By R.G. RATCLIFFE - Houston Chronicle - Sept. 26, 2007
AUSTIN — Candidates for Texas' legislative and major statewide offices collected almost $158 million in campaign funds during the 2006 election cycle, according to a study released today by Texans for Public Justice.
That total is the equivalent of the annual average wage of more than 3,800 Texas workers.
But TPJ found there is little average about some of the donors to Texas politicians. Almost a third of all the money raised — $52 million — came from 141 millionaires who donated $100,000 or more each.
"Average people don't have much of a voice in the system," said TPJ Director Craig McDonald. "The role of the small donor is almost nonexistent.
Texans for Public Justice is a campaign finance reform advocacy group that supports limits on contributions to candidates and aggregate limits on money given by individual donors. Both concepts are generally opposed by Republicans as an infringement on freedom of speech.
The state's top donors in 2006, according to the TPJ report, were Houston home builder Bob Perry and his wife, Doylene, who gave $7.1 million. San Antonio investor James Leininger and his wife, Cecilia, came in second with contributions totaling $5.5 million. Perry and Leininger mostly contribute to Republicans.
Democratic lawyer Fred Baron and his wife, Lisa, were third at $2.1 million. Dallas tax consultant George Ryan, who gave heavily to the independent gubernatorial campaign of Carole Keeton Strayhorn, was fourth at $1.4 million. Houston lawyer John O'Quinn ranked ninth with the $1.1 million he gave to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell.
While the total money raised in the 2006 cycle did not equal the $195 million of 2002, McDonald said it is a record if the 2002 totals subtract the $60 million that millionaire Democrat Tony Sanchez gave to his own losing campaign and the $11 million that millionaire Republican David Dewhurst spent from his wallet winning the lieutenant governor's office.
McDonald said the 2002 report also included candidates for Texas' top appeals courts while the current report does not.
"This is actually an increase of $30 million over 2002," McDonald said.
In 2002, when every member of the state Senate faced re-election after redistricting, the candidates raised a total of $21.5 million, he said. Last year, with just half the members facing re-election, candidates raised $27.4 million.
In the House, which elects all of its members every two years, fundraising jumped from $33 million in 2002 to $59.6 million in 2006, McDonald said.
He said the clout of special interests can be seen in the fact that 81 percent of the money raised by House candidates came from outside their districts.
"He who pays the piper calls the tune in politics," McDonald said.
The entire report, plus links to individual districts, can be found on the tpj.org Web site.
TOP DONORS OF 2006
Total raised by statewide and legislative incumbents and candidates: $157.6 million
• Bob and Doylene Perry of Houston: $7.1 million
• James and Cecilia Leininger of San Antonio: $5.5 million
• Fred and Lisa Baron of Dallas: $2.1 million
• George and Amanda Ryan of Dallas: $1.4 million
• T. Boone Pickens of Dallas: $1.2 million
Political action committees
• Texas Association of Realtors: $3.6 million
• Texans for Lawsuit Reform: $3.4 million
• Texas Republican Legislative Campaign Committee: $2.1 million
• Texas Democratic Trust: $1.7 million
• Texas Medical Association: $1.6 million
Money raised by candidates
• Incumbents: $88.9 million
• Challengers: $36.9 million
• Open seats: $23.8 million
Note: The money raised by candidates does not equal the total because the total includes 15 senators who raised money but were not up for re-election.
Source: Texans for Public Justice
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