Elite Group of Donors Dole Out Campaign Cash to Multiple Presidential Candidates, Sometimes Crossing Party Lines
The first of their contributions to McCain came on Dec. 29, 2006. The Perrys went on to write additional checks to McCain in May 2008, as well, after he secured the GOP presidential nomination. But in between, they also each gave Republican Mitt Romney $2,300 for his primary election bid -- the maximum amount allowed under the law.
Romney failed to best McCain in 2008, but the former Massachusetts governor is running again this year.
This time around, Romney again is receiving financial support from Perry. And, again, Romney is not the only candidate Perry appears to be backing: Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has also touted Perry's support.
Such early double dipping is a standard part of presidential politicking. During the 2008 presidential election, hundreds of individuals donated the legal maximum to two or more different presidential candidates, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis indicates. And in some cases, the candidates were in different parties.
At the same time, 29 individuals gave $2,300 to both McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, according to the Center's research. (Only one individual gave $2,300 to both Romney and Giuliani. See more interesting comparisons in the chart below.)
Meanwhile, 616 individuals gave at least $2,300 to both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama; 21 individuals gave $2,300 to both Obama and John Edwards; and four individuals gave $2,300 to both Edwards and Clinton, according to the Center's research.
Many big-dollar donors were even willing to cross party lines during the 2008 presidential election.
According to the Center's research, 82 people donated at least $2,300 to both Obama and McCain and 29 people donated at least $2,300 to both Clinton and McCain.
Additionally, two donors gave at least $2,300 to both Clinton and Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), who is making his third presidential bid this year, according to the Center's research.
No donors gave $2,300 to both Obama and Paul -- although Washington, D.C., attorney and former lobbyist Michael J. Madigan gave the legal maximum to both Obama and former Republican Sen. Fred Thomspon.
Madigan, who works at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and previously served as Thompson's chief counsel during his 1997 U.S. Senate investigations into campaign finance irregularities, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Individuals may be motivated to donate for a variety of reasons. Some may want to support ideological allies or lawmakers who agree with them on their top issues. Others may want to curry favor with the people in power.
"Donations like these are all about access," a Democratic campaign operative, who worked on a 2010 Congressional race and requested anonymity to speak openly about campaign financing, told OpenSecrets Blog. "At that level of contribution, you probably get to meet the candidate and have a conversation with them."
The same Democratic operative said that campaigns are unlikely to think twice about taking big-dollar donations from individuals, even if they are also backing your opponents.
"Would a campaign rather be the only one to get the max-out check? Yes, absolutely," the Democratic operative told OpenSecrets Blog. "But a campaign is fund-raising toward a budget goal, and $2,300 is a big step toward that goal, regardless of who else the donor is giving to."
Similar sentiments were echoed by Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
"Donating to multiple candidates is like buying extra lottery tickets," Sabato told OpenSecrets Blog. "You have more chances to wind up in the winner's circle, with all the perks of having backed the victor. Those might include everything from minor advantages like good convention seats to major ones like significant private time with the nominee or input on the platform."
Sabato, who has in the past written about simultaneous political donations to competing candidates, added that he was surprised that candidates and campaign staffers "didn't seem to mind the game of multiple choice."
"They didn't take it personally," Sabato said. "They needed money, and tons of it, and they'd get it from any legal source. At some level the candidate's ego must be dented a little when someone doesn't pick him or her as their one and only true love -- but they seem to get over it. It's just the way business is done by many of the wealthy."
For this current presidential election cycle, financial reports for all presidential candidates won't be filed with the Federal Election Commission until next month, so until then, there are no public records that show exactly how much cash Perry is actually ponying up for Romney, Pawlenty or any other presidential contender. (Perry Homes, the home construction company owned by Perry, did not respond for comment on this story.)
But if trends from the past elections hold true, Perry -- whose financial largess helped fuel the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004 and Republican super PAC American Crossroads in 2010 -- will again be one of thousands of deep-pocketed donors willing to dole out cash to multiple presidential candidates.
Center for Responsive Politics senior researcher Dan Auble contributed to this report. Graphic design by Center for Responsive Politics webmaster H.J. Rivera.