**Editor’s Note: Since this article went live, the Texas House formally elected Dade Phelan as Speaker of the House.**
After announcing a list of 83 members supporting his bid in November, Phelan became widely viewed as the presumptive successor to Bonnen. Phelan has served in the Texas House since 2015 and has been the chairman of the House State Affairs Committee. Phelan ran unopposed in his 2020 general election campaign.
According to a 2019 analysis by Rice University’s Dr. Mark Jones, Phelan ranked among the more liberal members of the Republican delegation in the House, with the potential Bonnen successor listed as the 23rd most liberal Republican in the House out of the party’s 82 representatives. Phelan is also widely considered to be a prominent lieutenant of Bonnen, which could mean Texans will see ideological and political similarities between the two. .
Despite his support for the speakership, Phelan received criticism from Texas Republican Party chairman Allen West, who took issue with Phelan’s support from House Democrats. In a November email, West said the RPT “will not support, nor accept” Phelan as Speaker.
With the next legislative session rapidly approaching, many Texans may not be familiar with Phelan. While Phelan’s ideological background has been identified by political pundits and observers, it is also worth noting his financial supporters, as reported to the Texas Ethics Commission.
Incumbent politicians who run unopposed can and often do continue to accept campaign contributions. Additionally, it is common practice for individuals and PACs alike to indicate their support for a lawmaker — particularly when that politician is likely to step into a prominent position of power — through donations. A look at who is backing a politician like Phelan can provide a clearer picture of whose interests they are likely to favor when in office. (Of course, campaign contribution numbers are only one piece of the equation. They do not include any of the considerable money that is spent on lobbying these politicians).
As soon as Phelan announced he had the support to become Speaker, his coffers began to be flooded with donations from those looking to curry favor with Austin’s elite. As you’ll see in the next two sections, power almost immediately results in big PAC money.
According to the latest report filed by Phelan (October 26, 2020), he has received $335,648 in contributions, with $469,253 in cash-on-hand. These numbers, however, do not reflect any donations made to his campaign account following his announcement on November 4. The semiannual reports, due on January 15, will include the rest of 2020 and will allow us an interesting window to compare his support before and after announcing his bid.
As of the end of October, Phelan’s top contributor was Erle Nye, Jr., chairman and chief executive of TXU Energy, Oncor Electric Delivery, TXU Gas, TXU Australia and TXU Corporation. Nye contributed $15,000 to Phelan’s campaign.
It is worth noting that Phelan’s support, even prior to his bid for Speaker, was backed largely by political action committees. Among the donors that have given more than $5,000 to his campaign, 15 of the 16 are PACs, with most representing some type of corporation or association. Phelan’s top PAC support (before his Speaker announcement) came from Charter Communications Inc Texas PAC, Exelon Corporation Political Action Committee, and Oncor Texas State Political Action Committee, with each organization reporting $10,000 in contributions to his campaign.
|Erle A. Nye Jr.||$15,000||Individual|
|Charter Communications Inc Texas PAC||$10,000||Entity|
|Exelon Corporation Political Action Committee||$10,000||Entity|
|Oncor Texas State Political Action Committee||$10,000||Entity|
|Texas REALTORS PAC||$8,334.93||Entity|
|Comcast Corporation & NBC Universal PAC||$7,500||Entity|
|Union Pacific Corporation Fund For Effective Government||$6,500||Entity|
|AT&T Inc. Texas PAC||$5,000||Entity|
|CenterPoint Energy PAC||$5,000||Entity|
|HOMEPAC of the Texas Association of Builders||$5,000||Entity|
|Southwestern Committee On Political Education||$5,000||Entity|
|Texas Automobile Dealers Association PAC||$5,000||Entity|
|Texas Bankers Association Bankers PAC||$5,000||Entity|
|Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND||$5,000||Entity|
|The Texas State University System PAC||$5,000||Entity|
|Verizon Communication Good Gov Club – Texas||$5,000||Entity|
While Phelan has not filed a report since his announcement, many other donors and PACs have already reported their final numbers for 2020. Our advanced transaction search feature allows us to see what those other entities have reported giving to Phelan since his announcement, effectively providing a preview of what we’ll see once the semiannual reports are available. Bottom line: Dade Phelan was a recipient of a lot of PAC money (listed as expenditures by those entities) between November 4 and December 31.
More than 70 PACs have already reported donations to Phelan following his bid for House Speaker, pouring over $600,000 into his campaign account. The top entities on this list so far, each of whom donated more than Erle Nye, include the Texas Apartment Association PAC, AT&T’s Texas PAC, the Associated General Contractors of Texas PAC, the Texas Correctional Officers PAC, the Gulf States Toyota PAC, and the Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC.
|Texas Apartment Assn. PAC||$50,000.00||Entity|
|AT&T Inc. Texas Political Action Committee||$50,000.00||Entity|
|Associated General Contractors of Texas PAC||$30,000.00||Entity|
|AFSCME Texas Correctional Officers PAC||$25,000.00||Entity|
|Gulf States Toyota Inc. State PAC||$25,000.00||Entity|
|Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC||$25,000.00||Entity|
|Texas Society Of Anesthesiologists Political Action Committee||$25,000.00||Entity|
|Energy Transfer Partners Texas PAC||$20,000.00||Entity|
|Texas Land Title Association PAC||$15,000.00||Entity|
|The Beer Alliance of Texas Political Action Committee||$15,000.00||Entity|
|Texas College Of Emergency Physicians PAC||$10,000.00||Entity|
|Texas Land Title Association PAC||$10,000.00||Entity|
|Texas Oil and Gas Association Good Government Committee||$10,000.00||Entity|
|K & L Gates LLP Committee for Good Government||$10,000.00||Entity|
|Texas State Teachers Association – PAC||$10,000.00||Entity|
|Bartlett Cocke General Contractors Political Action Committee||$10,000.00||Entity|
|Texas Mortgage Bankers PAC||$10,000.00||Entity|
|State Farm Agents Political Action Committee||$10,000.00||Entity|
|Political Action Committee of Winstead PC||$10,000.00||Entity|
|The American Electric Power – Texas – Committee for Responsible Government||$10,000.00||Entity|
The discrepancy between the contribution numbers to Phelan before and after his House Speaker announcement is revealing. While certainly not unique to Phelan — any lawmaker in a prominent government position can expect a similar flow of money from PACs interested in legislative outcomes — the change in financial support offers real-time insight for citizens into the interplay between money and power behind the scenes in Austin.
For an in-depth look at Phelan’s financial profile, you can visit his Transparency USA page here. Texas lawmakers are required to file their semiannual reports on January 15. In the meantime, our advanced transaction search can give you a preview of what you’ll see on those reports for any Texas candidate.
Subscribe to our email list to be alerted when the latest reports are added to TUSA’s database.