The Highwaymen:

October 24, 2001

Perry’s Political Tollbooths
Line $1 Billion of State Roads

Contractors & Governor Paving Way for Highway-Spending Spree.


“Tire tracks all across your back—I can see you’ve had your fun.”
—Jimi Hendrix, Crosstown Traffic


In recent years Governor Rick Perry raked in $235,133 from highway contractors that landed almost $1 billion in state contracts in the past nine months. It’s enough patronage to make a conservative tax and spend.

This ex-A&M cheerleader barnstormed Texas this summer promoting a road-spending spree. He:

The governor covered so much road so quickly that reality did not catch up with him until this month, when the media reported that the Department of Transportation (TXDOT) has shot its wad. For the immediate future, the state will delay rather than expedite road projects.

House Appropriations Chair Rob Junell was reportedly angry that he learned about this budget crunch after lobbyists for the Associated General Contractors.2

TXDOT contractor contributions to Perry are troubling because the governor appoints the three commissioners who oversee TXDOT’s $2.2 billion annual construction budget.

Perry appointed a friend, ex-legislator Ric Williamson, to the commission in April. While ex-Governor Bush appointed commissioners John Johnson and Robert Lee Nichols, every member has given Perry at least $6,000 in recent years.

Perry also is benefiting from contractor expenditures to pass the two road proposals on the November ballot. Highway contractors have contributed $91,750 in the past two months to the “Yes on 2 & 15” PAC, which Hillco Partners lobby firm created to pass the amendments. The PAC has bought a full-page Texas Monthly ad that prominently features Perry’s photo.

TXDOT’s top two contractors, Houston’s Williams Brothers Construction and San Antonio’s H.B. Zachry
Co., together have landed an astonishing $528,570,233 in TXDOT contracts so far this year.

Since 1997, Perry has received $75,000 from Williams Brothers Chair James Pitcock, Jr and another $33,000 from H.B. Zachry (most of which came from H. Bartell Zachry, Jr.). In the 1998 and 2000 election cycles alone, Pitcock spent $239,750 to influence candidates for Texas’ statewide and legislative offices.

Pitcock is a political pragmatist, giving all of his state political money to incumbents in the 2000 election cycle. The only non-incumbents receiving Pitcock money in 1998 ran for open seats. One of these was Democrat John Sharp ($6,000), who Perry defeated with just over 50 percent of the lieutenant governor vote. Pitcock has since filled this Perry pothole, giving Perry $50,000 in the 2000 cycle and another $25,000 since.

Political clout is a valuable commodity for a leading TXDOT contractor that has a history of going over deadline and budget. A 1998 Houston Chronicle investigation found that the average state highway contractor was penalized for late work 18 percent of the time, while Williams got late penalties 57 percent of the time.3

Most states have the authority to prevent chronically late contractors from bidding on new jobs. But two lobby groups that Pitcock once headed helped prevent Texas from adopting this policy in 1996 and 1997.4


Since January, TXDOT Has Awarded Almost $1 Billion To Highway Contractors Who Gave Gov. Perry $235,133

To Perry*
Value of
TXDOT Contracts
Since Jan. 2001
No. of
TXDOT Contracts
Williams Brothers Construction Houston $75,000 $213,128,721 10
H B Zachry Co. Sn Antonio $33,000 $315,441,512 5
TX Aggregates & Concrete Assn Austin $25,000 NA NA
Dean Word Construction Co. N.Braunfels $21,683 $38,246,094 2
Assoc. Gen'l Contractors of TX Austin $19,000 NA NA
Garey Construction Co. Austin $11,750 $6,182,454 3
Assoc. Builders & Contractors Austin $11,000 NA NA
J D Abrams, Inc Austin $8,500 $45,754,477 3
Austin Industries (Bridge & Road) Dallas $8,000 $40,360,786 18
Champagne-Webber Inc. Houston $3,500 $70,423,930 11
Reece Albert Inc. Sn Angelo $3,000 $38,779,808 6
TX Sterling Construction Houston $3,000 $2,377,528 1
Young Contractors Waco $3,000 $39,488,561 12
Zack Burkett Co. Graham $2,700 $13,485,196 10
Houston Contractors Houston $2,500 NA NA
Ramming Paving Company Austin $1,500 $1,614,501 2
Coalition for Better Transportation Dallas $1,000 NA NA
Hunter Industries Sn Marcos $1,000 $99,331,074 26
Jones Brothers Dirt and Paving Odessa $1,000 $22,148,210 7
  TOTALS: $235,133 $946,762,852 116
*Perry contributions cover June 1997 through June 2001. 


Road Warrior James Pitcock Gave Texas
Politicians $239,750 in 1998 and 2000

Politician or PAC
George W. Bush 
Rick Perry
Pete Laney
Tony Garza
Clyde Alexander 
Asc. Gen'l Contractors
John Cornyn
Bill Ratliff
Todd Staples
Mike Jackson
John Sharp
Ken Armbrister
David Bernsen
Fred Bosse
Buster Brown
David Dewhurst
John Whitmire
Rob Junell
Debra Danburg
Dennis Bonnen
Joe Crabb 
Paul J. Hilbert
Scott Hochberg
Steve Ogden
Kyle Janek
Tracy King



1 Amendments 2 and 15 would allow the state to finance road projects with bonds.
2 “Roadwork on Hold As State Fund Runs Low,” Austin American-Statesman, October 16, 2001.
3 “King of the Road,” April 26, 1998. See also the Chronicle’s: “No Love Lost For Unfinished Bridge,” January 23, 1995 and “Penalties Pave Way On Freeway,” July 1, 1995.
4 The Association of General Contractors and the Texas Good Roads and Transportation Association helped defeat this proposal before a 1996 Sunset Commission and again in the 1997 legislative session.