Once in a rare interview, the Houston homebuilding tycoon who gave at least $75 million in political contributions argued that writing big checks didn't buy big influence."It is my view that government is not owned by anyone, least of all wealthy contributors," Bob Perry told the Houston Chronicle, in 2002.Mr. Perry died Saturday night "peacefully in his sleep," said lobbyist Neal Jones, a family friend. He was 80.Word of his death didn't spread until late the next day -- perhaps a final victory for Mr. Perry, who was averse to the spotlight. He rarely spoke to the press and skipped fundraisers.The top was blown off that low profile in 2004 when Mr. Perry spent $4.4 million financing the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans campaign against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. They remain among the most famous political TV ads in history.Critics sought to highlight the buying power Mr. Perry's largesse afforded -- particularly as the issue of campaign finance and the role of big money came before the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2000s.Last year alone, Mr. Perry gave more than $18 million to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and organizations that backed his candidacy. That ranked him third among all Romney donors.Raised by a father who was a teacher and later became dean of students at Baylor University, Mr. Perry was a high school teacher after college. But in 1968 he started Perry Homes where he made his fortune.