Texas: It’s a big state with big attitude—and a lot of money. Keep that in mind as you ponder Rick Perry's second bid for president.
Campaign analysts are wondering why Perry, the former governor of Texas, would bother running again, given his lackluster performance in the 2012 race. But Perry’s got one thing fringier candidates lack: A strong fundraising record. Combine that with a bit of Texas swagger and it’s not surprising Perry would take another stab at the White House, as the 10th Republican to declare his candidacy for the 2016 race.
Perry has raised well over $150 million in political donations since 1998, an impressive sum topped by only a few elite politicians. In three successful races for governor, he hauled in at least $136 million, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. That’s nearly seven times the $20 million Jeb Bush raised during 10 years as governor of Florida. Perry raised an additional $20 million when he ran for president in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Two super PACs supporting Perry raised another $4 million.
The big question for Perry is whether he can hold on to many of his biggest donors from the past, especially since fellow candidate Ted Cruz is also from Texas, and Bush’s family has deep roots there as well. Another wrinkle for Perry is that Bobby Jack Perry (unrelated) and Harold Simmons—two Texas businessmen who contributed several million dollars to his campaigns over the years—died in 2013. Here are some other key donors Perry undoubtedly hopes to tap again for his latest presidential run:
Energy firms. Oil and gas executives, not surprisingly, were the single biggest source of Perry’s funding in the 2012 race. Top donors to Perry and to Make Us Great Again, his principal super PAC, included employees from Midland Partners, Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), Chesapeake Energy (CHK), Murray Energy, Clayton Williams Energy (CWEI) and Occidental Petroleum (OXY). Those donors might be a bit more tight-fisted this time around, due to the sharp drop in oil prices and energy-firm profits.
The Bass family. Three of the famous billionaire Bass brothers—Robert, Sid and Lee, along with their wives—donated at least $500,000 to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns. Yet the Bass family, heirs to a Texas oil fortune who have turned to various lines of business, gave just $15,000 to Perry when he ran for president in 2012. Most of their money went to Mitt Romney in that race. With Romney off the ticket this time around, Perry could step up in the lineup.
Thomas Friedkin. The Texas multimillionaire, whose fortune comes from a string of Toyota dealerships, donated more than $600,000 to Perry in Texas. Friedkin stuck with him in the 2012 presidential race, contributing more than $60,000 to Perry and his super PAC.
Kenny Trout. Like Friedkin, this Texas businessman—who founded a telecom company and now breeds horses—gave big to Perry as governor and kept giving during the 2012 presidential run. Contributions to Perry as governor: $565,000; as presidential candidate in 2012: $55,000.
Brint Ryan. The founder and CEO of Ryan Inc., a Texas-based accounting firm, gave Perry the governor $560,000 over the years, and Perry the presidential candidate at least $250,000, via his super PAC.
A lot of other Texas businesses. Perry benefits from a huge and diverse home-state economy that gives him a fundraising advantage over other former governors seeking the presidency, such as Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Martin O’Malley of Maryland. More than 50 Texas-based companies came up with $25,000 or more for Perry and his super PAC in 2012, including insurer USAA, the Houston-based law firm Buzbee Law, several Texas-based investing firms, and the Bar G Feedyard, a cattle-feed operation in Hereford.
Annette Simmons. Harold Simmons’s widow donates to Republicans herself, though on a far smaller scale than her late husband, who was one of the most prolific donors in the history of the Lone Star State. Perry may test whether she’s able to ramp it up and off the kind of five- and even six-figure sums he’s likely to need in order to take on Bush, Cruz and the rest.
Rick Newman’s latest book is Liberty for All: A Manifesto for Reclaiming Financial and Political Freedom. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.