Wealthy Texans were far and away the biggest source of funding for super PACs for and against Gov. Rick Perry's presidential bid, according to campaign finance reports filed Tuesday.
Last year, Perry's backers and critics organized "super political action committees" taking advantage of a 2009 Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to groups raising unlimited money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals to influence elections.
The groups were required to file federal reports by midnight Tuesday outlining their 2011 activity, the first such report for some super PACs that were started late last year. The reports did not cover any money in January.
Unlike traditional PACs, super PACs can't contribute directly to political candidates or coordinate with them, but they can spend unlimited amounts to advertise for or against them.
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Make Us Great Again, the most active pro-Perry PAC, reported raising $5.5 million last year and spending $4.8 million, nearly all of it on producing and airing ads. More than 80 percent of the funds came from Texas contributors.
Contran Corp. of Dallas, owned by longtime Perry backer Harold Simmons, gave the group $1 million, its largest contribution. Other big contributors include several Texans from the energy industry. Chesapeake Energy of Oklahoma City and a PAC affiliated with it, each gave Make Us Great Again $125,000. Last month, when Perry ended his campaign, Make Us Great Again announced that it would shut down.
The smaller Americans for Rick Perry chose to remain active but changed its name to Restoring Prosperity PAC last month. It reported raising $433,256 last year, including $100,000 from Simmons. More than 40 percent of the group's spending last year went toward paying for staff and outreach efforts in Iowa, where Perry finished fifth.
In March, when Perry wasn't expected to run for president, one of his most prominent backers, Houston home builder Bob Perry, gave $500,000 to Restore Our Future, a leading super PAC supporting former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. By the summer, Bob Perry was back in Rick Perry's corner, giving $100,000 to Make Us Great Again.
The Mostyn Law Firm of Houston provided the entire $125,000 in funding for an anti-Perry super PAC, Texans for America's Future. Lawyer Steve Mostyn is longtime Perry critic who has heavily funded Democratic causes in the past.
Backers of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, have recently boosted their super PAC activity. Endorse Liberty was organized in December and gathered over $1 million in less than a month, thanks largely to a $900,000 donation from San Francisco investor Peter Thiel. Digital advertising executive Stephen Oskoui of Austin also gave $50,000.
Texans aren't backing only Texans. A super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich is also entirely funded by a Dallas businessman. Mike George gave $101,000 to the Strong America Now super PAC, which spent most of it at Counter Consulting, a Plano firm for mailers and robo-calls. George is also the founder of a nonprofit of the same name that promotes reducing wasteful government spending.
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