First on CNN: Rick Perry super PACs raise nearly $17M

(CNN)A trio of super PACs supporting former Texas Gov. Rick Perry has raised neared $17 million, according to a senior adviser for the groups.

Two pro-Perry groups -- Opportunity and Freedom PAC and Opportunity and Freedom PAC I -- raised $12.8 million in the first half of the year. A third super PAC, which was created Thursday, collected a $4 million check from a single donor, bringing the full tally for the three groups to $16.8 million as of July 10, said Austin Barbour, the senior adviser to all three affiliated entities.
Just minutes after news broke of the super PAC's impressive haul, the official campaign said it had raised only $1.07 million, bringing the grand total of his collections to nearly $18 million.
    Perry had less time than his competitors to collect checks -- he only announced his campaign about a month ago -- but his headquarters' total was the smallest of any of the Republicans who have released their sums, and is slightly less than GOP contender Carly Fiorina's campaign haul.
    In a statement, Perry campaign manager Jeff Miller made sure to refer to the super PAC's success in pitching their viability.
    "Governor Perry is well positioned and between the campaign and independent sources, the necessary funds will be in place to run a competitive, successful campaign," Miller said.
    The super PAC total falls far short of the $103 million Jeb Bush's super PAC has raised, but it is competitive with others in the GOP field. That's a promising sign for Perry, who has faced questions from GOP voters and donors alike about whether he can mount a comeback after his embarrassing 2012 presidential bid.
    "Look, nobody's going to compete with Jeb Bush, it's impossible. Congratulations to them," Barbour said. But, "we have enough money now to keep us competitive in this process for a long time."
    Barbour said their robust fundraising lends his candidate additional credibility. It also gives bundlers an opening to circle back with hesitant donors and pitch them on supporting Perry or writing larger checks.
    Wealthy Texas donors helped fuel the fundraising for the pro-Perry groups.
    Kelcy Warren, a Dallas billionaire and chief executive of an energy company whose board of directors includes Perry, gave a $6 million contribution. Warren is also the finance chairman for Perry's presidential campaign.
    Darwin Deason, another Dallas billionaire who founded an information technology company that was later acquired by Xerox Corporation, gave $5 million.
    Brint Ryan, chief executive of tax services firm Ryan LLC, is serving as the finance chairman for all three groups, which have collected donations from dozens of contributors.
    Barbour said he and other Perry allies organized three super PACs because high-dollars donors want to have more input in the process this election cycle than they did in 2012. For instance, many of his biggest contributors are eager to tout Perry's record of job creation in Texas.
    "If they were going to give a million dollars or $5 million they really want to be able to participate," Barbour said. "They know that the final decisions on strategy and execution still lie with me and our team."
    The super PACs still have most of their cash on hand, Barbour said, although they have spent more than $1 million already in paid television and digital advertising in Iowa.
    "We made this decision a long time ago that we were going to go early in Iowa," Barbour said. "We feel like we have clean air," giving them an edge to reintroduce voters to the governor before the airwaves become too crowded.
    The Perry campaign and super PACs are all betting heavily on a strong showing in Iowa and on the debate stage to carry the candidate further along in the process.
    That's why the super PACs have also spent a "significant amount" to reach a large conservative audience nationally to try to boost Perry's polling and ensure he makes the debate stage, Barbour said.
    Perry comes in eighth place with 4% support among Republicans in the latest CNN/ORC poll. Averages of recent national polls indicate he will likely qualify for the first debate.
    As for the recent Donald Trump mania, Barbour said Perry's exchanges with the brash businessman over immigration policies are a welcome fight.
    "If the conversation is about border security, nobody knows it better than Rick Perry," Barbour said.