Top Ten Donors of the 2018 Texas Election Cycle

Throughout the 2018 Election Cycle, Transparency Texas will keep you up-to-date on the top political donors to state politics. As new information and data are available, we’ll update the list, making sure you know who’s funding what in Texas. Take a look at the top ten political donors so far in the 2018 election cycle:

1. Tim Dunn ($1,101,500): His ability to make waves in the Capitol has established Mr. Dunn one of the most well-known donors to political insiders in Austin. He comes in at #1 on the top ten donors for the 2018 election cycle, mainly due to his contributions to the Empower Texans PAC which total $1,055,000. Dunn likely sees the exiting of multiple power players, including House Speaker Joe Straus, as an opportunity for conservatives to gain the upper hand in the Capitol —  hence his large investment in this campaign cycle. Other notable recipients of funds from Dunn include State Senator Bob Hall, all three current Railroad Commissioners, and Mayes Middleton.

2. Kip Averitt ($859,631): Mr. Averitt is a former Republican member of the Texas Senate who resigned his seat in 2010 due to health issues. Until now, his political giving at the state level has been relatively minimal, making only $1,000 donations to State Senators Bryan Hughes and Craig Estes in previous campaign cycles. He shot up the donor rankings with a gift of $854,630.58 to the McLennan County Good Government League in December, 2017. Averitt’s only other donation this cycle was $5,000 to State Senator Kel Seliger.

3. Farris & Jo Ann Wilks ($820,000): The oil and gas fracking billionaire couple finds themselves once again near the top of our Texas political donors list, and notably has done so with only four gifts. Topping their donation list is a gift of $625,000 to the Empower Texans PAC, followed by $100,000 to State Senator Bob Hall, $75,000 to State Representative Jonathan Stickland, and $20,000 State Senate candidate Phillip Huffines. The Wilks’ large gift to the Empower Texans PAC likely reveals, similar to top ranked donor Tim Dunn, a belief in the organization’s mission and the opportunity they see for a foundational shift in the Texas House this election cycle. It’s also worth noting, despite the Wilks’ historic support for Attorney General Ken Paxton, they’ve opted to side with Mr. Huffines over Angela Paxton in the race for State Senate District 8.

4. Gary Gates ($775,000): Once again Gary Gates ranks near the top of the donor list in Texas by contributing to his own campaign. Potentially gearing up yet again to seek political office (he’s run for office unsuccessfully seven times), Gates donated $775,000 to himself in December, 2017.

5. S. Javaid Anwar ($419,233): Since the end of the 85th Legislative Session, the Midland Energy CEO has continued his trend of supporting incumbent politicians. Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick are the top two recipients of funds from Mr. Anwar. Interestingly, it appears his preference for incumbents extends even to his own state Senate district, where Anwar has given incumbent State Senator Kel Seliger of Amarillo $25,000, rather than supporting challenger and fellow Midlander Mike Canon, the former Mayor of Midland.

6. William B. Holtzman ($350,000): President & Owner of Holtzman Corp., Mr. Holtzman of Virginia is the only non-Texan who breaks into the top ten donors of the 2018 election cycle. The sole recipient of his giving was the Republican State Leadership Committee PAC and Individual Account, which focuses on helping elect down-ballot Republicans across the country. According to their campaign finance reports for the current election cycle, RSLC PAC hasn’t spent these funds on races in Texas to date.

7. David & Darlene Pendery ($323,947): This Denton County couple represents yet another new face among the list of the top donors in the state. In previous cycles the Penderys have given a handful of gifts to state officials, but the 2018 election cycle appears to be their coming out party. Unlike many of the other donors on this list, the Penderys didn’t make it into the top ten by giving one or two large gifts, but rather smaller — yet still sizable — donations to a multitude of candidates. A quick look at whom they’ve supported reveals a clear strategy: taking out incumbents who fall within the Liberal Republican tribe. Challengers they’re supporting include Mark Roy, Armin Mizani, Chris Evans, Damon Rambo, Jay Wiley, Sarah Laningham, Susanna Dokupil, Chris Fails, Drew Brassfield, Jason Huddleston, and Bo French, among others.

8. Woody L. Hunt ($321,371): Executive Chairman of Hunt Companies Inc., Mr. Hunt is a longtime political donor from El Paso who tends to focus his giving on keeping a Republican majority in the state legislature. His largest gifts tend to go to outside advocacy groups like the Associated Republicans of Texas and Texas Association of Business PAC, to whom he has given $200,000 and $50,000 respectively since the end of the last legislative session. Donors with this approach to giving tend to think the infighting amongst Republicans is less important than making sure Democrats don’t gain ground in Austin.

9. Ralph & Linda Schmidt ($311,552): Hailing from Schulenburg, Texas, Ralph & Linda Schmidt aren’t usually listed among the top Texas political donors. In 2018 however, they’ve gone in big, with their largest gift to-date to a state candidate or PAC, donating $300,000 to Texas Right to Life PAC. The Schmidts have a history of supporting outside advocacy groups, but not at this level. Interested parties should keep an eye out to see if the Schmidts will continue this level of giving, thus providing the conservative wing of the Republican Party with another source of financial support.

10. Geoffrey Raynor ($300,000): An investment banker hailing from Fort Worth, Mr. Raynor isn’t one to seek public spotlight, a fact his political giving highlights. His only gift so far in the 2018 election cycle was $300,000 to Q PAC, a political action committee he oversees which makes contributions to various Republicans and Democrats across the state. It’s clear Raynor doesn’t have a preference on which party his PAC invests in, but rather prioritizes those elected officials who have a track record of maintaining the status quo in Austin.

List last updated: February 5, 2018


Our Race to Raise series takes a deeper look at the most high-profile races of the election cycle, focusing specifically on money raised by those seeking to serve in public office. Stay tuned for the next installment.

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