Texas Governor’s Race: Analyzing the Money

by Jay Root and Becca Aaronson, Texas Tribune

DavisAbbottDonations-1_jpg_800x1000_q100A year can fly by when you’re raising millions of dollars, and that’s what Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott and Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis — the major party candidates for Texas governor — have been doing since last summer.

Abbott launched his campaign on July 14 last year. Davis didn’t make it official until Oct. 3, but for all practical purposes her campaign — particularly the financial component of it — began on June 25, the night she stopped (at least temporarily) a restrictive abortion bill during an hours-long filibuster on the Senate floor.

Their latest financial reports were turned in to the Texas Ethics Commission on July 15, and The Texas Tribune crunched the numbers, analyzed the data and researched the major donors to both candidates over the last year

Abbott overall: Abbott has collected a staggering amount of cold, hard cash — enough to allow him to control the TV airwaves until November if he wants. First elected attorney general in 2002, Abbott has cultivated a network of fabulously wealthy Texans who helped him amass $20 million in his war chest before the race even began. Since his campaign launch, Abbott raised some $28 million and spent about $12 million. He had $35.6 million in the bank — the largest cash-on-hand figure ever reported in Texas. Abbott has raised $1.6 million from out of state (5.6 percent of the total). Only $886,114 (about 3 percent of the total) came in the form of noncash “in kind” donations, most of it for air travel and staging political or fundraising events.

Davis overall: Davis became an overnight political star when she launched her filibuster of a restrictive abortion bill on June 25 last year. Since then, she has raised $18.2 million and spent $9.7 million via her Senate and gubernatorial campaign committees. At last count, she had $8.8 million in the two accounts she exclusively controls. At least $5 million of the money came from outside Texas, much of it in small donations. Unlike Abbott, a large chunk of the money she raised (about $2.5 million, or 14 percent) came in the form of in-kind donations.

The Davis campaign also has a contribution sharing arrangement with Battleground Texas, a group of former Obama operatives working to make conservative Texas a competitive state. Davis splits proceeds 50-50 with Battleground from their joint Texas Victory Committee. The TVC has raised almost $10 million so far, and it had distributed about $2.5 million of it to the Davis campaign as of June 30, records show. The TVC had $3.2 million in the bank at the end of June.

Greg Abbott’s Top Donors, July 14, 2013 to July 15, 2014
Harold Simmons $900,000 Simmons, a Dallas billionaire and philanthropist, was one of the most prolific donors to national conservative causes until his death in December. He controlled the state-regulated Waste Control Specialists, which operates a low-level radioactive waste facility in far West Texas.
Peter and Juliana Holt $600,000 Multimillionaire Peter Holt of Blanco owns the San Antonio Spurs and is CEO of Holt Cat, the largest Caterpillar dealer in the United States. He is a former Parks and Wildlife Commission appointee of Gov. Rick Perry.
Kelcy Warren $450,000 Warren is a Dallas billionaire and founder of Energy Transfer Partners, one of the largest pipeline companies in America. He collects guitars, owns a music studio and is founder of the Cherokee Creek Music Festival.
Brandon Steele $402,000 Steele, an investor from Tyler, is chairman of American State Bank of Tyler and a local philanthropist. He contributed six figures to unsuccessful attorney general candidate state Rep. Dan Branch and has given modestly to other Republican candidates.
Richard and Nancy Kinder $400,000 Richard Kinder is a Houston billionaire and former Enron president, who left the troubled company before it crashed. He founded Kinder Morgan, one of the largest energy companies in America.
Dan Friedkin $382,000 Friedkin, a Houston billionaire, is chairman and CEO of Gulf States Toyota, one of only two private distributors of Toyota vehicles in the U.S. He is a big game hunter, aviation enthusiast, conservationist and a Texas Parks and Wildlife commissioner.
Javaid Anwar $369,000 Born in Pakistan to a single mother with modest means, Anwar is a self-made oilman and CEO of Midland Energy Inc., and Petroplex Energy Inc. He has previously given generously to Gov. Rick Perry’s political endeavors.
Jay Richard “Richie” Ray and Carissa Ray $350,000 Richie Ray is a compound pharmacist and CEO of Richie’s Specialty Pharmacy in Conroe. He is an active opponent of regulation of such facilities and a member of procompounding pharmacy groups.
Jeffery Hildebrand $301,000 A Houston billionaire and former Exxon executive, Hildebrand is founder and CEO of Houston-based Hillcorp Energy Corp. Perry appointed him to the UT System Board of Regents.
James and Cherie Flores $300,000 James Flores is CEO of Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas and former CEO of Plains Exploration & Production. He made a reported $147 million when Freeport-McMoRan, the mining company co-founded by Jim Bob Moffett, merged with Plains.
Wendy Davis’ Top Donors, June 25, 2013 to July 15, 2014
Battleground Texas $1,456,000 (“in kind” donations of staff time, rent etc.) Former Obama operatives founded the group, whose voter registration and turnout operations benefit Davis and other Texas Democrats. The group shares proceeds with Davis from the Texas Victory Committee.
Carolyn Oliver $1,000,000 Oliver is an Austin doctor and philanthropist who also gave $1 million to Democratic turnout group Battleground Texas.
Mostyn Law Firm $837,000 Steve Mostyn is a wealthy Houston trial lawyer who specializes in hurricane damage lawsuits. He is considered the most prolific Texas Democratic donor and is a major financial supporter of Barack Obama, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and national Democrats.
Emily’s List $323,000 The national group is dedicated to electing Democratic women who support abortion rights. It has raised and spent over $9 million so far this election cycle, according to a published report.
Lone Star Project $287,000 (“in kind” donations of research and other services) The Democrat-aligned political action committee is headed by strategist Matt Angle, the brother of Davis campaign manager J.D. Angle. It compiles opposition research on GOP candidates.
Robert Patton $258,000 Patton is a Fort Worth native and co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is a rancher, an oil-and-gas investor and a former major supporter of Democratic candidate Bill White, who lost his gubernatorial bid in 2010. He has also given to Republicans.
SEIU COPE, Service Employees International Union Committee on Public Education $250,000 The group has over 2 million members nationwide in health care, government service and property maintenance sectors. It is a huge player in state and national elections.
Louise Carvey $240,000 Carvey is a Fort Worth philanthropist and arts enthusiast. She and her late husband, Frank Carvey, are longtime supporters of Southwestern University in Georgetown.
Lee and Amy Fikes $228,000 Lee Fikes is a Dallas oil investor and philanthropist and a major supporter of Planned Parenthood. He also leads the charitable Leland Fikes Foundation.
Planned Parenthood Votes $216,000 The New York-based political action committee is dedicated to electing candidates who support abortion rights.

Abbott’s famous donors:

  • New York billionaire Donald Trump, $35,000
  • Actor Chuck Norris and wife Gena, $15,000
  • Former Dallas Cowboy Troy Aikman, $10,000
  • Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s political action committee, HUCK PAC, $1,000
  • Sarah Palin’s PAC, Sarah PAC, $5,000

Davis’ famous donors (all contributions to Texas Victory Committee unless otherwise noted):

  • Musician Willie Nelson, $250,000 (in-kind donation of backyard concert to Texas Victory Committee)
  • TV producer Marcia Carsey, $100,000
  • Director Steven Spielberg and wife Kate Capshaw, $25,000
  • Film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and wife Marilyn, $25,000
  • Actress Jennifer Garner, $25,000
  • Singer James Taylor, $15,000 (to Davis campaign)
  • Actor Matt Damon, $5,000
  • Actor Leonard Nimoy and wife Susan, $1,250
  • Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, $1,000
  • Singer Barbra Streisand, $1,000 (to Davis campaign)
  • Actress Carrie Fisher, $1,000
  • Director Judd Apatow, $1,000
  • Actor Tom Hanks, $250

Abbott’s noteworthy donations:

Gambling interests have donated at least $450,000 to Abbott, including a combined $99,500 from the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations in Oklahoma and $254,000 from restaurateur and Golden Nugget casino owner Tilman Fertitta.

Austin lobbyists, including longtime Perry friend and ally Mike Toomey, have donated at least $160,000.

Besides Hildebrand, current UT regents who have given to Abbott include board Chairman Paul Foster ($175,000), Alex Cranberg ($75,000), Steven Hicks and wife Donna ($50,000) and Gene Powell ($25,000). Former UT regent Robert Rowling gave $250,000.

His largest out-of-state donor was libertarian-leaning PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who gave $100,000.

Trial lawyer Tony Buzbee gave Abbott $110,000.

Abbott also received more than $2.2 million from special interest political action committees, including those advancing the interests of Texans for Lawsuit Reform ($113,000), Brint Ryan’s Dallas-based tax services firm ($100,000) and AT&T ($50,000).

Abbott received $100,000 from the billionaire Koch family and its related political action committee.

Davis’ noteworthy donations:

Davis received $200,000 from trial lawyer Walter Umphrey of Beaumont and his law firm. He is one of five lawyers who split $3.3 billion in fees from the state’s settlement with tobacco companies. (He also gave Battleground Texas — via the Texas Victory Committee — $100,000.)

William Austin Ligon, co-founder of CarMax and chairman of Gazelle.com, gave the Texas Victory Committee $300,000. The money was undistributed as of June 30.

Davis says she has raised money from a record 140,000 contributors, but about 70 percent of them (representing $3.25 million of the money she says she raised) are anonymous, according to a San Antonio Express-News analysis. Reporting those contributions anonymously is legal, because the donations are so small they don’t meet the reporting threshold.

Top Texas Victory Committee Contributors Contribution Transferred to Wendy Davis Campaign
Total Contributions $9,872,000 $2,510,000
Mostyn Law Firm $117,4000 $504,000
Ligon, William $300,000 $0
Morgan, Sara $269,000 $5,000
Nelson, Willie $250,000 $0
Boone/Cunningham, Aimee $250,000 $63,000
Umphrey, Walter $220,000 $100,000
Aberly, Naomi $185,000 $63,000
Robertson, Lillie $145,000 $5,000
Hoffman, Marguerite $141,000 $20,000
SEIU COPE $101,000 $50,000

About our analysis: The Davis campaign includes in its campaign numbers all of the money raised by Battleground Texas. In this analysis, the Tribune does not include money in Battleground’s account, because its funding is not under her exclusive control and its activities also benefit other Democratic candidates. The analysis does count in-kind contributions to Davis from Battleground and distributions made to the Davis campaign from the joint fundraising vehicle known as the Texas Victory Committee.

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