Texas billionaires give big to GOP, Dems, but for president, not so much


North Texas billionaires Robert Bass and Ross Perot Jr. are big political donors — with very different party preferences.

The two Texas investors have extensive ties to Tarrant County, where Fort Worth is located. Bass, 68, who Forbes magazine calculates has a net worth of $2.8 billion, is one of four brothers who inherited a family oil fortune and runs his global investment operations from Fort Worth. He is also chairman of Aerion Corp., which is developing a supersonic transport plane.

Dallas-based Perot, 57, worth $1.6 billion, according to Forbes, operates Hillwood Development Company LLC, which has large real-estate investments in northeast Tarrant County. Perot developed Alliance Airport, the nation's first industrial airport, in north Fort Worth, and is developing land around it.

In the 2016 campaign cycle Bass and his wife, Anne, have given $184,800 to Democratic candidates and committees while Perot and his wife, Sarah, have donated $757,760, almost exclusively to Republicans and GOP committees, according to the Center for Responsive Politics' opensecrets.org, which tabulates Federal Election Commission reports.

Neither couple have given to the top of the ticket, reflecting national unease among some donors with the choices of the major parties. So far this election cycle the Basses have not made any contributions to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and the Perots have not donated to Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Other GOP billionaires have just come through for Trump, with casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, contributing $5 million to the Republican nominee out of a $45 million GOP contribution, according to federal filings made public Tuesday. Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, who had been opposed to Trump, is giving him $1 million, also according to filings. Ricketts had supported Wis. Gov. Scott Walker who dropped out a year ago and then contributed to an anti-Trump super PAC.

On the Clinton side of the ledger, Miami Republican billionaire Mike Fernandez is donating more than $2 million to the Democratic nominee, according to The Miami Herald.

But Clinton's presidential campaign has not gotten a boost from Texas' Anne Bass, who contributed to Clinton's Senate campaigns and has been a supporter of female Democratic candidates. In March Anne Bass gave $50,000 to Women Vote! a political action committee that promotes female candidates who support abortion rights.

Perot, whose father ran for president as an independent in 1992 against President George H.W. Bush — winning 19 percent of the vote — was a major donor this election to Bush's son Jeb Bush, giving more than $100,000 to the Right to Rise PAC, which supported the former Florida governor.

The Perots also gave to other Republican presidential candidates: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The Dallas couple did not contribute to the presidential campaign of their home-state senator, Ted Cruz.

No one from Bass' Keystone Group Inc. responded to several inquiries from McClatchy for comment. Perot spokesman James Fuller told McClatchy, "He does not have any comment at this time on political contributions or the presidential race."

Bryan Eppstein, a Republican consultant in Fort Worth, said in an interview. "They're both major contributors. There's still a lot of time between now and the election. A lot of people prefer to give closer to the election." Election Day is Nov. 8.

There's only one federal candidate to whom Bass and Perot both gave: Democratic U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, who represents portions of Fort Worth and Dallas.

"I'm happy to have broad support from both sides," Veasey said in an interview. "I'm the only member of the delegation who represents the urban core of both Dallas and Fort Worth. I work hard to reach out to a lot of different people."

James Riddlesperger, a political science professor at Fort Worth's Texas Christian University, said he thought Perot was being pragmatic. "Perot is trying to do business in Tarrant County, and what Perot wants is Veasey's ear, in the best tradition of American politics."

But Riddlesperger was a little surprised at Perot's support for Jeb Bush. "Ross' dad and Jeb's dad had some real personal animosity," said Riddlesperger. "Bush's family thinks it hurt Bush's re-election." President George H.W. Bush lost to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992.

As for Robert Bass, whose brothers give primarily to Republicans, the TCU professor said, "Bass has been a supporter of Democrats for a number of years, though mostly quietly."

Matt Angle, a Fort Worth native who is a Democratic political consultant based in Washington, said of Robert Bass and Perot giving to Veasey: "It doesn't surprise me that they would both support Marc. He has really established himself as a strong incumbent." Both Angle and Veasey are former staffers to former Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas.

Angle thinks that Perot's much larger donations than Bass' have to do with the GOP dominating Texas politics — there has not been a Democrat elected statewide since 1994.

Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, a Tarrant County car dealer who was Texas' secretary of state and was first elected to Congress in 2012, said in an interview that Perot's support for Republicans was important for the party. "Ross Jr. is a really good friend of mine," he said. "He and his father are patriots. He's an important figure in this country. We're lucky to have him in Tarrant County."

This cycle Perot also contributed to Republican members of Congress who represent Tarrant County: $2,700 to Williams; $5,400 to Rep. Kay Granger, and $3,700 to Rep. Joe Barton.


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