July 20, 2004

Did Bundled Bucks Push
Perry to Play the Ponies?

Racing Interests Laid Down Over $232,000 to Guv on a Single Day

A long list of horse racing interests, from veterinarians to horse breeders to owners of competing tracks, all made contributions to Rick Perry's campaign on Feb. 11, 2004. At least 67 separate contributions came from these interests, totaling at least $232,800. These donors appear to have one common interest: horse racing.

These 67 donors delivered a significant bundle of money despite the fact that Perry's next election was two and one-half years away. On April 13th, just two months after these contributions rolled in, Perry called the special session on school finance, the centerpiece of which was Perry's plan to allow slot machines in horse and dog racing tracks throughout Texas. Perry’s plan would be a massive boon to the Texas racing industry.

Through a yet unknown circumstance, this bundle of racing contributions was delivered to the Governor on a single day. In all, Perry reported raising $307,745 on Feb. 11th, more than three times what he raised on any other day in the first half of 2004. Of this, at least $232,800 (76%) came from donors with ties to the racing industry.

Dominating the list of donors were the race track owners. Maxxam, Inc., which owns two tracks and is applying for a third, gave $50,000. Harlan Crow, whose Crow Holdings has a $10 million stake in the Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, gave $25,000. James Helzer of the LRP Group gave $20,000. In all, track owners and operators contributed $142,500 to Perry on this single day. Horse owners, breeders, veterinarians and other industry workers contributed an additional $89,300, led by horse breeder Mike Rutherford ($10,000) and three trade associations ($15,000 combined). Rounding out the interests, slot machine maker Gordon Graves donated $1,000 to Perry.


Neck and Neck Competition

The owners of two groups pursuing permits for competing tracks in Laredo managed to come together by both contributing to Perry on Feb. 11th. Maxxam donated $50,000, making it Perry's second largest overall donor for the six month reporting period. Challenging Maxxam for the right to run a Laredo horse track is the LRP Group. Major owners of this group donated $42,000 on February 11, including James Helzer ($20,000), the LaMantia family ($10,000), Robert & Gordon Johnson ($10,000), and the Straus family ($2,000).

The size of these contributions and the fact that they all came the same day raises interesting questions. What did these donors expect from the Governor? Did Perry float his slot machine plans to the lobby two months before calling the special session? Were these 67 checks bundled and delivered by a single lobbyist?


Giving a Bundle

Interest Feb. 11th
Track Owners $142,500
Horse Industry $89,300
Slot makers $1,000
TOTAL: $232,800



Perry's Top Racing Donors on Feb. 11, 2004

Maxxam Texas PAC $50,000  Sam Houston Park/Valley Race
Park/Laredo Race Park
Harlan Crow $25,000  Lone Star Park
James Helzer $20,000  LRP Group
Robert and Gordon Johnson $10,000  LRP Group
Joe LaMantia Jr. $10,000  LRP Group
Mike Rutherford $10,000  Horse breeder
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable $5,000  Horse breeder
Texas Thoroughbred Assn. PAC $5,000  Horse trade 
Texas Veterinary Medical Assn. PAC $5,000  Horse trade
National Thoroughbred
Racing Assn. PAC
$5,000  Horse trade
Lexington, KY
Holt Hickman $5,000  Silver Creek Racing
Fort Worth
Tom Durant $5,000  Classic Racing Stables
Gerald Ford $5,000  Horse owner
Robert Kaminski  $5,000  Lone Star Park
Corey Johnsen  $5,000  Lone Star Park
Christopher Hall $5,000  Retama Park
Miami Shores, FL
Buz Post $5,000  American Paint Horse
James Pruitt $3,000  Horse dealer
Heath Taylor  $3,000  Heath Taylor Racing Stables
Gwendolyn Eaves $2,500  Horse owner
Ben Hudson $2,000  Track Magazine
Morgan Mill
Johnny Trotter $2,000  Livestock Investors
/Bar -G Feedyard
Narciso Flores $2,000  Horse owner
Jacque Tanton $2,000  Horse owner
George Temple $2,000  Horse owner
Jerry Windham $2,000  American Quarter Horse Assn.
College Station


While Perry’s slot machine plan didn’t make it to the final wire, his failure to finish didn’t keep him out of the money. LRP Group's Joe LaMantia gave the governor an additional $5,000 on June 16, 2004, one month after the special session collapsed.