Abbott leads fundraising in latest reports

The first big glimpse at fundraising ahead of the 2024 primaries is here and Gov. Greg Abbott again set the field’s pace, bringing in a historic $19 million during the second half of 2023.

On top of setting the all-time record for a single haul, Abbott notched the record largest single donation in Texas history: $6 million from Pennsylvania billionaire Jeff Yass.

Abbott was the only Texas politician to post fundraising in the stratosphere, but others showed large hauls as well. Here’s a breakdown of some of the toplines.

Gov. Abbott

The $19 million haul is split between two accounts, the Texans for Greg Abbott special purpose political action committee and his cash-on-hand account, the latter of which has largely sat dormant until now.

Not including in-kind contributions to the governor’s campaign, most frequently in the form of private jet use, the top five donors in Abbott’s report are:

Jeff Yass – $6,250,000, $6 million to the cash-on-hand account and $250,000 to the PAC

Javaid Anwar – $1.5 million, Six $250,000 donations from through December

Ross Perot, Jr. – $250,000

Bradford Tucker – $200,000

Drayton McLane – $150,000

Anwar has previously given to Abbott in loads — multiple $1 million donations during the 2022 gubernatorial race — and Perot, the son of the Texas businessman and 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot. Sr., is also a frequent donor to the governor.

Abbott has $38 million cash-on-hand across his two accounts — plenty to deploy in his school choice primary crusade.

Lt. Gov. Patrick

The lieutenant governor hasn’t posted quite the gaudy numbers that Abbott has, but he’s consistently pulled in large sums of money. As of this report, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has more than $24 million cash in the bank after raising almost $2 million in the January semiannual report.

That number increases to $3 million when the eight-day report filed on October 30 last year is included.

Patrick’s top five donors in this filing are:

Jan Duncan – $200,000

Drayton McLane – $150,000

Douglas Scharbauer – $150,000

Gulf States Toyota Inc. State PAC – $125,000

Tilman Fertitta – $100,000

Patrick has a $2 million loan still out that came before the Attorney General Ken Paxton impeachment trial from Defend Texas Liberty (DTL), the embattled conservative PAC whose founder was embroiled in controversy after meeting with right-wing gadfly and antisemitic commentator Nick Fuentes back in February.

That loan came with a $1 million donation. A couple of weeks after the DTL scandal broke, Patrick used the PAC’s money to purchase $3 million in Israeli government bonds.

Patrick really has only one race in the Texas Senate to worry about, the GOP primary for Senate District 30 in which he’s backed Brent Hagenbuch — whose residency in the district is the subject of legal challenges from two of his opponents.

On the House side, Patrick has waffled on how much his involvement will extend — first saying he would stay out, and this week endorsing his first GOP challenger to an incumbent. Should he choose to get more hands-on in races, he has plenty of money to shell out for it.

Attorney General Paxton

Paxton’s finance report had not yet been filed as of this article’s writing. It will be updated if and when it is.

Speaker Phelan

Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) has a lot on his plate this cycle. In addition to fending off Paxton and others pining for retribution against many House Republicans over impeachment and defending other members against Abbott’s school choice campaign, Phelan also has his own race to worry about.

Phelan raised $2.5 million during this period and has $5.3 million in the bank.

His top donors in this reporting period are:

Ray Hunt – $100,000

Texans for Responsible Government – $100,000

Paul Foster – $50,000

Alan Hassenflu – $50,000

John Nau – $50,000

He also received $50,000 donations from Ross Perot, Jr., Robert Rowling, Gulf States Toyota Inc. State PAC, and HillCo PAC.

Nearly $1 million of Phelan’s expenses came from polling for other House members’ races. In 2022, the speaker spent multiple millions of dollars defending House Republicans from primary challengers. But this year, primaries are ramped up even more following the impeachment and school choice votes.

That means more places to disperse the money, on top of reserving enough for his battle on the homefront. Phelan’s main challenger, former Orange County GOP Chair David Covey, posted $86,000 raised with $23,000 left on-hand in this report. He has an endorsement from Paxton and Texas GOP Chair Matt Rinaldi — who has been rearing to unseat the speaker — but Phelan’s got an overwhelming cash advantage alongside the benefits of incumbency.

Dueling PACs

The fight over the Texas House doesn’t just involve the candidates or other state officials. At its center are groups jockeying to move or maintain the lower chamber’s needle.

Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) boasts the largest campaign war chest of anyone in the state, reporting $36 million cash-on-hand after raising $1.7 million. The group has dumped a lot of money into helping Republican incumbents fend off their primaries following impeachment.

The top recipients of TLR money in this January semiannual report are:

State Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) – $150,000

State Rep. Kronda Thimesch (R-Lewisville) – $75,000

Jill Dutton, House District (HD) 2 candidate – $50,000

State Rep. Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond) – $36,000

State Rep. John Smithee (R-Amarillo) – $25,000

Brent Hagenbuch – $25,000

State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) – $20,000

Extended back to the eight-day filing before the November election, TLR has given out five-figure checks to a multitude of other House Republicans to use for mailers and other functions.

In opposition to TLR is DTL; the pair duked it out in many House races in 2022.

DTL has deep pockets of its own, primarily backed by Texas oil magnates Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks, but not to the level that TLR pulls in.

Following its scandal DTL laid low financially in the second half of 2023, raising only $1,700 and spending $200,000 — primarily on polling and television ads. The one contribution it made was $10,000 to state Rep. Steve Toth (R-The Woodlands).

The group dished out more in its eight-day report ahead of the November election, donating $200,000 to the Texas GOP, $50,000 to Covey, and $45,000 to Paxton all before the scandal broke.

They also gave $25,000 after the scandal broke to Dutton’s opponent in HD 2, Brent Money, who placed first in November’s special election.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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