Unlimited Influence:  

October 03, 2006

85 Donors Dropped $28 Million
Into Texas’ 2006 Elections


Twenty-six percent of all the money that individuals contributed to Texas PACs and candidates in the first 18 months of the 2006 election cycle came from just 85 wealthy people (sometimes aided by spouses) who contributed anywhere from $100,000 to $4.6 million apiece. These mega-donors collectively dumped $27,819,821 into the state political system from January 2005 through June 2006.

Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, who is best known for bankrolling Swift Boat attack ads on John Kerry, topped the list. So far this election cycle he has written $4.6 million worth of state political checks that principally benefit Republicans. Perry gave $270,265 of this money to Attorney General Greg Abbott, $235,000 to Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst and $130,000 to Governor Rick Perry (no relation). Since Governor Perry’s election in 2002, Bob Perry has contributed a total of $590,000 to the governor’s reelection campaign.

San Antonio hospital bed magnate James Leininger ranked No. 2 among mega-donors. Leininger gained notoriety during the March GOP primary for his exorbitant attempt to rub out five moderate Republican lawmakers. Leininger bet $2.5 million of his own money that he could elect five handpicked challengers who would advance his school-voucher agenda. Voters in three of these districts rejected Leininger’s power grab, which nonetheless succeeded in the other two.

Wealthy individuals with Democratic or Independent leanings also made the mega-donor list. These include eight trial lawyers who have long bankrolled Texas Democrats. This time, however, half of them are backing Carole Keeton Strayhorn’s independent challenge of Governor Perry. Shampoo magnate John McCall also poured $850,000 into the Independent gubernatorial campaign of his friend Kinky Friedman. While McCall has disavowed any interest in selling the state shampoo, people who do have a political agenda dominate the mega-donor list.

Texas is one of just a few remaining states that allow wealthy tycoons to buy controlling interests in public officials. Because Texas imposes no limits on what individuals can contribute to a state political campaign, Texans are entitled to as much political representation as they can afford.

A coalition of Texas reform groups is pushing to limit mega-donors from giving an aggregate total of more than $100,000 to state PACs and candidates in each election. Reps. Mike Villarreal (D-San Antonio) and Mark Strama (D-Austin) have pledged to introduce such a bill—backed by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston)—in the next session. Federal law already imposes a similar cap on individual contributions to all federal PACs and candidates. Texas needs $100,000 caps. Enough is enough.■

Texas’ $100,000 Donor Club
(Individual Donations to State PACs & Candidates, January 2005 through June 2006)

Bob & Doylene Perry Houston Perry Homes
James Leininger San Antonio Kinetic Concepts, Inc. (hospital beds)
Fred & Lisa Baron Dallas Baron & Budd law firm
T. Boone Pickens, Jr. Dallas BP Capital (oil, water investing)
John Herschel McCall Spicewood Armstrong McCall Beauty (shampoo magnate)
Charles C. Butt San Antonio HEB Grocery Co.
Harold Simmons Dallas Contran Corp. (investing, nuke waste)
Mikal C. Watts Corpus Christi Watts Law Firm
George & Amanda Ryan Dallas Ryan & Co. (tax consulting)
Walter Umphrey Beaumont Provost & Umphrey Law Firm
John Eddie Williams, Jr. Houston Williams Bailey Law Firm
David & Martha Alameel Dallas Jefferson Dental Clinics
John L. & Barbara Nau Houston Silver Eagle Distributors (beer)
Lonnie 'Bo' Pilgrim Pittsburg Pilgrim's Pride Poultry
Geoffrey Raynor Fort Worth Q Funding (investing)
Louis A. Beecherl III Dallas Beecherl Co's (oil fortune)
Harlan Crow Dallas Crow Holdings (real estate)
Michael Stevens Houston Michael Stevens Interests, Inc. (apartments)
Alice L. Walton Mineral Wells Wal-Mart
James "Doug" Pitcock Houston Williams Brothers Construction
Thomas Dan Friedkin Houston Friedkin Companies, Inc. (auto dealer)
Richard Weekley Houston Weekley Properties/Texans for Lawsuit Reform
Robert Rowling Irving TRT Holdings, Inc. (oil/hotels)
Russell Kelley Austin Public Strategies lobby firm
Robert C. McNair, Jr. Houston Cogen Technolgies/Houston Texans
Russell W. Budd Dallas Baron & Budd law firm
Peter Holt Blanco Holt Co's (construction equipment)
Dian Graves Owen Stai Abilene Owen Healthcare, Inc. (drugs)
Stevan Hammond Dallas Marketing Investors Corp.
Kenny Troutt Dallas Mt. Vernon Investments (telecom)
Maconda O'Connor Houston Brown & Root (construction) heir
Dan L. Duncan Houston Enterprise Products Partners (chemicals)
Greg LaMantia McAllen L & F Distributors (beer)
Richard Mithoff Houston Mithoff & Jacks law firm
John Victor Lattimore Mc Kinney Lattimore Materials (concrete)
Paul L. Foster El Paso Western Refining Co.
Ricardo Weitz Houston Auto Dealer
Ralph Ellis, Jr. Irving Belmont Oil & Gas Corp.
Gerald Ridgely, Jr. Dallas Ryan & Company (tax consulting)
Richard Scott Houston Trans-Global Solutions (shipping)
Michael B. Boylan Houston Houston Property Management Corp.
William A. Boothe Dallas Boothe Eye Care & Laser Center
Ned S. Holmes Houston Parkway Investments (real estate)
Kenneth P. Banks Schulenburg International Muffler Co.
HB 'Bartel' Zachry, Jr. San Antonio Zachry Construction Corp.
H. Ross Perot, Jr. Plano Hillwood Development Group
James D. Dannenbaum Houston Dannenbaum Engineering
Patrick J. Moran Houston Moran Resources (oil)
Joseph F. Phillips Mission Convenience store chain owner
Joseph D. Jamail Houston Jamail & Kolius law firm
James Trester Plano Ryan & Co. (tax consulting)
Frank Homer Paris Retired Sonic restaurant franchiser
Ray L. Hunt Dallas Hunt Consolidated, Inc. (developer, oil)
B.J. 'Red' McCombs San Antonio Red McCombs Automotive Group
Edith Jones O'Donnell Dallas O'Donnell Foundation (banking)
Charles W. Tate Sugarland Capital Royalty (investing)
Julia Jones Matthews Abilene Dodge Jones Foundation (oil)
Randall G. Goss Dallas U.S. Risk (insurer)
Kent R. Hance Austin Hance Scarborough Wright … lobby firm
John Speer Houston Royce Homes
W. Mark Lanier Houston Lanier Law Firm
Charles E. Hurwitz Houston MAXXAM, Inc. (investing, gambling)
Johnny Baker Houston Baker Managers (real estate)
Charles B. Lawrence Houston Kirby Corp. (shipping)
Barkley J. Stuart Dallas Glazer's Wholesale (alcohol)
Richard Thompson Lucas Ryan & Co. (tax consulting)
George C. Hixon San Antonio Hixon Properties (real estate)
A. Earl Swift Houston Swift Energy Co.
Charles Wood, Jr. Dallas Dallas Fire Insurance Co.
Thomas W. Pirtle Houston O'Quinn & Laminack law firm
Robert D. Gillikin Dallas Cummins Southern Plains, Inc. (engines)
James I. Perkins, Jr. Rusk Citizens First Bank
Meredith J. Long Houston Meredith Long & Co. (art gallery)
Gordon T. Graves Austin Multimedia Games, Inc. (gambling)
W. Marvin Rush San Antonio Rush Enterprise, Inc. (truck dealer)
Earle A. Nye Dallas TXU Energy Corp. (retired)
William A. McMinn Houston Sterling Group (chemicals)
Lowry Mays San Antonio Clear Channel Entertainment (radio)
Carl F. Raba, Jr. San Antonio Raba-Kistner Consultants, Inc. (engineering)
Steve W. Sterquell II Amarillo American Housing Foundation
Larry Anders Dallas Summit Alliance Co's (insurer)
James L. Huffines, Jr. Dallas Huffines Auto Dealerships
Robert D. McLane, Jr. Temple McLane Co., Inc. (grocery supply)
Tim Gill Denver Quark software founder, gay rights advocate
Dawn Arnall Los Angeles Ameriquest Mortgage