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Super PAC profile: Pro-Perry Make Us Great Again has ties to former staff, major donor

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One of the highest spending super PACs so far, the pro-Rick Perry Make Us Great Again is headed by the Texas governor’s former chief of staff Mike Toomey.   A Texas lobbyist, Toomey is a longtime friend and confidant of Perry's who was behind Perry’s switch in party affiliation in 1985 after he was elected to the Texas legislature. He has a reputation of being Perry's “enforcer.”

The ads run by the super PAC portray Perry as an anti-Washington candidate, with energy and tax reforms as his leading campaign mantra.  The video and radio ads feature Perry as a “solid conservative” and as a successful chief executive who has brought more than one million jobs to the state -- though there's been considerable dispute about how much credit he deserves for the accomplishment.

Showcasing Perry as a conservative, another ad run by the super PAC attacked both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich during Gingrich’s brief December stint as a front-runner. Appealing to the Republican base, the video reminds viewers that Romney once supported abortion rights and that Gingrich once sided with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on global warming. Both men have since changed their minds.

There appear to be more super PACs supporting Perry than any other candidate, but in a letter obtained by Texas Tribune, the Make Us Great Again PAC also cautions donors against phony pro-Perry groups. “Our advice is to avoid any other group claiming to be “the” pro-Perry independent effort and, when the timing is right, to support Make Us Great Again," says the letter, signed by a long-time Perry campaign contributor Brint Ryan and California based GOP fundraiser Tony Russo. The letter also cites the address of lobby firm Foley and Lardner, though it is unclear if the firm is acting as the groups’ lawyers or plays a more integral role with the PAC. Calls to the firm were not returned.

Ryan heads the tax firm of Ryan and Co., headquartered in Dallas. Ryan and his wife have together donated more than $560,000 to Perry in the last decade.

Established in July 2011, the super PAC has spent more than $3.7 million so far on ads, with the first ads hitting the airwaves in Iowa and South Carolina as early as October 2011.

Check out the Sunlight Foundation's interactive roster of presidential super PACs here.