Perry assembles extraordinary bundler ranks in early weeks of campaign

By

 Updated:

Rick Perry, GOP presidential candidate

Charles Dharapak/AP

Rick Perry’s GOP presidential campaign has rapidly assembled an impressive roster of bundlers who have each signed up to bring in sums ranging from $50,000 to $500,000.

Two veteran fundraisers for the Perry campaign, in interviews with iWatch News, put the number of recruited bundlers at more than 400 and as high as 1,000. A third said the number was “multiples” of President Obama’s bundlers.

The Obama campaign listed 271 bundlers who had raised $50,000 or more at the end of June, accounting for about 40 percent of the $86 million that the campaign collected jointly with the Democratic National Committee.

The Perry campaign appears to have made huge strides, considering it is less than a month old.

“The Perry campaign is off to a fast start on the finance side,” Mississippian Henry Barbour, who has pledged to raise $500,000, told iWatch News. At this early stage, Barbour added, it looks like the campaign “will be able to perform at a similar level, if not exceed, what Bush did in 2000 and McCain did in 2008. It’s impressive.”

Tuesday night in Dallas, at the chic Fairmont Hotel, Perry’s fundraising firepower will be out in force. An A-list of Texas donors and money rustlers have signed up as Dallas hosts including a few billionaires or near billionaires like: buyout mogul Harold Simmons, Ross Perot Jr. of the eponymous Perot Group and leveraged buyout executive Tom Hicks.

The Dallas event is one of several slated for this week in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. On Monday, two fundraisers were held in Oklahoma including one in Oklahoma City where the legendary Sooner football coach Barry Switzer was a host.

This money marathon is part of the campaign’s drive to quickly raise $10 million, mostly out of the Lone Star state, say Perry fundraisers. To achieve that goal the bundlers will be crucial since individual donations are limited to $2,500 per election.

Asked how many bundlers the campaign had signed up, campaign spokesman Mark Miner, said, “We’re not going to comment on our fundraising strategy and goals.” Miner said no decision has been made about publicly releasing the names of bundlers, as the Obama campaign has done but no Republican campaigns thus far.

Since mid- August when Perry announced he was running, his campaign has lured away some Romney bundlers to work for the Texas governor. At least two Florida bundlers for Romney, businessmen Anthony Leon and Jim Holton, have moved over to help Perry. Further, insurance executive A.K. Desai, a leading Florida fundraiser for Romney in 2008, has agreed to host an event for Perry on Sept. 13 in the Tampa area.

Next month Perry is scheduled to do several fundraisers in California, New York City and Washington, D.C.

Some campaign finance analysts like Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, offer cautionary notes.

“With numbers as high as his team claims, Perry is clearly ready to give the Democrats and Romney a run for their money—literally. Of course, it will be important to see how many of those donors are giving at the upper levels—and how many of their pledges ultimately come through—assuming Perry’s bundler information is revealed at all," Krumholz said.

Some veteran fundraisers in Texas give the Perry campaign high marks.

Bill Miller, an Austin lobbyist with the firm HillCo, said that among GOP fundraisers the “enthusiasm is very high right now,” since Perry is leading in polls. “It feels exuberant.” HillCo’s PAC has donated more than $250,000 to Perry’s campaigns since 2001.

Simultaneously, a Super PAC set up by Perry’s former chief of staff, Austin lobbyist Mike Toomey, has held several conference calls with dozens of major donors from Texas and elsewhere. The PAC, Make Us Great Again, is trying to raise a few million quickly—mostly in six or seven figure checks—for an early advertising blitz.

Dallas tax firm CEO Brint Ryan, who with his wife has donated over $500,000 to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns, is spearheading the PAC’s fundraising and has been working the phones hard making appeals to many of Perry’s mega donors in Texas. One GOP consultant familiar with the PAC’s operations said Ryan sounds like he’s off to a fast start: one day this month, Ryan received pledges for $1 million, mostly in six figure checks the consultant said.

Make Us Great Again, one of at least a half dozen PACs working to help Perry get the nomination, is widely viewed as the major PAC player because of Toomey’s and Ryan’s close ties to the governor.

But some of the other PACs are likely to be serious players too. Bob Schuman, a California GOP operative who started Americans for Rick Perry, told iWatch News that he’s retained fundraising consultants in 10 states, mostly in the South, to help his PAC in grassroots and social media drives for Perry. Americans for Rick Perry has raised just over $400,000, including $100,000 from Harold Simmons, and expects to bring in $1.8 million by year’s end, Schuman said.

Another PAC, Veterans for Rick Perry, which was set up to help get Perry in the race, is in the midst of a makeover, say fundraisers close to the PAC. A new PAC, called Jobs For Vets is being launched by lobbyist Dan Shelley, a former Perry aide, to promote Texas’ record under Perry in helping soldiers find employment after their service.

The fundraising jumpstart comes as Perry lunges to the head of the Republican field in public opinion polls. The fundraising number in the GOP field to beat is from Mitt Romney’s campaign, which reported raising $18.2 million in the second quarter. Hundreds of bundlers were invited to events hosted by Romney to honor fundraisers who had each raised $50,000 or more for the campaign. The Romney campaign has declined to disclose names of bundlers as the Obama campaign has.