Monday, April 15, 2013

Bob Perry dead

It's just a slow Swift Boat ride down the River Styx, made faster by the fact that there will be no pause in Purgatory.

Houston homebuilder Bob Perry, a major Republican campaign contributor and a leader of the successful drive to limit lawsuit awards in Texas, has died, a spokesman confirmed late Sunday.

He was 80.

There really isn't a single solitary thing about Republican politics in Texas over the past ten or twenty years -- and for a while there, the entire country -- that Perry did not have a hand (read: his money) in. The TXGOP, several sessions' worth of conservative legislators, and even the US presidency bear the mark of his financial legacy: $32 million to candidates and causes since 2000.

Update: I thought that sounded low. "Since 2004, Perry has given a total of at least $45 million in federal contributions — excluding direct donations to candidates, according to Federal Elections Commission records, a 2012 AP analysis and figures tabulated by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics."

The Center for Public Integrity ranked Perry third in its list of super donors, noting he contributed $23.5 million to Super PACs in 2011 and 2012. In the 2004 presidential campaign, he was a top donor to the Swift Vets and POWs for Truth, which fervently questioned the accuracy of John Kerry's description of his military service in Vietnam.

Perry was a pragmatic Republican who became a kingmaker as "the most prolific political donor in the state of Texas," said Rice University political scientist Mark Jones, who predicted Perry's death "is going to have a profound impact on Texas politics."

"Pragmatic" is definitely not the word I would choose. But Jones is, after all, a big fan of the man. (Jones is also credited with the underestimate of Perry's spending; the $32 million figure above is now attributed to Perry's donations statewide.)

He did sometimes donate to Democrats - like state representatives Eddie Lucio of Brownsville and Mike Villarreal of San Antonio - so long as they championed "education, economic liberty and tort reform," (spokesman Anthony) Holm told the Dallas Morning News last fall.


For example, he bankrolled the successful 2005 effort to pass a state constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage but stunted a 2011 effort to expand the authority of police inquiring about the immigration status of people they detain.

Yeah, Swift Boat Bob earned the enmity from the Xenophobe Caucus for his lasting support of cheap labor, but not for the same reasons others would (like refusing to raise the minimum wage, for example).

I think there is something serendipitous about the timing: Perry, and the generation of Texas Republicans who rose to power in the Reagan years, are being carried now to the cemetery just as the children of all those day laborers come of voting age, and the Democrats in Texas poise themselves for a renaissance. The locals sure are scared; there are at least two different reports of Battleground Texas meetings in Houston that Republicans have attended and reported on. And in reading that, the sheep seem real nervous.

Rest without peace, Bob.  Your epitaph is what it is. Nobody will actually miss you that wasn't depositing your checks.

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