Now that former Texas governor Rick Perry has dropped out of the Republican presidential derby, some San Diego–linked big-money donors to his cause will have a bit more than loose change to devote to other endeavors. Topping the list of disappointed Perry donors is Darwin Deason, the high-flying GOP billionaire out of Dallas. Six years ago the Forbes 400 Richest Americans list member bought an expansive La Jolla manse from fellow Republican funder and Perry backer Douglas Manchester, ex-publisher of U-T San Diego, for $18.2 million.
Deason and fifth wife Katerina, 27 years his junior, then commissioned La Jolla architect Tony Crisafi and associates — along with downtown influence peddler Matt Peterson — to lobby the city for a coastal development permit to upgrade the Spindrift Drive oceanfront estate where Manchester lived with ex-wife Betsy before he, too, married a younger woman.
In the fall of 2014, Manchester, Deason, and Deason’s son Douglas all turned up as donors to an obscure political committee out of Athens, Georgia, called the Victory Congressional Fund. Manchester and his Russian-born second wife Geniya gave $7800, with the Deasons coming up with $10,400. That October, federal disclosure records showed, the committee gave $14,139.62 to Republican ex–city councilman Carl DeMaio’s ultimately failed congressional bid against La Jolla incumbent Democrat Scott Peters.
Deason’s contribution to Perry’s presidential hopes was more substantial. According to the Washington DC–based Center for Public Integrity, Deason kicked in a total of $5 million to a group of pro-Perry super PACs, with the umbrella label of Opportunity and Freedom.
Following Perry’s abrupt suspension of his campaign earlier this month, the groups’ finance chairman Brint Ryan said the well-heeled donors stood to get some of their cash back. “We’re still settling up with a few vendors…but we had a pretty good estimate of what those were so we were able to hold back a little bit of the reserve and refund the rest.”
He added, “It was my view that those donors may want to make other arrangements with their money, and the sooner we get it back to them, the quicker they could do that.” He won’t get an argument from Deason’s son. “We have made it clear we expect the PAC to shut down and send the funds back,” Douglas told Politico September 14. “We are going to sit back and let things shake out a bit before we choose another candidate.”
Federal records show Manchester gave $5000 to Perry’s Rick PAC on January 21, as did wife Geniya. In addition, Manchester gave $5400 to Florida senator Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign on April 15. But the biggest primary season winner in the Manchester household so far is Jeb Bush, the ex-Florida governor and presidential spawn who is also in the race, with $25,000 from Geniya to Bush’s Right to Rise PAC on March 18.