Bob Perry dies, Bob Perry, a Houston home builder and Republican Party donor who became a force in bankrolling political advertisements, including the campaign by the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to discredit the military record of then-Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, died over the weekend at his home in Nassau Bay, near Houston. He was 80.
Texas state Rep. Neal Jones, a family friend, confirmed the death but did not disclose the cause.
Mr. Perry was a fixture of GOP fundraising in Texas — and nationally — dating back to former President George W. Bush’s Texas gubernatorial races in the mid-1990s. His largesse included giving $4.4 million in 2004 to the Swift Boat Veterans campaign.
Mr. Perry spent prolifically on politics but did so from a distance. He rarely gave interviews, skipped fancy fundraisers and was a mystery even to many of his benefactors.
Yet Mr. Perry couldn’t avoid attention following his financing of the Swift Boat ads, which challenged Kerry’s Navy combat service in Vietnam, for which he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and three awards of the Purple Heart.
Some Democrats blamed Kerry’s slow response to the criticism for sinking his candidacy.
Mr. Perry donated money to help start the veterans group at the urging of his friend John O’Neill, a Houston lawyer who co-wrote “Unfit for Command,” a book that questioned Kerry’s military service.
Bill Miller, an Austin lobbyist whom Perry hired as a spokesman when scrutiny surrounding the ads erupted, said in 2004 that Perry’s donation to the Swift Boat Veterans reflected his belief in the group’s message.
“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,” Miller said. “People call him and pitch him, and if he likes what he hears, he’ll write a check.”
Mr. Perry was a prominent financial supporter of Texas Gov. Rick Perry. (They were not related.)
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