the end of 2011, he had received $77,475 from Texans, more than half of which had been collected through October. In the last three months of 2011, he received 95 donations from Texas, including four local donations that ranged from $250 to $2,500.


The sole Texan in the race has received thousands of donations from his home state -- geologists, retirees, software engineers, students, homemakers, nurses and the unemployed. Contributions came from throughout the Metroplex, including many in the amount of $201.20. His campaign information had not been posted on the Center for Responsive Politics website as of late last week, so the exact total of what he has received from Texans was not available.

Out of the race

Other candidates now out of the presidential race received donations from Texans late last year. Herman Cain was one, drawing nearly $900,000. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann was another, taking than $250,000.

To read more, visit www.star-telegram.com.

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