A Closer Look: Top 10 Donors of the 2018 Texas Election Cycle
Meet Texas’s top 10 donors of the 2018 election season. Each of these heavy hitters has given more than a million dollars to Texas candidates and PACs since August 20, 2017.
And these numbers may tell only part of the story. The totals don’t include any political donations these men and women have given to candidates in federal races, such as the O’Rourke vs. Cruz battle. Moreover, these numbers don’t reflect any donations given to 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(4) organizations. Courts have ruled that these groups do not have to divulge their donors in order to protect the donors’ rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.
From the far left and the far right, these men and women showed their willingness to open their wallets in support of the candidates and policies they think best for Texas.
1. Tim & Terri Dunn ($4,118,300): Mr. and Mrs. Dunn made their fortune in energy, and Tim Dunn is the CEO of Crownquest Operating, an oil and gas company based in Midland. The Dunns come in at #1 for the 2018 election cycle, mainly due to contributions totaling $3,210,000 to Empower Texans, the leading PAC in the conservative Republican tribe. They likely saw the exiting of multiple power players, including former House Speaker Joe Straus, as an opportunity for conservatives to increase their influence — hence the hefty investment this cycle. Their giving to individual candidates is consistent, supporting the most conservative candidates who have shown they are willing to fight for those principles in Austin, including Attorney General Ken Paxton ($515,000), Freedom Caucus rabble rouser State Representative Jonathan Stickland ($100,000), and State Senator Konni Burton ($20,000).
2. Farris & JoAnn Wilks ($3,241,730): Mr. and Mrs. Wilks live in Cisco, a small town between Abilene and Fort Worth. Along with Mr. Wilk’s brother Dan, they founded one of the early oil and gas fracking companies, Frac Tech, which they sold in 2011 for approximately $3.5 billion. Today they find themselves once again near the top of our Texas political donors list. Like the Dunns, their donations consistently support conservative PACs and candidates. At the top of their donation list is a $1,275,000 gift to Texas Right to Life. Other favored PACs are Empower Texans ($885,000), Texans for Fiscal Responsibility ($600,000) and Texans for Vaccine Choice ($90,000). Individual candidates supported by the Wilks include State Representatives Jonathan Stickland, Mike Lang, and Matt Rinaldi, State Senator Bob Hall, as well as candidates Phillip Huffines and Deanna Metzger.
3. George Soros ($2,820,000): The only non-Texan and only Democrat on the top 10 donor list is Hungarian-born hedge fund manager George Soros. Soros is known for funding progressive and socialist causes around the world, and in the last two election cycles, he has turned his attention toward Texas. He landed at #3 on the list of Texas donors this election season with a single donation of $2,820,000 to Texas Justice & Public Safety PAC. In turn, Texas Justice & Public Safety gave $2,181,872 to Berlin Rosen, Ltd., a public relations and media firm for liberal/progressive candidates and causes. This PAC also gave $502,000 of Soros’s money to the Texas Democratic Party.
4. David Mayes Middleton, II ($1,894,952): Oil and gas entrepreneur Middleton earned his spot on the top ten donors list primarily with a $1,761,000 donation to his own campaign. After donating to conservative candidates and causes in Texas for the last several years, Middleton decided to throw his own hat into the ring this cycle. Middleton was successful in the difficult task of unseating an incumbent, House Representative. Wayne Faircloth, at least in part due to his hefty campaign account. In addition to funding his own campaign, Middleton gave donations to Governor Greg Abbott and nine other conservative Republican candidates.
5. Dan & Staci Wilks ($1,297,758): The younger brother of Farris Wilks, Dan Wilks’s political giving is remarkably similar. Both Wilks families provided strong support for conservative candidates and PACs. With his wife Staci, Dan gave $625,000 each to Empower Texans and Texas Right to Life. They also supported State Representatives Matt Rinaldi and Mike Lang, State Senator Konni Burton, and candidate for Texas House District 107, Deanna Metzger.
6. S. Javaid Anwar ($1,181,359): Anwar’s biography reads like the classic American dream. Raised in Karachi, Pakistan, by a single mother who sacrificed so he could attend private schools in Pakistan, he ultimately gained admittance to college in the United States. After working his way through the University of Wyoming, Anwar eventually earned a fortune in oil and gas. Since the end of the 85th Legislative Session and Special Session, the Midland Energy CEO has supported 11 Republican candidates ranging from $1,000 to local Midland District Judge Elizabeth Leonard up to $641,733 to Governor Abbott.
7. Robert McNair ($1,140,000): On November 23, at the age of 81, Mr. McNair, owner of the Houston Texans NFL franchise, passed away. McNair founded the cogeneration energy company CoGen Technologies, which he sold to Enron in 1999 for 1.5 billion. A long-time supporter of Republican candidates and PACs, his giving continued until the month before he died, with a final gift of $10,000 to Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush. His largest gifts this election season included $300,000 to the Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC and $250,000 to Governor Greg Abbott. His next two largest gifts focused on supporting and expanding the Republican party with $115,000 each to the Harris County Republican Party and the Texas Latino GOP PAC.
8. H. Ross Perot, Jr. ($1,075,000): In addition to being known as the son of a former presidential candidate, H. Ross Perot, Jr. is also renowned for being the first to circumnavigate the globe in a helicopter. Perot, Jr. expanded the family fortune primarily as a real estate developer and, according to Forbes, is worth an estimated $2.3 billion. His Texas political giving to individual candidates spans the ideological spectrum with donations to Democrats (including $5,000 gifts to State Senator Royce West and State Representative Trey Martinez-Fischer) as well as to conservative Republicans (including $25,000 to State Senator Don Huffines and $2,500 to candidate Lisa Luby Ryan). His donations to Texas PACs favor those in the moderate Republican tribe with gifts of $550,000 to Texans for Lawsuit Reform and $135,000 to the Associated Republicans of Texas.
9. Holloway Frost & Kathaleen Wall ($1,061,152): This Houston power couple is generous with their time as well as their money. Ms. Wall, a long-time political volunteer for various conservative causes and candidates, decided this year to run for office herself. She lost her bid to represent Texas Congressional District 2 in D.C, but was subsequently elected to the State Republican Executive Committee where she will focus on election integrity. Mr. Frost is founder and CEO of high-tech company Texas Memory Systems. Together, they donated $200,000 to the Texas Right to Life PAC, $100,000 to the Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, $80,000 to the Harris County Republican Party, and $50,000 to Empower Texans. Their candidate giving primarily benefits statewide office holders and conservatives.
10. Richard Weekley ($1,005,895): Mr. Weekley is co-founder of Weekley Homes, the largest privately-owned home building company in the country. He is also co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR), a statewide tort reform organization. Not surprisingly, Mr. Weekley gave $300,000 to TLR. His donations to individual candidates range from supporting conservatives like Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick to the most liberal Republican in the upper chamber, State Senator Kel Seliger.
List last updated: December 5, 2018 (Numbers are based on the most recent reports on file with the Texas Ethics Commission.)
Our Closer Look series takes an in-depth look at the giving habits of Texas’s top political contributors. Stay tuned next week as we introduce you to the Top 10 PACs in Texas and explore what they hope to gain from their political investments. Subscribe here to have our summary of these powerhouse PACs delivered straight to your inbox.