Who’s conspicuously absent from the first campaign finance reports of 2020? Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen.
We just released a list of the top ten candidates who have taken in the most money so far (You can find all the data here). Most of the list is no surprise — Greg Abbott is way out front with a $12 million haul. Dan Patrick comes in second, and the rest of the list is populated by other statewide office holders as well as the top fund-raising Senator and House Rep.
But Bonnen is noticeably missing. As one of Texas’ so-called “Big Three” (Governor Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Patrick, and Speaker Bonnen), Bonnen would be expected to land in the top five. Abbott and Patrick pulled in $12 million and $3 million, respectively. Bonnen? A measly $1000. Really.
The news about Bonnen has been that he donated $3 million of his campaign cash-on-hand to start a new PAC, Texas Leads, which he will use to help reelect Republican incumbents. It’s not surprising for a Speaker to establish a PAC to leverage his leadership. Former Speaker of the House, Joe Straus, maintained a similar PAC. What is unusual is the lack of donations to his campaign account.
During the same time frame after the 2017 legislative session, then-Speaker Joe Straus took in $340,955.
After the 2015 legislative session, Straus collected $282,385.
In the 26 days between the time Bonnen announced he had secured the Speakership and the start of the legislative session-related fundraising blackout, Bonnen raked in a jaw-dropping $3.9 million.
It’s likely strategic. The next campaign finance report isn’t due until the end of this year, so Bonnen doesn’t have to reveal who’s pouring money into his account until primary season is in full swing.
He’s under no real threat to his reelection, so there’s no need for him to come out puffing his chest about campaign contributions. It could simply be a smart play on his part.
One thing is for certain. There’s no way the Austin lobbyists and PACs have suddenly stopped supporting the Speaker of the Texas House.
Time will tell. As always, we’ll keep a close eye on money coming and going to Texas politicians.
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