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Report: Christian Retreat For Perry This Weekend In Hill Country

A Rick Perry supporter at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, ahead of the Ames Straw Poll.
Photo by Gage Skidmore
A Rick Perry supporter at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, ahead of the Ames Straw Poll.

One of Governor Perry’s largest campaign contributors is hosting a retreat in the Hill Country this weekend for conservative Christian supporters of the GOP presidential candidate. That’s according to Texans for Public Justice, a campaign finance watchdog group.

TPJ says San Antonio businessman Dr. James Leininger, who has contributed more than $239,000 to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns, is hosting the gathering. The non-profit group issued this report explaining how Leininger helped Perry get into the political big leagues in Texas.

Perry might never have been governor—nor now be a presidential candidate—but for James Leininger. In a game-changing 1998 race then-Texas Agriculture Commissioner Perry was elected Lieutenant Governor. That victory secured Perry’s automatic promotion to governor two years later when President-Elect Bush abandoned the Governor’s Mansion. Perry narrowly won his fateful 1998 race against Democrat John Sharp, capturing just 50.04 percent of the vote. This squeaker victory was secured by an eleventh-hour media blitz that Perry paid for with a last-minute, $1.1 million loan. Leininger and two other Texas tycoons guaranteed the loan,1 which supplied more than 10 percent of the $10.3 million that Perry raised for that election.

Perry’s relationship with Leininger was the subject of media scrutiny this week. Leininger has a minority stake in Gradalis, a Dallas-based biotech company that received a $1.75 million grant from the state’s technology fund in 2009.

The Dallas Morning News already reported on that relationship last year. But on Saturday, The New York Times resurrected the story as it examined how “one of [Perry’s] most potent fund-raising tools is the very government he heads.”

Over three terms in office, Mr. Perry’s administration has doled out grants, tax breaks, contracts and appointments to hundreds of his most generous supporters and their businesses. And they have helped Mr. Perry raise more money than any politician in Texas history, donations that have periodically raised eyebrows but, thanks to loose campaign finance laws and a business-friendly political culture dominated in recent years by Republicans, have only fueled Mr. Perry’s ascent.

Whether or not Leininger is the political puppet master that his liberal detractors allege, his fundraising prowess will likely form a vital part of Perry's campaign operation in this state.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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