Dec 29 Billionaire Harold Simmons, one of the
richest men in America and a major contributor to the Republican
Party, has died in his native Texas at 82.
The death, confirmed in a statement by Texas Governor Rick
Perry, was first reported on the website of the Dallas Morning
News which said he died on Saturday at Baylor University Medical
Center at Dallas.
His wife, Annette, told the newspaper Simmons had been "very
sick for the last two weeks," and in Baylor's intensive care
unit for the last eight days.
She did not give a specific cause of death.
Simmons, currently listed at No. 40 on Forbes' list of the
400 wealthiest Americans, funneled millions of dollars to
Republican campaigns with a view toward defeating President
Barack Obama last year.
He was widely considered one of the Republican Party's most
aggressive donors in 2012 and took advantage of new rules that
place few limits on how much money wealthy individuals and
corporations can contribute to political groups.
"Harold Simmons was a true Texas giant, rising from humble
beginnings and seizing the limitless opportunity for success we
so deeply cherish in our great state," Perry said in a prepared
"His legacy of hard work and giving, particularly to his
beloved University of Texas, will live on for generations."
Though he never ran for office, Simmons profoundly shaped
the course of presidential politics in 2004 when one of his
businesses gave $3 million to the group Swift Boat Veterans for
Truth, which helped to undermine Democratic presidential nominee
John Kerry by attacking his Vietnam War record.
A pioneer of the leveraged buyout, Simmons and his holding
company, Contran Corp[CTRW.UL}, was the largest backer of Texas
Governor Rick Perry's failed presidential bid.
Simmons himself gave $100,000 to Americans For Rick Perry,
another affiliated group, but later gave $500,000 to Winning Our
Future, a Super PAC supporting rival Newt Gingrich as Perry's
campaign faded in the polls.
Contran's political action committee also gave $5,000
donations, the legal maximum, to Republican candidates Mitt
Romney and Tim Pawlenty.
That approach is common in Texas, where donors commonly
spread money around in order to ensure access.
Simmons has been one of Perry's biggest backers during his
tenure as Texas governor, a time when his company Waste Control
Specialists LLC sought to set up a lucrative nuclear waste dump
in the sparsely populated western part of the state. Perry
sought to sideline a state commissioner who opposed expanding
the scope of the project.
A company spokesman pointed to Simmons's extensive donations
to Republicans as evidence that he was not targeting Perry for
any special favors.
Simmons's donations were not limited to the political arena.
He and his wife had pledged to give more than half of their
wealth to charity, joining an effort launched by investor Warren
Simmons had also pledged more than $177 million to health
research efforts at the University of Texas-Southwestern in
Dallas, and another $50 million to Parkland Health and Hospital
System, a public hospital in Dallas.
His charitable foundation supports a wide array of causes,
including some that might anger conservatives.
In 2010, the Harold Simmons Foundation gave $75,000 to
public broadcasting organizations, $2,500 to Planned Parenthood,
and $25,000 to Public Campaign, a Washington-based organization
that "aims to dramatically reduce the role of big special
interest money in American politics."