Bob Perry, the major GOP donor responsible for the “swift boat” ads attacking presidential candidate John Kerry, has died at age 80.
The Texas millionaire preferred to stay behind the scenes, cutting checks to pay for television ads for candidates and shying away from publicity. He rarely attended political functions or gave interviews, and even the candidates he financed knew little about Perry.
Bob Perry made his fortune as a homebuilder in Houston, and his large donations to GOP candidates helped bring about a new era of mega-spending within major races.
Between 2000 and 2010 Perry gave at least $66 million to mostly Republican candidates and causes, the Texas Tribune found.
Perry started funding George W. Bush‘s runs for governor in Texas during the mid 1990s, but was best known for the $4.4 million he gave to finance the Swift Boat Veterans campaign against John Kerry in 2004.
This ad, which was attacked by Democrats for bending the truth, finally brought Bob Perry out of the shadows and into the national spotlight. Many in Democratic circles believe that this ad — and Kerry’s slow response in calling it out — was what tilted to race toward Bush.
Perry said that he believed in the message of the Swift Boat Veterans.
“In my conversations with Bob, he just said, ‘John contacted me, told me what he was trying to do, and it sounded good to me.’ That’s really the way he does it,” said Bill Miller, an Austin lobbyist and Perry’s sometimes spokesman, back in 2004. “People call him and pitch him, and if he likes what he hears, he’ll write a check.”
As he died, Bob Perry was remembered not just for his big checkbook.
“Mr. Perry was a wonderful friend to many all around the United States,” said Texas Rep. Neal Jones, a friend of Perry’s. “With his passing we’ve lost a great patriot who has made a great difference in the lives of people all across the land. He will be sorely missed.”
Jones said Bob Perry died peacefully in his sleep on Saturday night.