By Michael Isikoff
A reclusive Texas homebuilder who helped finance the “Swift Boat Veterans” attacks against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 contributed nearly half of the $6.4 million raised by a super PAC backing Mitt Romney last month.
Bob Perry, owner of the Houston-area custom homebuilder Perry Homes and a longtime backer of conservative causes, gave $3 million last month to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, according to a report filed Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission.
Perry has been a prolific donor to Republican candidates and causes this election cycle, having previously given $1 million to the same pro-Romney super PAC, as well as $100,000 to a super PAC that backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry and $2.5 million to American Crossroads, the Republican super PAC founded by Karl Rove.
Perry, who helped fund the Swift Boat attacks against Massachusetts Sen. Kerry in 2004, which sought to discredit his military record and subsequent antiwar activities, almost never gives interviews or attends political fundraisers. But with his new seven-figure check, he has become part of an elite club of mega donors, along with Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who’s helped bankroll a pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC; and Wyoming financier Foster Friess, a top supporter of the pro-Rick Santorum Red, White and Blue Fund. Those men, along with Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, are effectively helping to bankroll the barrage of attack ads that have been flooding the airwaves in the GOP primary states.
Restore Our Future -- the biggest of the presidential super PACs -- has spent $35 million in this year's primary battle, almost all of it on negative ads slamming Romney's opponents. (The group reported it had $10.5 million in cash still on hand as of the end of February.)
Other notable donations to the group last month include $500,000 checks from two other veteran GOP donors-- David Humphrey, CEO of TAMKO Building Products in Joplin, Mo., and Jerry Perenchio, a former Hollywood talent agent and former CEO of Univision -- as well as $100,000 from Simmons, a leveraged buyout kingpin who has already given $10 million to GOP super PACs this year, including groups backing Gingrich and Perry.
All told, Restore Our Future collected 15 checks of $100,000 or more last month and at least 31 out of its total of 100 donors came from financial institutions, including big hedge funds and private equity firms that have been the biggest single source of its funds. These included $100,000 from Henry Kravis, the co-CEO and chair of Kohlberg, Kravis Roberts (another $50,000 was contributed by KKR partner Marc Lipshultz); and $100,000 from Ken Griffin, the founder and CEO of Chicago based Citadel hedge fund. Griffin recently told the Chicago Tribune he is "terrified" the country is headed in the wrong direction, and complaining that the financial markets have become a "hyper-regulated industry" that is "punishing savers." As for criticism that big donors like him are tilting the political process, Griffin said: "I think (the ultra-wealthy) actually have an insufficient influence. Those who have enjoyed the benefits of our system more than ever now owe a duty to protect the system that has created the greatest nation on this planet."
Restore Our Future’s FEC report shows the group, created and controlled by Romney allies and former Romney aides, spent $11.6 million in February on TV and Internet ads, the vast majority of them attacking Santorum and Gingrich, and on direct mail and phone outreach to voters.
In total, the group spent $12.2 million for the month, in which seven nominating contests were held, including an expensive, tightly fought battle in Michigan. According to the FEC report, Restore Our Future ended the month with more than $10 million remaining on hand.