Super PAC financial reports reveal February's big donors

This is a Dec. 10, 2002 file photo of Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, posing at the sales center at one of his Houston developments. Perry is the nation's most generous individual political donor. He has been a leading advocate of laws to limit court awards against businesses and he is a financial benefactor to politicians and judges. He has donated more than $340,000 to the nine justices that will hear a case brought against his company by Bob and Jane Cull of Mansfield, Texas. Melissa Phillip,AP Photo/Houston Chronicle

This is a Dec. 10, 2002 file photo of Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, posing at the sales center at one of his Houston developments. Perry is the nation's most generous individual political donor. He has been a leading advocate of laws to limit court awards against businesses and he is a financial benefactor to politicians and judges. He has donated more than $340,000 to the nine justices that will hear a case brought against his company by Bob and Jane Cull of Mansfield, Texas.
This is a Dec. 10, 2002 file photo of Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, posing at the sales center at one of his Houston developments.
Melissa Phillip,AP Photo/Houston Chronicle

Updated March 23, 7 p.m. ET

(CBS News) The super PAC supporting Mitt Romney has a new best friend, and his name is Bob Perry. The Houston-based homebuilder and president of Perry Homes, donated $3 million to Restore Our Future last month, the super PAC's mandatory monthly report to the Federal Election Commission revealed.

Perry, who was already one of a dozen donors to drop $1 million into Restore Our Future's coffers in 2011, raised his total giving to the super PAC to $4 million. With $2.5 million given last year to the Karl Rove-founded, pro-Republican American Crossroads, and $100,000 to the pro-Rick Perry Make Us Great Again, Perry has given $6.6 million to super PACs in the 2012 cycle, ranking third among the nation's largest Super PAC donors.

The change of seasons also brought a restoration atop the super PAC throne. Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is again king of the super PAC givers, delivering another $5 million from him and his wife, Miriam, in February into the bank account of the pro-Newt Gingrich Super PAC Winning Our Future, the FEC report showed. Another Adelson daughter, Shelley Maye, gave $500,000 to the Gingrich group. The couple and their daughters have now given $16.5 million to boost the fortunes of Gingrich, who has won only two primaries, in South Carolina and Georgia. The Adelson $5.5 million in February was 96 percent of the super PAC's revenue in February.

Texas tycoon Harold Simmons is now second among super PAC givers.

Perry did not return a phone message left with his office. He is a longtime donor to Republican candidates in Texas and nationwide. He gave $7 million to American Crossroads in 2010 and several million dollars to launch Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that attacked Democrat John Kerry's Vietnam serviced record in 2004.

Perry is also one of more than 14,000 people who have given the legal maximum, $2,500, to the Romney campaign for the primaries. Of those big Romney donors, Perry is among more than 170 who have also donated far larger amounts to Restore Our Future, as shown in a study by Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and the Center for Responsive Politics.

Super PACs, short for political action committees, are permitted to collect and spend unlimited amounts advocating for candidates, following a 2010 Supreme Court decision upholding the free speech rights of individuals, companies and labor unions.

Perry's donation was nearly half the $6.4 million collected by Restore Our Future in February, just shy of its January take of $6.6 million. The pro-Romney super PAC spent $12.2 million in February, a little less than the $13.9 million it spent in January. It came into March with $10.4 million in the bank, but spent heavily in the ten "Super Tuesday" states that held contests on March 6 -- Romney won 6 of them, including top prize Ohio, where the super PAC spent $3 million in ads. The PAC also bought ads in Mississippi and Alabama, where Romney was third choice of Republican voters last week. In Illinois, where Romney won handily on Tuesday, the super PAC spent $2.25 million, or triple the amount of advertising paid for the Romney campaign itself, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Ken Griffin, one of 16 billionaires who had given to Restore Our Future before, gave $100,000 in February, bringing his total donation to the Super PAC to $200,000. Griffin, 43, a Chicago hedge fund manager worth $3 billion, according to "Forbes," recently told the "Chicago Tribune" that the super rich have "insufficient influence" in politics. Griffin declined an interview request from CBS News.

Jerry Perenchio, former chairman of Univision, gave Restore Our Future $500,000 in February, which raised his total super PAC giving to $2.6 million, elevating him into tie for fourth on the list of largest super PAC donors. Perenchio, a billionaire who lives in Bel Air, California, previously gave American Crossroads $2 million and the super PAC supporting Jon Huntsman, Our Destiny, $100,000.

David Humphreys, CEO of Tampko Building Products, a Joplin, Missouri-based manufacturer of roofing products, also gave Restore Our Future $500,000.

The husband of Hewlett Packard CEO and former EBay CEO Meg Whitman, Stanford University neurologist Griff Harsh, gave $100,000 to Restore Our Future in February, following his wife's January donation of the same amount.

Leveraged buyout financier Henry Kravis also gave the group $100,000, something now at least 70 individuals and companies have done.

Restore Our Future got a boost in February from two industries currently under regulatory scrutiny by the Obama administration -- payday lenders and for-profit universities. At least seven payday lending companies gave a combined $227,500 to the pro-Romney super PAC in February, while a subsidiary of the Apollo Group, which runs the University of Phoenix, donated $75,000, the FEC report showed.

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The Adelson family edged out the family of Dallas billionaire businessman Harold Simmons for the number one spot of the nation's super PAC givers. Simmons and his holding company, Contran, previously gave $14.2 million to super PACS, including $8.5 million to American Crossroads and $1 million each to the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future and the pro-Rick Perry Make Us Great Again.

In February, Simmons gave $100,000 to both the pro-Romney and pro-Gingrich Super PACs, while his wife, Annette, who lists herself as an executive at Contran, donated $1 million to the pro-Santorum Red White and Blue Fund, which raised just under $3 million in February, its FEC report showed, bringing the Simmons total to $15.4 million.

Once again, Wyoming investor Foster Friess opened up his checkbook for the pro-Santorum super PAC, giving $600,000, for a total of $1.6 million to date. Louisiana energy company president William Dore gave another $500,000, bringing his total to $1.5 million.

For the second time, Kimber, a manufacturer of pistols and rifles, gave $100,000 to the pro-Santorum group, bringing its total to $200,000. It is the only gun company to give to a super PAC.

In February, American Crossroads received another $1 million donation from billionaire Texas investor Robert Rowling, through his company, TRT Holdings. Rowling also gave the group $1 million last May.

American Crossroads received $1 million from Florida businessman Irving Moskowitz, a son of Polish immigrants who lost dozens of relatives in the Holocaust. Moskowitz has financed Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and his foundation supports a number of charitable causes.

American Crossroads had more cash on hand entering March than any other super PAC -- $24 million.

Comedian Bill Maher was the main donor in February to the super PAC supporting President Obama, Priorities USA. Maher gave $1 million, half the group's take. It also received another $250,000 from Kareem Ahmed, CEO, of California-based Landmark Medical Management, and $100,000 from the United Auto Workers union.

To date, there are 25 individuals or companies who have given $1 million or more to super PACs. Nine of those donors have given $2 million or more to a single group.

At least 21 billionaires have given to super PACS.

One Silicon Valley billionaire, Peter Thiel, a PayPal co-founder and now CEO of Clarium Captial Management, kept his wallet closed in February. Thiel previously gave the pro-Ron Paul Endorse Liberty super PAC $2.6 million.

Endorse Liberty raised $282,466 in February, only one-tenth of its January receipts. The super PAC had $207,000 in cash-on-hand going into March. Most its new money, $200,000, came from Margaret McMahon, from San Antonio, who lists herself as self-employed in the oil and gas industry.

The presidential super PACs have spent already spent at least $70 million on campaign 2012, according to the Sunlight Foundation. According to the foundation: Restore Our Future has spent $36.5 million for Romney; Winning Our Future has spent $16 million for Gingrich; Red White and Blue fund has spent $6.5 million for Santorum; Endorse Liberty has spent $3.5 million for Paul, while two other groups have spent $452,000 for Paul; Make Us Great Again spent $4 million for Perry before he quit the race; Our Destiny spent $2.5 million for Huntsman before he quit; and the 9-9-9 Fund spent $418,000 on behalf of Herman Cain. In addition, American Crossroads has spent $1 million, and Priorities USA has spent $689,000.

"This is almost the opposite of grassroots," said Sunlight Foundation editorial director Bill Allison. "This is the very elite who tend to give to these organizations."

"What really concerns us is all these people have issues before the federal government. This is a great way for them to get access, to get noticed, to get influence," Allison said. "It's not so much the giving to the super PACs and what they're doing, it's what happens after the election when these people come to collect."

  • Phil Hirschkorn

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