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Swift Boat Donor Perry Gives $7 Million to Rove Group

Texas home builder Bob Perry donated $7 million to American Crossroads, helping the political group advised by Republican strategist Karl Rove raise almost $15 million in about six weeks.

Perry was a top donor in 2004 to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which ran ads against Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Perry made a series of donations to American Crossroads between Sept. 1 and Oct. 13, according to reports the group filed yesterday with the Federal Election Commission.

American Crossroads and its sister group, Crossroads GPS, have raised at least $56 million to spend on the Nov. 2 congressional elections. They are part of a wave of Republican-leaning organizations that are making up for a fundraising advantage held by Democratic Party committees.

“The power of individual wealthy Americans is rising to levels not seen since the ‘robber baron’ days,” said Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University in Ames. “Bob Perry’s case is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Rove, who was a chief strategist to former President George W. Bush, and Perry, a longtime donor in Texas, have known each other for decades.

“The donations speak for themselves,” said Anthony Holm, a spokesman for Perry.

Super PACs

American Crossroads is part of a new set of organizations dubbed super PACS by election lawyers. They can take unlimited amounts from contributors and are required to disclose those donors and detail their spending to the FEC on a regular basis.

Crossroads GPS is set up as a nonprofit issue-advocacy group and doesn’t have to disclose its donors. That has drawn protests from President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats, who say Americans deserve to know who is paying for the ads running across the country.

Both Crossroads groups saw a surge in fundraising after a round of public attacks by Obama and White House aides David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs, spokesman Jonathan Collegio said last week. They now plan to raise $65 million together.

“We took in a donation from a pilot. He wrote a check for $500 to Crossroads GPS,” Collegio said. “It says, please thank the following people for bringing your organization to my attention: Barack Obama, David Axelrod, Robert Gibbs. The End. So we have a lot of donations like these.”

Texas Money

Rove has been raising money for the groups, and much of it has flowed from Texas, where Rove rose to prominence as a political strategist. Robert Rowling, chief executive officer of TRT Holdings Inc., in Irving, Texas, has now given $2.5 million, according to the latest report. The company itself is listed as contributing about $2.3 million.

Among smaller donations, the group reported a $50,000 contribution from real estate developer Donald Trump.

Another Republican-leaning super PAC, Club for Growth Action, reported raising $1.7 million in September from donors including executives in the financial and energy industries. John Childs, head of the closely held Boston private equity firm J.W. Childs Associates, gave $500,000.

The First Amendment Alliance, which has run ads against Democrats including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, brought in $1.1 million from Aug. 31 to Sept. 30. In addition to contributions from energy and financial executives, the First Amendment Alliance also reported a $50,000 contribution from Perry.

Spreading Money

In some cases, the groups are spreading money among themselves. The New Prosperity Foundation, which has spent money to help Mark Kirk, the Republican Senate candidate in Illinois, reported a $250,000 donation from American Crossroads.

In a new report filed today, the Emily’s List offshoot Women Vote! said it received a total of $600,000 from America’s Families First and $250,000 from the SEIU COPE union committee. Emily’s List supports Democratic women who favor abortion rights; America’s Families First is backing Democratic candidates in congressional districts with ads and mailings.

In the last two months, Women Vote! has also received $750,000 from Donald Sussman, founder of the Greenwich, Connecticut-based hedge fund Paloma Partners. “When women participate in the political process, we all benefit from the values, perspective, and work ethic they bring to the table,” Sussman said in an e-mailed statement.

Republican-leaning outside groups spent more than three times as much as pro-Democratic groups on the elections between Sept. 1 and Oct. 17, according to FEC filings. That’s helped Republican candidates who aren’t getting as much aid from the national party as in past cycles.

Party Money

The Republican National Committee yesterday reported that it had $3.4 million in cash at the end of September after raising almost $10 million and taking a $2.5 million loan. The Democratic National Committee had more than $13 million in the bank after bringing in almost $19 million during the month.

Spending on political ads has risen across the country, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, operated from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. The group said candidates, parties and interest groups spent about $198 million on ads for House and Senate races between Sept. 1 and Oct. 7, an increase of 75 percent from 2008.

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