Texas donors pour $61 million into election

State ranks second; spending will continue till last minute

11/03/2012 11:20 PM

11/12/2014 2:39 PM

Many Texans are trying to influence this year's presidential race with more than just their votes.

For more than a year, they have mailed off checks written out to their presidential picks -- and they aren't ready to stop.

Now, just days before Election Day -- as the battle between President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney reaches a fevered pace -- those Texas donations have added up to more than $61 million, second only to the $102 million from Californians.

"Many, many states are very close in this election," said Tom Marshall, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. "The easiest thing to do in the last 10 days is to dump money into TV ads and mailers.

"I think we will see steady spending all the way up to 7 p.m. on election night -- and that requires cash."

Californians are helping with that, sending $101.9 million to the candidates, followed by Texas' $61.6 million, New York's $59.7 million, Florida's $45.6 million and Illinois' $29.6 million, according to a review of federal election documents by OpenSecrets.org, part of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

In Texas, $30 million has gone to Romney and more than $14 million to Obama, records show.

"This is one way people participate in the political system," said Brandon Rottinghaus, an associate political science professor at the University of Houston. "It's like voting or putting a bumper sticker on the car."

But donations sent in from the Lone Star State could pay dividends someday.

"People who give money generally find a more sympathetic ear," he said. "If that's the case, the candidates will pay attention to those who have supported them in the past.

"Presidential candidates and presidents don't want to forget their friends."

Texas donors

Romney and Obama picked up the lion's share of Texas donations, but others also benefited.

Gov. Rick Perry hauled in more than $10 million during his brief presidential bid, and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, received nearly $2 million.

Former GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich also picked up more than $1 million from Texans.

"Texas is the second-biggest state, so you would pretty much expect the second-largest amount of donations," Marshall said. "There are some very wealthy people here.

"Texas is a giant ATM machine."

Five Texas areas were responsible for most of the donations to Romney and Obama: Houston, $13.6 million; Dallas, $9.7 million; Austin-San Marcos, $5.3 million; San Antonio, $3.3 million; and Fort Worth-Arlington, $3 million.

Locally, nearly $2.3 million went to Romney and nearly $775,000 to Obama.

Statewide, Austin-San Marcos was the only area to give more to Obama than to Romney -- $3.3 million vs. $1.96 million.

"Austin is one of the few places with cash in Texas that is a Democratic Party stronghold," Marshall said. "This is not unexpected."

In more than a dozen communities stretching from Abilene to Wichita Falls and from Beaumont to Corpus Christi, Texans gave more money to Perry during his presidential bid than to Obama.

"Those are Republican dollars," Marshall said. "And Perry is still the governor."

Romney

The former Massachusetts governor has received thousands of contributions from Texans, from such notable donors as Fort Worth's Bass family -- including Ed, Lee, Mercedes, Ramona and Vicki -- and members of Fort Worth's Moncrief family, such as Kit, Marsland, Charles B., Richard W. and Tom.

Romney has also received donations from Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Fort Worth philanthropist Anne Marion, Houston home builder Bob Perry, Fort Worth attorneys Dee Kelly and Dee Kelly Jr., local auto dealer David McDavid, Dallas real estate mogul Harlan Crow, Hillwood Properties President Michael Berry, Taco Bueno CEO John Miller of Westlake and North Texas family members involved with the Grubbs Nissan dealership.

His most recent list of Texas donors includes homemakers, doctors, private investors, retirees and school officials.

Malcolm Louden, president of the Walsh Ranch, was among the more recent donors. He sent $5,000.

Obama

The president has received thousands of donations from Texans, including from former Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr, Fort Worth attorney and Tarrant Regional Water District board member Jim Lane, Tarrant County Democratic Party Chairman Steve Maxwell, former Chairman Art Brender and Dallas attorney Russell Budd, who hosted a fundraiser for Obama in his home last year.

He has also received funding from former Fort Worth Councilman Jeff Davis; Fort Worth attorney David Chappell; Tonya Veasey, wife of state Rep. Marc Veasey; state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston; and F. Scott McCown, executive director of the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities.

His most recent list of Texas donors includes retirees, attorneys and business owners. Anne T. Bass of Fort Worth and James Spaniolo, president of the University of Texas at Arlington, were among the most recent donors.

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley

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