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Perry seeks to transfer campaign funds to political action committee

Gov. Rick Perry may be preparing to take on a more active role in the 2012 elections if a recent filling with the Federal Elections Commission is any guide.

In a letter to the FEC this week, Perry's presidential campaign treasurer, Salvatora Purpura, asked permission to convert funds in Perry's campaign account into a new political action committee, possibly a super PAC, which would be able to solicit unlimited funds to influence the results of elections.

The letter was posted online Thursday by the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that analyzes the influence of money on politics.

At issue is $270,000 in donations that were given to Perry's presidential campaign but designated for the general election, not the primary. On Jan. 19, the day Perry ended his White House bid, his team sent letters to those donors asking for permission to transfer their donations to a new PAC, according to Purpura.

Donors have already asked for "at least $100,000" to be refunded, according to the letter. The campaign has received approval to convert "nearly $30,000" to the new PAC.

Purpura hopes to make the switch official by April 30, suggesting he may be interested in using the money for general election races this year. Perry reported raising $20.1 million last year and spending $16.3 million.

Failed presidential candidates have a long history of converting remaining funds into PACs. Super PACs became legal after 2010 federal court rulings, which is why Purpura is checking on whether Perry's funding can be converted into such an entity.

If the campaign fund can't be converted into any kind of PAC, Purpura asked whether the leftover money can be transferred to Perry's state campaign fund for a possible re-election campaign.

Like other presidential candidates, Perry had super PACs backing his efforts. Super PACs can't coordinate with or contribute directly to political candidates but can spend unlimited amounts to advertise for or against them. Make Us Great Again, the most active pro-Perry PAC, reported raising $5.5 million last year and spending $4.8 million, nearly all of it on producing and airing ads. More than 80 percent of the funds came from Texas contributors.

Last month, Make Us Great Again announced that it would shut down.

"Donors to Make Us Great Again contributed with the intent to help elect Governor Perry as our next President," Scott Rials, executive director, said at the time. "It would be inappropriate to utilize their contributions for any other purpose or candidate."

A request for comment from a Make Us Great Again spokesman was not returned Thursday.

Star-Telegram Austin bureau chief Dave Montgomery contributed to this report.

Aman Batheja, 817-390-7695

Twitter: @amanbatheja