A Closer Look – Robert McNair

As owner of the Houston Texans NFL franchise, Robert C. “Bob” McNair is a household name across much of the state. Founder of the cogeneration energy company CoGen Technologies, Mr. McNair regularly ranks among Texas’ wealthiest citizens. Although he sold the company in 1999, he still retains ownership of power plants in West Virginia and New York. In the 2016 cycle, Mr. McNair donated $1,658,500 to Texas candidates and PACs.

Compared to many of the other large political donors in Texas, Mr. McNair made relatively few donations this cycle coming in at 38 total gifts. Instead of spreading his support across the board, Mr. McNair concentrated his giving on just a few individual races and organizations.

Here’s an overview of Robert McNair’s giving from the last election cycle:

Robert McNair – A Closer Look
Total Donations $1,658,500
Total Number of Donations 38
Average Donation Amount $43,644.74
Donations to Republicans $442,000
Donations to Democrats $11,500
Donations to Texas House Candidates $36,000
Percentage of Donations to Texas House Candidates 2.17%
Donations to Texas Senate Candidates $12,500
Percentage of Donations to Texas Senate Candidates .75%
Donations to Statewide Candidates $395,000
Percentage of Donations to Statewide Candidates 23.82%
Donations to Advocacy Groups $1,115,000
Percentage of Donations to Advocacy Groups 67.23%
Donations Given Inside Home District $0
Percentage of Donations Inside Home District 0%
Donations Given Outside Home District $1,658,500
Percentage of Donations Outside Home District 100%

Key takeaways from Mr. McNair’s giving:

  1. Longtime top contributor to Texans for Lawsuit Reform.
    This cycle, Mr. McNair contributed $600,000 to Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC (TLR), the political arm of the influential statewide tort reform organization. Mr. McNair has been a longtime major contributor to TLR, giving since their inception in the early 2000s to the tune of over $3,400,000 in that time.
  2. Funding other endorsement groups.
    Mr. McNair’s donations to individual candidates are slim in comparison to other major Texas political donors. Instead, he chose to invest heavily in special-interest endorsement groups. In fact, over two-thirds of Mr. McNair’s total donations went to these types of groups including the Associated Republicans of Texas Campaign Fund, The C Club, Friends of Baylor Med, and the Houston Realty Business Coalition. It isn’t rare for large donors to put most of their support in outside groups, as many see these entities as accountability mechanisms. To many donors like Mr. McNair these groups, which spend all of their time focused on state and local governance, can better ensure candidates and legislators hold true to a particular governing philosophy.
  3. Republican Party politics.
    Like other top contributors to TLR, Mr. McNair supported the Republican Party of Texas and the Harris County Republican Party. Additionally, Mr. McNair invested in the contested races for Chair of the Republican Party of Texas and Chair of the Harris County Republican Party. A total of $275,000 was contributed by Mr. McNair to the two party organizations and their incumbent chairmen, Tom Mechler and Paul Simpson.

Most interesting donation:

By a large margin, Mr. McNair was the largest contributor to John Greytok‘s campaign for the Texas Railroad Commission, giving him $100,000. Despite the field being crowded during the Republican primary election, Mr. Greytok did not make either of the top two spots, knocking him out of the race before the May runoff election. While Mr. McNair’s giving generally mirrors that of other large donors to TLR, no other major TLR-aligned donor contributed to Mr. Greytok’s primary campaign, making this particular investment an outlier.


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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