The Biggest Little GOP Donors in Texas

Everything’s bigger in the Lone Star state—campaign contributions included.


Bob Perry, age 79
Est. net worth: $650 million
Source of wealth: Perry Homes, one of America’s top homebuilders
2012 favorite: Has given $3.2 million to Rick Perry’s gubernatorial bids, but sat on Mitt Romney’s 2008 “Texas Leadership Team” and poured $500K into a Romney 2012 super-PAC
Dark-money potential: Extreme. In the 2004 cycle, he gave $4.45 million to Swift Boat Vets for Truth and $3 million to the Bush-aligned Progress for America Voter Fund. In 2006, he spent $5 million creating a free-market 527 group and gave $9.5 million to the Karl Rove-associated super-PAC American Crossroads.
Grab bag: He bankrolled every member of the Texas Supreme Court, which held up a couple’s lawsuit claiming their Perry-built home was defective.

Harlan Crow, age 62
Est. net worth: Hundreds of millions
Source of wealth: Real estate; Crow Holdings
2012 favorite: Has given $180K to Rick Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns since 2004—plus millions to state and national conservative causes. But Crow Holdings bundled $25K for long-shot GOP contender Jon Huntsman.
Dark-money potential: High. Crow, who sat on the founders’ committee of the anti-tax think tank Club for Growth, gave $125K to the Swift Boat Vets circa 2004. He’s also given nearly $900K to Texans for Lawsuit Reform and donated $500K to help the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas start a tea party group.
Grab bag: The gardens at Crow’s $24 million estate feature statues of notorious historical figures like Mao, Stalin, and Gavrilo Princip—the assassin who sparked World War I.

Harold Simmons, age 80
Est. net worth: $9.3 billion
Source of wealth: Owns Contran Corporation (metals, chemicals, and waste management). Dubbed the “king of Superfund sites,” he’s lobbied Texas legislators to let him bury low-level radioactive waste despite water contamination risks.
2012 favorite: Has given $1.8 million to Rick Perry’s gubernatorial bids since 2001; gave $100K to Perry’s presidential PAC in 2011
Dark-money potential: Extreme. Besides doling out more than $1.9 million to Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Simmons has given $2 million to American Crossroads and $3 million to the Swift Boat Vets.
Grab bag: He was once sued by his family for allegedly involving them in illegal campaign donations.

Robert Rowling, age 57
Est. net worth: $4.7 billion
Source of wealth: Owns TRT Holdings (oil exploration, fitness, and Mexican dollar stores)
2012 favorite: Has donated to Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, and Rick Perry
Dark-money potential: Extreme. The former Bush Pioneer prefers “a pretty low profile” and has donated $5.3 million to American Crossroads. He’s also given generously to state and national gopers—including $295K to the National Republican Senatorial Committee since 2007—and $362K to Rick Perry’s gubernatorial bids.
Grab bag: In 2010, San Francisco franchises of Rowling’s Gold’s Gym denounced his donations to American Crossroads, which supports anti-gay candidates.

Sam Wyly, age 77
Est. net worth: $1 billion
Source of wealth: Tech investments starting with University Computing Company in 1963; also cofounded Maverick Capital, an $11 billion hedge fund
2012 favorite: He and his late brother, Charles, have given Rick Perry at least $440K since 2000. So far, nada to 2012 candidates.
Dark-money potential: Moderate. The brothers and their spouses have leaned mainstream GOP, giving $2.5 million to Republicans for Clean Air, $1.3 million to the RNC, $380K-plus to congressional GOP PACs, and $75K to the Republican Governors Association over 20 years. Also gave five figures to at least six Texas members of Congress.
Grab bag: Sam’s fighting 2010 charges that he and Charles conducted insider trading and socked away more than $500 million in illegal offshore accounts.

One more biggie: Black Gold for the GOPprofiles Trevor Rees-Jones, a top Texas GOP donor whom you’ve probably never heard of. Also check out,How to Win Friends and Influence Elections,” which charts the rarified social/charitable orbit shared by Dallas’ top GOP power players.

More MotherJones reporting on Dark Money

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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