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Perry Stops Paying All Campaign Staff

Bob Daemmerich/Texas Tribune

Rick Perry's presidential campaign has stopped paying all of its staff as the Republican former Texas governor's fundraising has dried up, campaign officials and other Republicans familiar with the operation said late Monday.

Perry has stopped paying his staff at the national headquarters in Austin as well as in the early caucus and primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, according to a Republican familiar with the Perry campaign who demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Perry campaign manager Jeff Miller told staff last Friday, the day after the first Republican presidential debate, that they would no longer be paid and are free to look for other jobs — and, so far at least, most aides have stuck with Perry, this Republican said. News that Perry campaign had stopped paying it's staff of six in South Carolina was first reported late Monday afternoon by the National Journal.

"Money is extremely tight," said Katon Dawson, Perry's South Carolina campaign chairman. “We all moved to volunteer status," he said, but added, "Our team is working as hard as it was last week."

Although polling suggests Republicans have a favorable opinion of Perry, he has struggled to gain traction in the deep field of candidates. He narrowly failed to crack the top 10 in national polling, relegating him to the undercard debate last week on Fox News Channel. He had hoped for a breakout moment there, but rather it was Carly Fiorina, the former technology executive, who emerged from the so-called happy hour debate with momentum.

But Perry's campaign aides as well as leaders of an allied super PAC said they will continue raising money and that the former governor is committed to a strong performance in the early contests next year. Perry is planning to campaign in South Carolina on Thursday and to visit Iowa next week.

"As the campaign moves along, tough decisions have to be made in respect to both monetary and time related resources," Perry campaign manager Jeff Miller said. "Governor Perry remains committed to competing in the early states and will continue to have a strong presence in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina."

The Perry campaign reported raising $1.14 million in the second quarter of this year and on July 15 reported having $883,913 on hand. But a group of Opportunity and Freedom super PACs promoting Perry's candidacy was in far healthier state financially, having raised nearly $17 million by the end of June.

Austin Barbour, senior adviser to the super PAC, said the group would step up "to aggressively support the governor in a number of different ways."

“We’ve got plenty of money," Barbour said. "That’s what I know. And we’re going to put that money to use in Iowa to make sure the governor is in the top three there. The super PAC is not going to let Rick Perry down."

News of Perry's money woes has surprised people in his political circle. In the 2012 campaign, Perry was a fundraising leader, bringing in $17 million to his campaign in a single quarter. "Nobody talked about money being a problem,” said one former Perry appointee and longtime ally.

Perry's troubles are reminiscent of Sen. John McCain's collapse in the summer of 2007, though he rebounded and won the GOP's 2008 nomination. "I experienced this firsthand starting at the McCain campaign, a few weeks prior to what became a mass exodus and downsizing because of fundraising," said Brian Haley, deputy national finance director on McCain's 2008 campaign. "It wasn’t the end of the campaign. It was traumatic when it happened, but we all recommitted when it occurred and took it to win the nomination."

Haley added, "In today’s world, with varying political committees supporting the candidate, there does seem to be an opportunity for campaigns to shift costs. So I’m curious how the Perry organization decides to do that.”

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