From AP REPORTS
AUSTIN (AP) – More than $41 million flowed through the Texas political system in 2007, according to fundraising reports, as politicians and special interest groups geared up for elections in 2008 and beyond.
A Houston Chronicle analysis of reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission found that Houston home builder Bob Perry topped the list of individual donors in Texas, giving more than $1 million to Texas candidates and political action committees last year.
Perry, who is not related to Gov. Rick Perry, was the top political donor in the nation in 2006, when he gave more than $16 million to state and federal candidates. In 2007, Perry mostly gave to Republicans, though some of his funds went to Democrats, the Chronicle reported.
"Bob Perry gives more money to charity than he does to political efforts," said his spokesman, Anthony Holm. "Mr. Perry is happy to support both Democrats and Republicans who are working toward job creation, strong economic development and a strong system of education."
Fred Baron, a Dallas lawyer, was second on the list of the state's individual donors in 2007. He donated more than $969,000, with most going to the Texas Democratic Trust. Baron founded the trust, which is dedicated to rebuilding the infrastructure of the Texas Democratic Party.
"The idea here is to get the second voice out in Texas. For too long, we have heard only from Republican and right-wing organizations," Baron said.
Rounding out the top five of individual donors were Harold Simmons, a Dallas investor who gave more than $650,000, with the largest recipient Texans for Lawsuit Reform ($250,000); T. Boone Pickens, a Dallas investor who gave $390,000, with the largest recipient Texans for Lawsuit Reform ($250,000); and Dallas' Crow family, real estate magnates who gave more than $320,000, with the largest recipient Texas Business for Clean Air ($100,000).
The Chronicle determined the top individual donors by using the Texas Ethics Commission database to study all contributions of $5,000 or more.
Two political committees run by the Texas Association of Realtors reported having the most cash of any political group at the close of 2007. When combined, the two groups had $7.5 million, according to reports filed with the ethics commission.
Among politicians, Attorney General Greg Abbott's fundraising arm had the highest balance at year's end. Texans for Greg Abbott reported more than $7.2 million cash on hand. Abbott's term lasts until 2010.
House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, was second among individual politicians with $4.1 million cash on hand at the close of 2007. Craddick is expected to face a challenge to his position when the Legislature convenes in 2009.
State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, had more than $3.4 million in the bank at year's end. The longest-serving member of the Senate, Whitmire's term is up in 2010.
Gov. Rick Perry, who was re-elected in 2006, raised more than $3 million in 2007 and ended the year with $2.7 million in the bank.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst raised more than $2.8 million in 2007, and ended the year with $801,094. He spent $1.7 million on principal and interest payments on campaign loans, leaving him with a debt of $5.7 million, the Chronicle reported.