The 12 members of the Texas House Freedom Caucus and three ideologically similar Republican candidates raised over $1.1M during the first half of the year, accounting for a third of the total of all contributions received by the incumbent members and announced candidates for office.

Five Freedom Caucus members – Reps. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park), Mike Lang (R-Granbury), Kyle Biederman (R-Fredericksburg), Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) and Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving) – were among top 10 incumbents in terms of contributions received during the final 12 days of June, the only time during the year’s first six months when they could receive contributions. Reps. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) and Jeff Leach (R-Plano) were just outside the top 10 but within the top 10 Republican incumbents. All caucus members except Reps. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) and Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) reported at least $25K in contributions.

The remaining caucus members are Reps. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth), Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) and Valoree Swanson (R-Spring).

The three ideologically aligned candidates – Thomas McNutt, Mayes Middleton and former Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands) – were among the four top non-incumbents seeking House office, and they received more in contributions than all but 12 of the current incumbents.

This year’s performance is a significant upgrade over two years ago, when the same group of incumbents and candidates* collectively reported $337K in contributions, of which Rep. Matt Rinaldi ($122K) and first-time candidate McNutt ($104K) were responsible for two thirds of the total.

A dozen sources provided nearly 60% of the total raised by the Freedom Caucus members and the three ideologically similar candidates for House seats. Just three sources – the Wilks brothers and the Empower Texans PAC – were responsible for 35% of the incumbents and candidates’ reported contributions, totaling $404K.

It is not unusual for a significant amount of contributions to come from a limited number of sources, particularly when officeholders have only 12 days to accept contributions during a six-month reporting period. However, this is not the first time we have noticed a strong pattern of interrelated giving among this group of donors. In January 2016, we noted that a group of donors, several of whom are included in this analysis, “provided more than 40% of all contributions to a group of Republican primary challengers opposing Speaker Straus.”

With the exception of the Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, the donors included in this analysis tend to give significantly, often exclusively, to multiple Freedom Caucus members and ideologically similar candidates and PACs.

Farris and/or JoAnn Wilks ($225,000)

$100,000 – Lang
$50,000 – Cain, McNutt
$5,000 – Middleton
$2,500 – Biederman, Krause, Leach, Rinaldi, Shaheen, Swanson, Tinderholt, Zedler

Empower Texans PAC ($179,000)

$79,000 – McNutt
$25,000 – Biederman, Cain, Tinderholt, Toth

Dan and/or Staci Wilks ($50,000)

$25,000 – Cain
$2,500 – Biederman, Krause, Lang, Leach, Rinaldi, Schaefer, Shaheen, Swanson, Tinderholt, Zedler

Mike Olcott ($38,000)

$10,000 – Cain
$8,000 – Rinaldi
$6,000 – Tinderholt
$5,000 – Biederman, Lang
$3,000 – McNutt
$1,000 – Shaheen

Texas Right to Life PAC ($31,500)

$7,000 – Rinaldi
$5,000 – Schaefer, Stickland
$3,000 – Lang, Tinderholt
$2,000 – Biederman, Cain, Swanson
$1,000 – Krause, Leach
$500 – Toth

Texans for Lawsuit Reform ($27,500)

$5,000 – Rinaldi
$2,500 – Biederman, Krause, Lang, Leach, Shaheen, Swanson, Tinderholt, Zedler
$1,500 – Cain
$1,000 – Schaefer

James Webb ($25,000)

$10,000 – Leach, McNutt
$5,000 – Krause

Kyle Stallings ($22,500)

$10,000 – Cain, McNutt
$2,500 – Rinaldi

Tim Dunn ($22,000)

$2,000 – Biederman, Cain, Lang, McNutt, Rinaldi, Schaefer, Shaheen, Stickland, Swanson, Tinderholt, Zedler

Kathaleen Wall ($20,000)

$10,000 – Cain, Swanson

Dick Saulsbury ($16,500)

$10,000 – McNutt
$5,000 – Cain
$1,500 – Middleton

Windi Grimes ($10,000)

$5,000 – McNutt, Middleton

This group of donors also gave $230K to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and $166K to Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton’s campaign during the last 12 days of June. Of this group, only Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC gave a contribution to Gov. Greg Abbott ($25K) or Speaker Joe Straus ($25K).

The Wilks brothers and their wives combined to give a total of $651K in contributions to state officeholders and candidates during the first half of the year, almost all of it within the last three days of June. Their largesse is reminiscent of the late Bob Perry, who was one of the largest single donors in Texas politics.

Unlike the Wilks brothers, Perry, along with his wife Doylene, tended to support “establishment” Republicans. Below, we compare the Wilks’ giving during this June with Perry’s contributions during June 2009, the corresponding period the last time the Republican slate of statewide elected officials was expected to seek re-election.

Farris and/or JoAnn Wilks, 2017 ($485,000)

$100,000 – Empower Texans PAC, Rep. Mike Lang

$50,000 – Rep. Briscoe Cain, Thomas McNutt, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton

$25,000 – Sen. Konni Burton, Sen. Bob Hall

$5,000 – Sen. Paul Bettencourt, Sen. Don Huffines, Mayes Middleton

$2,500 – Rep. Kyle Biedermann, Rep. Matt Krause, Rep. Jeff Leach, Rep. Matt Rinaldi, Rep. Matt Shaheen, Rep. Valoree Swanson, Rep. Tony Tinderholt, Rep. Bill Zedler

Dan and/or Staci Wilks, 2017 ($166,000)

$51,000 – Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton

$50,000 – Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

$25,000 – Rep. Briscoe Cain

$5,000 – Sen. Paul Bettencourt, Sen. Konni Burton, Sen. Bob Hall

$2,500 ­– Rep. Kyle Biedermann, Rep. Matt Krause, Rep. Mike Lang, Rep. Jeff Leach, Rep. Matt Rinaldi, Rep. Matt Schaefer, Rep. Matt Shaheen, Rep. Valoree Swanson, Rep. Tony Tinderholt, Rep. Bill Zedler

Bob and/or Doylene Perry, 2009 ($272,500)

$100,000 – Gov. Rick Perry

$50,000 – Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott, Comptroller Susan Combs

$10,000 – Fort Bend Co. Republican Party, Greater Houston Builders Assoc. HOME-PAC, Los Elefantes, Speaker Joe Straus

$5,000 – Harris Co. Republican Party, Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, Rep. Jim Murphy, Justice Jesse Wainwright

$2,500 – Rep. Dwayne Bohac

Titles reflect office held at the time.

Normally, the next campaign finance report due for incumbents would be in January, covering the last six months of the year. However, any incumbent who receives contributions during the special session(s) must report them within 30 days of the end of the session. We will re-examine the pattern of these and correlated contributors as the election cycle continues.

* Biedermann and Swanson had not formed their campaign committees as of June 30, 2015, and Middleton and Toth were not candidates in 2016.

©2017 Texas Election Source LLC