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Perry Exits, And So Does His Once-Hefty War Chest

Image by Todd Wiseman, Bob Daemmrich for the Texas Tribune

Gov. Rick Perry took his fundraising muscle with him Thursday when he bowed out of the Republican presidential race. His exit freed not only what was left in his federal campaign coffers, but also the support of the political action committee that had spent $3.8 million in Perry’s favor.

The next filing deadline for federal campaign committees is Jan. 31, making it difficult to know how much money Perry’s campaign has left. But it does not appear to be very much.

“We have spent the bulk of our funds,” said Ray Sullivan, a spokesman for Perry. “So South Carolina was a final flag in the ground."

RickPerry.Org Inc., the principal campaign committee for Perry’s now-defunct presidential bid, reported in October that it had raised $17.2 million in the third quarter of fiscal year 2011. By tapping into Perry’s large network of Texas donors, the committee had outraised every other candidate in that filing period.

Some of Perry’s contributions may need to go back to his contributors. With his exit, the campaign must refund any contributions received specifically in support of the general election, since he did not make it that far.

Texas campaign finance law puts no limits on the amount that can be contributed to a state political committee, so whatever money Perry has left could come back to Texas with him in the form of a contribution to Texans for Rick Perry, his state PAC.

Perry could also choose to keep his federal campaign PAC intact, hanging onto any money left in it for another possible run for federal office. Federal Election Commission law allows candidates to transfer funds from a previous election committee to a new one, or allows them to repurpose the first one.

Make Us Great Again, the Super PAC founded by Mike Toomey, Perry’s former chief of staff, will not follow in Perry’s footsteps and throw its support behind Newt Gingrich. Make Us Great Again officials said in a Thursday news release that it would be inappropriate to redirect their funds to “any other purpose or candidate.”

But it is unclear exactly what the organization plans to do with the leftover money.

Officials from Make Us Great Again could not be reached for comment. In the news release, Super PAC officials said they would “begin the process of winding down in full accordance with FEC regulations.”

According to a planning document released to Make Us Great Again supporters in September, the organization had intended to spend as much as $55 million to secure the Republican nomination for Perry.

But as of Jan. 13, the date of the two most recent independent expenditures reported by Make Us Great Again — for media purchases totaling $166,300 — the Super PAC had only spent $3.9 million in support of Perry.

Despite being a major player in Perry’s presidential bid, Make Us Great Again has yet to file a single campaign finance report because the Super PAC is on a quarterly filing schedule. The organization’s first required reporting deadline is Jan. 31.

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