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03/20/17

A Closer Look – Farris & Jo Ann Wilks

Farris & Jo Ann Wilks live in Cisco, Texas, a small town between Abilene and Fort Worth. Farris and his brother Dan founded Frac Tech, an oil and gas fracking company which they sold in 2011. The Wilks brothers come from humble beginnings, as the sons of a small town bricklayer.

Farris and Jo Ann Wilks topped the list of individual political donors in Texas by giving $2,432,484.24 to various candidates and PACs.

Here’s an overview of Farris & Jo Ann Wilks’ giving from the last election cycle:

Farris & Jo Ann Wilks – A Closer Look
Total Donations $2,432,484.24
Total Number of Donations 45
Average Donation Amount $54,055.21
Donations to Republicans $795,234.24
Donations to Democrats $0
Donations to Texas House Candidates $615,234.24
Percentage of Donations to Texas House Candidates 25.29%
Donations to Texas Senate Candidates $25,000
Percentage of Donations to Texas Senate Candidates 1.03%
Donations to Statewide Candidates $155,000
Percentage of Donations to Statewide Candidates 6.37%
Donations to Advocacy Groups $1,637,250
Percentage of Donations to Advocacy Groups 67.31%
Donations Given Inside Home District $258,984.24
Percentage of Donations Inside Home District 10.65%
Donations Given Outside Home District $2,173,500
Percentage of Donations Outside Home District 89.35%

Key takeaways from Mr. & Mrs. Wilks’ giving:

  1. Support for Texas’ most conservative advocacy groups.
    Two-thirds of Mr. and Mrs. Wilks’ political giving is concentrated among three of the state’s most conservative advocacy organizations: Empower Texans, Texas Right to Life, and Texas Home School Coalition. In fact, the Wilks’ ranked as the top donors to each of these organizations’ PACs this past cycle. Such strong support indicates Mr. and Mrs. Wilks place a great value on the work and opinions of these groups and intend to help candidates in good standing with these respective organizations.
  2. Keeping an eye on their own backyard.
    While Mr. & Mrs. Wilks’ influence runs statewide, they do not neglect local politics. The incoming State Representative representing the area where the Wilks’ reside, Mike Lang, received over a quarter of a million dollars from Mr. and Mrs. Wilks for his campaign. State Rep. Lang replaced longtime State Representative Jim Keffer who choose to retire rather than to seek reelection. Unsurprisingly, former State Rep. Keffer was opposed by Empower Texans, Texas Right to Life, and Texas Home School Coalition following the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature.
  3. Tidying up the House.
    The Wilks contributed a whopping $615,234.24 to various incumbents and challengers running for election to the Texas House. The incumbents they supported consistently rank among the most conservative members of Texas’ lower chamber, including State Reps. Matt Rinaldi, Jonathan Stickland, Tony Tinderholt, Bill Zedler, and Jeff Leach. Mr. & Mrs. Wilks’ focus on the Texas House, their preference for uncompromising conservatives, and their willingness to invest massive financial resources, mean the typical election playbook where moderate Republicans win by simply heavily outspending their conservative opponent might soon become a thing of the past.

Most interesting donation:

Mr. and Mrs. Wilks’ most interesting donation is unquestionably the one they never made. Virtually every other major political donor in Texas contributed to Governor Greg Abbott’s campaign war chest in the past two years, but not the Wilks. While supporting other statewide candidates, such as Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, the lack of contributions to Gov. Abbott is distinguishable from other political donors of the Wilks’ level and sends the strong signal that they may not be impressed with the Governor’s performance thus far.

 

Our A Closer Look series provides a breakdown of a particular donor’s giving habits within Texas politics. We specifically analyze to whom money is given and when, providing context so citizens can determine the motivation behind the donor’s giving. Stay tuned for the next installment.

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