A Closer Look – John Nau

A Houston resident, John L. Nau III, is the President and CEO of Silver Eagle Distributors, the largest distributor of Anheuser-Busch products in the United States. In addition to his political interests, Mr. Nau is an avid American history buff and serves as chair of the Texas Historical Commission. Through 95 contributions, Mr. Nau gave a total of $1,259,555.15 in the last political cycle in Texas.

Mr. Nau’s giving encompasses both Republicans and Democrats, with a heavy focus on funding general-purpose political action committees (PACs).

Here’s an overview of John Nau’s giving from the past election cycle:

John Nau – A Closer Look
Total Donations $1,259,555.15
Total Number of Donations 95
Average Donation Amount $13,258.47
Donations to Republicans $575,508.75
Donations to Democrats $85,500
Donations to Texas House Candidates $134,500
Percentage of Donations to Texas House Candidates 10.68%
Donations to Texas Senate Candidates $115,000
Percentage of Donations to Texas Senate Candidates 9.13%
Donations to Statewide Candidates $411,508.75
Percentage of Donations to Statewide Candidates 32.67%
Donations to Advocacy Groups $533,546.40
Percentage of Donations to Advocacy Groups 42.36%
Donations Given Inside Home District $15,000
Percentage of Donations Inside Home District 1.19%
Donations Given Outside Home District $1,244,555
Percentage of Donations Outside Home District 98.81%


Key takeaways from Mr. Nau’s giving:

  1. Involvement in inter-party Republican politics.
    Delegates to the Republican Party of Texas state convention saw a contested race for their state chairman between incumbent Tom Mechler and challenger Jared Woodfill, a Houston attorney and former Harris County Republican Party chairman. Mr. Nau contributed $25,000 to Chairman Mechler. Harris County also saw a contested race for chairman of the Harris County Republican Party between incumbent Paul Simpson and challenger Rick Ramos. Mr. Nau contributed $40,000 to Chairman Simpson. In both races, the incumbents supported by Mr. Nau proved victorious.
  2. Largest donor to the Associated Republicans of Texas Campaign Fund.
    Mr. Nau contributed $216,676 to the Associated Republicans of Texas Campaign Fund, a general-purpose political action committee. Unlike other general-purpose PACs, the Associated Republicans of Texas is not an advocacy group. Instead, this PAC serves as a funding source for officeholders such as Speaker of the House Joe Straus and State Representative Charlie Geren, both considered “at odds” with the more conservative wing of the Republican Party.
  3. Large amounts of support for (most) statewide Republicans.
    Over 30% of Mr. Nau’s giving went to statewide officeholders. From Governor Greg Abbott to Railroad Commissioner Christi Craddick, those with the most power in the state often found Mr. Nau to be a reliable source of campaign funds. Out of Mr. Nau’s statewide giving, only the Supreme Court of Texas officeholders were facing re-election challenges. Notably, Mr. Nau did not contribute to the contested Railroad Commissioner race which saw conservative former State Representative Wayne Christian win a runoff election against businessman Gary Gates. Commissioner Christian made a name for himself during his tenure in the Texas House as an unwavering conservative, a fact that might have contributed to Mr. Nau’s lack of contributions.

Most interesting donation:

Mr. Nau clearly favors supporting Republicans, as he gave over $575,000 to Republican candidates this cycle. Additionally, his very generous support of groups like the Harris County Republican Party, Republican Party of Texas, and Associated Republicans of Texas Campaign Fund might lead one to believe he was a Republican through and through. What’s interesting though is that he gave more than $85,000 to Democrats as well, including $70,000 to now State Senator Jose Menendez in his high-profile victory over former State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer. Sen. Menendez was seen by many as the business-friendly Democrat, while State Rep. Fischer had made a name for himself as a bomb thrower, often at odds with House leadership. Mr. Nau may have believed State Sen. Melendez was simply the better of two “bad” options, but his support for other Democrats and more moderate Republicans reveals something quite different. Mr. Nau’s vast business enterprise benefits from his having strong relationships with those in power in the Capitol. His support for elected officials more prone to keeping the status quo might prove Mr. Nau is less concerned with party loyalty and ideology and more concerned with what’s “good for business.”


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, thus providing context so citizens can determine the motivation behind the donor’s giving. Stay tuned for the next installment.

Read More Case Studies