With just five and a half months left before the Iowa caucuses, Gov. Rick Perry has little time to raise the money he needs to catch candidates who have been on the campaign trail for months.
No problem, says Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, a follow-the-money political watchdog.
"Perry politically needs to come out of the box with a big number that he raised pretty quickly," McDonald says, "and I don't think that will be a problem for Rick Perry."
Audio: Ben Philpott's story for KUT News
Big differences separate Texas campaign finance rules from the federal system. Top donors used to giving Perry’s state campaign hundreds of thousands of dollars are limited to just $2,500 for his presidential run. But McDonald says those people can instead collect donations from their own network of donors.
That system, known as bundling, was perfected by President George W. Bush.
"Bush had a total of 900 bundlers who were called Rangers or Pioneers," McDonald says. "I suspect Rick Perry, if he doesn't stumble politically in the early months here, will have a bundling network that far exceeds 900 individuals."
Still want to write a check for $100,000? Instead of giving directly to the Perry campaign, consider a Super PAC, which can take unlimited donations from individuals and corporations and use the money to advocate for a candidate. At least seven Super PACs supporting Perry are already up and running.
Another key to Perry fundraising will be donor confidence, not just in Perry, but in his campaign staff, too. Sasha Issenberg, author of the upcoming book The Victory Lab, this week released an excerpt from the book called "Rick Perry and His Eggheads," which chronicles how the Perry team has scientifically tested what works and what doesn't on the campaign trail. Issenberg says Perry's staff has treated the campaign much like an audit, going to great lengths to make sure money is spent efficiently.
"I think investors — which is what many big dollar donors think of themselves as — want to make sure their investments are protected," Issenberg says, "and I think that the Perry people felt like this is a way of building trust in that relationship with fundraisers."
McDonald says that with that trust, and a good bit of behind-the-scenes groundwork by bundlers, he expects the governor to announce some large fundraising totals early in the campaign. That expectation will be tested in early October, when Perry’s first quarterly fundraising report is due to the Federal Election Commission.