Perry Campaign Details Finances for First Time

Posted by Patrick Svitek - The Texas Tribune on

Editor's note: This story has been updated to add additional detail on Perry's expenditures. 

In a federal campaign finance report filed Wednesday, former Gov. Rick Perry detailed his presidential campaign finances for the first time since entering the 2016 race, showing an operation that spent more than half the amount of money it raised in less than a month. 

Nearly two-thirds of the almost $600,000 Perry's campaign expended in the second fundraising quarter went to a firm owned by campaign manager Jeff Miller, according to federal and state records. The overall expenses left Perry's campaign with roughly $884,000 in the bank heading into July. 

Perry ended up raising $1.14 million over the reporting period, which covers the time between Perry's official announcement, June 4, and the end of the quarter, June 30. The campaign had no debts during that period, according to the filing with the Federal Election Commission. 

Most of the money supporting Perry's White House hopes is flowing through a network of super PACs that have announced raising nearly $17 million as of July 10. They are not required to disclose their finances in detail until the end of this month.

The $1.14 million haul revealed Wednesday puts Perry in the back of the pack among campaigns in the GOP money race. It is also a far cry from his first fundraising quarter as a 2012 presidential candidate, when he reeled in $17 million in the six weeks after he announced his bid.

Perry nonetheless still has some deep-pocketed backers on his side. His notable contributors — many of whom gave $2,700, the maximum amount — included several of Texas’ most prolific GOP moneymen, such as Houston restaurateur Tilman Fertitta, San Antonio car dealer Red McCombs and San Antonio developer Gene Powell. At least 60 percent of his donations came from Texas. 

Perry’s campaign was relatively quick to spend its money, though, parting ways with 52 percent of the $1.14 million. That percentage, known as a “burn rate,” is one indicator of a campaign’s efficiency.

By far, the campaign’s biggest expense was the nearly $400,000 it paid Abstract Communications, a firm set up three days before Perry launched his bid last month, according to records from the comptroller’s office. Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said payments to the firm were for “consulting services, as well as to purchase a variety of services including video production, fundraising expenses, digital expense, website development and budget and compliance management, among other things.”

Another major expense for the campaign was nearly $60,000 to Friedkin Aviation, a Houston company tied to major Perry donor Dan Friedkin. Perry’s campaign categorized the expenditure as “airfare.”

Friedkin, the owner and chairman of Gulf States Toyota, did not give to Perry’s campaign, but two members of his family did.

There are plenty of other familiar names among Perry’s donors, including Tony Buzbee, the top lawyer fighting Perry’s abuse-of-power indictment, and Griffin Perry, the former governor’s son. 

Among the Texas officials, elected or appointed, who chipped in were former Health and Human Services Commissioner Kyle Janek, Rep. Bill Zedler of Arlington and Mission Mayor Norberto “Beto” Salinas. Robert Duncan, a former state senator from Lubbock who is now the chancellor of Texas Tech University System, was also among the donors.

Perry also raked in dollars from people working to elect him, most notably the four men who serve as senior advisers and chairmen for super PACs supporting the former governor. They include Ray Sullivan and Mike Toomey, both former chiefs of staff to Perry, as well as GOP operatives Austin Barbour and Tony Russo.

So far, three wealthy backers are fueling most of the super PACs’ fundraising. One of them who has contributed $5 million to the groups, Dallas technology executive Darwin Deason, was also a donor to Perry’s campaign.  

Disclosure: Red McCombs is a major donor to The Texas Tribune. Tony Buzbee was a major donor to the Tribune in 2012. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here

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