Contributions to Dade Phelan skyrocketed from $335,648 to $4,822,941 in the final two months of 2020. The 1,337 percent increase in donations came following his November announcement of support to become the next Speaker of the Texas House — further proof that money follows power.
Almost $653.6 million was spent lobbying Texas lawmakers during the 2020 election cycle. Private lobbying clients accounted for 85 percent of that total, with taxpayer-funded entities making up the other 15 percent.
(Lobbyists are only required to report prospective income in ranges to the TEC. See how we share those numbers for maximum transparency here.)
Texas elections are not over. There are 14 days until the runoff election for Texas Senate District 30. This race features political newcomer Shelley Luther, who became known for opening her salon in defiance of Governor Abbott’s lockdown orders. Not surprisingly, Abbott recently endorsed Luther’s opponent, long-time Texas House Rep. Drew Springer.
Sheldon Adelson, the chairman, CEO, and majority shareholder of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, landed among the top ten donors in Texas this election cycle, with a $2.5 million donation to the Republican State Leadership Committee PAC. Adelson’s wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, also contributed $2 million to the PAC. Political observers suspect the Adelsons may be greasing the wheels with lawmakers to legalize casinos in Texas.
It still pays to be a big spender in Texas politics. In the 2020 General Election, 91 percent of winning candidates for the Texas State Legislature reported the highest expenditures in their race.
Despite tens of millions of dollars spent in the attempt to flip the Texas House to Democratic control, there was zero change to the balance of power. Texas House Rep. Sarah Davis (HD 134), ranked as the most liberal member of the Republican caucus, lost her seat to Democrat Ann Johnson. In the other column, former Texas House Rep. Mike Schofield, a Republican, won the seat back from Democrat Gina Calanni (HD 132).
The largest donor in Texas political giving is Charles C. Butt, Chairman and CEO of the H-E-B grocery store chain. Butt has donated more than $10.5 million to Texas candidates and political action committees during the 2020 election cycle. Over $10 million went to seed the newly formed Charles Butt Public Education Political Action Committee.
Out of the 27 key races in the push for majority control of the Texas House, seven are simply too close to call, according to our campaign finance data. See those races — along with the ones that we think may flip — here.
The 689 Republican candidates in Texas raised more than $17 million in the third quarter of this year, while the 668 Democratic candidates raised $13,148,799 during the same time frame.
The latest campaign finance reports are in, and in just the last three months, more than $105 million has been donated to state-level candidates and political action committees (that’s not counting any money donated to federal races like the U.S. Congressional, Senate, or Presidential campaigns). To put that number in context, during the same time frame in 2016, Texas candidates and PACs collected almost $41.5 million. Giving is up 156 percent in the third quarter of 2020 compared to 2016.
As of the most recent campaign finance reports, Governor Greg Abbott has $38,154,024 cash-on-hand. Although he’s not on the ballot this election cycle, Abbott has raised more than $27 million since January 2019.
In addition to the $824,888 donated to candidates in the Special Election for Texas Senate District 30, candidates Shelley Luther and Craig Carter have received notably outsized loans to their campaigns at $1,043,827 and $41,000, respectively.
More money has been spent in the election for Texas First District Court of Appeals Place 5 than any other judicial race this election cycle. Republican Terry Adams and Democrat Amparo Guerra have shelled out a combined $292,729. There are 13 state-level contested judicial races this November.
Political contributions totaling $90 or more to a Texas candidate or PAC in one election cycle must be reported (by the candidate or PAC) to the Texas Ethics Commission and must include the donor’s name, address, employer, occupation, and date of the donation. Smaller contributions may remain anonymous.
As we wrap up two weeks of national party conventions, here’s a look at what the state-level parties have spent so far for the 2020 elections. The Republican Party of Texas has $2,920,456 in expenditures, while the Texas Democratic Party has spent $1,485,274. (Each state party maintains two PACs — as seen here on TUSA — because the law requires that funds received from corporations and labor unions are held separately from other donations.)
So far for 2020, more money has been spent in the rematch between Republican Gary Gates and Democrat Elizabeth Markowitz to represent House District 28 than any other Texas race. Combined, they have spent a whopping $3.3 million — with the incumbent Republican’s expenditures accounting for over 75 percent of that total.
The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee and affiliated groups have raised more than $30 million to support their effort to flip Republican-controlled state legislatures to Democratic control this November. Democratic groups at the federal and state levels are seeking to gain control of state legislatures before the all-important, once-a-decade redistricting process set to happen in 2021. Redistricting involves redrawing legislative maps for the state and U.S. Congress and greatly impacts which party will have political control for the foreseeable future. Texas is among their top targets.
So far this election cycle, the City of Austin has spent somewhere between $920,000 and $1,750,000 of Texas taxpayers’ money to hire lobbyists.
Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a politically moderate, pro-business PAC, raised more than $5 million in the second quarter of this year, bringing their fundraising total for the 2020 election cycle to a whopping $13,209,694. TLR typically supports moderate-to-liberal Republicans and the occasional Democrat. They are well-stocked to support their favored candidates and causes this fall.
Donations to Democratic office holders and candidates for the Texas legislature have increased by 69 percent compared to 2018. Likely motivated by a chance to take control of the Texas House and by political unrest, Democratic coffers are swelling.
Texas lobbyists reported $17,670,086 spent in the second quarter of 2020 to influence lawmakers in Austin. This brings the total spent on Texas lobbying during the 2020 election cycle up to $640,654,868.
Election Day for the party primary runoffs in Texas is this upcoming Tuesday, July 14. Although primary elections were held back on March 3rd, 16 of those elections for the Texas House and Senate have proceeded to a runoff because no candidate was able to garner at least 50 percent of the vote.
In 2018, the Republican incumbent won re-election to Texas House District 138 by a razor-thin 0.1 percent margin, making this race a target for Democrats hoping to flip the Texas House this November. We’re keeping a close eye on this race and all 27 races that were decided by 10 percentage points or less, making them battleground elections in 2020.
The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former Attorney General Eric Holder, recently announced $115,000 in direct donations to the campaigns of candidates for the Texas House. If Democrats can flip nine seats in November, they will control the Texas House, and with it, the all-important decennial redistricting process. Former President Barack Obama has identified the redistricting process as his top post-presidential political priority.
The Texas primary runoff elections feature close races where no candidate was able to garner 50 percent of the vote in the March primary. The runoffs, postponed due to COVID-19 in May, are now scheduled for July 14, 2020. Recent events — including the pandemic and race-related protests — highlight, more than ever, the importance of your state politicians. Early voting begins Monday, June 29 and runs through Friday, July 10. Counting today, there are four days left to register to vote in these elections.
At Transparency USA, we’ve tracked $9,810,317,124.93 (so far, and adding more as it happens) in political dollars flowing through nine states: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Search here and find the answers you need about the money in state politics.
In Texas, a lobbyist can spend up to $132.60 per legislator, per day without having to report it.
For the 2020 election cycle (2019 – 2020), $110,709,975 in taxpayer dollars is being spent to lobby Austin politicians.
For the 2020 election cycle, 1,451 lobbyists have been hired to influence 181 Texas lawmakers in Austin.
Since 2018, the number of state-level Republican candidates has decreased by 12 percent, but their donations have dropped by an astounding 73 percent. By comparison, the number of Democratic candidates has declined by two percent while their donations have grown by 26 percent.
In the 2018 election cycle, money spent on lobbying in Texas exceeded all donations to Texas candidates and PACs by more than $100 million.
Since 2015 (which includes the 2016, 2018, and 2020 election cycles to date), more than $1.7 billion has been spent in Texas on lobbying politicians.
The House Majority PAC, a Democratic SuperPAC primarily dedicated to helping elect Democrats to the U.S. Congress, has purchased $51 million worth of TV ads to be aired — mostly in swing states. More than $5.1 million is targeted specifically toward Texas.
According to Ballotpedia.org, 40 states have already made changes to their state elections dates or procedures (candidate filing requirements, state political party conventions, and voting or absentee voting processes) in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. Senate just passed a $2 trillion Coronavirus relief bill. In one week this aid package doubled from an estimated one trillion, and Congress is discussing further relief. The bill includes approximately $340 billion for items apparently unrelated to the virus and its fallout.
The U.S. Congress is hammering out the details of an economic stimulus package designed to prop up the faltering national economy as it struggles with consequences from the coronavirus. The cost is expected to exceed one trillion dollars. The current national debt is already more than $23 trillion, or $190,000 per taxpayer.
In the most surprising political upset in recent Texas politics, incumbent Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton spent $800,555 — 64 times what his primary challenger Jim Wright spent — and still lost the seat.
Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, which typically supports moderate-to-liberal Republicans, has given $224,131 in in-kind and direction contributions to Democrat State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. this election cycle. Lucio Jr. faces two Democratic primary challengers who claim he is not sufficiently progressive.
Since 2015, 86 percent of Texas House Rep. Dan Flynn’s contributions have come from PACs and lobbyists.
On March 3, Texans will vote in 65 primary battles for Texas House of Representatives — 29 Republican and 36 Democrat. The winners of those contests will advance to the general election in November.
So far, for the 2020 Texas elections, 98 percent of donors have given $1,000 or less.
Donors, PACs, and lobbyists donated $374,477 to Dennis Bonnen’s campaign account even after he came under investigation by the Texas Rangers.
$21,045,707 from out-of-state has already poured into the 2020 campaign accounts of Texas candidates and PACS.
On average, in 2018, candidates spent $354,099 to win a seat in the Texas House of Representatives.
This year Texas State Senator John Whitmire spent $38,020 of his campaign contributions on tickets to Houston Texans, Rockets, and Astros games.
In what is shaping up to be a Texas municipal campaign record, incumbent Sylvester Turner and challenger Tony Buzbee have spent a combined $19,000,000 to become the next mayor of Houston.
In the 2018 elections, 27 of the Texas House seats were won with less than a 10 percent margin of victory. Democrats only need to pick up nine seats to gain control of the House, so expect fierce competition for these seats in 2020. We’ll bring you all the up-to-the-minute details on this race to raise campaign cash beginning in January.
This week a group of Texas House Republicans announced the formation of a new PAC, Leading Texas Forward, with well-known Republican strategist Karl Rove as treasurer. Rep. Charlie Geren (Fort Worth), one of the PAC’s leaders, said the group seeks to raise $5,000,000 this cycle which they will use primarily to defend Republican incumbents. Geren also said the money will not be used to attack incumbents of either party.
The chairmen of the five most powerful committees in the Texas House (Calendars, Appropriations, Ways & Means, State Affairs, and Public Education) raised, on average, 395 percent compared to the average brought in by their colleagues in the fundraising season after the 2017 legislative session.
On Tuesday, Texas voters approved nine out of 10 proposed amendments to their state constitution, most notably a prohibition on a state income tax. Texas is one of nine states with no income tax.
The five candidates in the race to be the next mayor of Houston have combined spent more than $14.6 million in their efforts to win votes. The frontrunners are incumbent Mayor Sylvester Turner and Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee.
According to the most recent campaign finance reports, Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen controls $3,670,776 between his candidate account and Texas Leads, the PAC he established. Although Bonnen has announced he will not seek reelection, the embattled Speaker still has considerable political and financial sway.
Secretly recorded audio released this week revealed Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen asking Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans to “pop” (launch a primary attack against) ten Republican representatives in exchange for media access to the House floor.
This week presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders released an aggressive policy agenda designed to reduce the influence of money in politics. As part of that plan, Bernie would like to limit individual contributions to $500. Currently, individuals may donate up to $2800 per election to a candidate for federal office. There are no limits on donations to candidates for Texas House, Senate, or statewide offices.
At least ten of the remaining Democratic presidential candidates have called for expanding or mandating publicly funded campaigns, but zero have opted in to the existing system for government funding.
Several Democratic presidential candidates report spending $60 (even as high as $90) in online advertising to raise one dollar. The DNC required candidates to collect at least 130,000 individual donations in order to qualify for the last debate. They apparently understand the outsized value of an individual donation, no matter how small.
Congressman Joaquin Castro, the twin brother and campaign manager for Democratic presidential hopeful, Julian Castro, tweeted the names and employers of 44 San Antonio residents who had contributed to Trump. This increasingly common practice, known as “doxxing,” is posting someone’s personal information in hopes of shaming them or even inciting an online mob to harass, intimidate, or otherwise cause harm.
All eyes turn toward Houston this week for the third Democratic presidential debate. Three Texans are running to be the nominee — Julian Castro, former mayor of San Antonio, Beto O’Rourke, former Congressman from El Paso, and Marianne Williamson, a New Age spiritual advisor. (Ms. Williamson did not qualify for this debate.) According to a University of Texas / Texas Tribune poll of Democrat voters in Texas, O’Rourke is currently in third place, behind front runners Biden and Warren.
Donations received by the Freedom Caucus are only 38 percent of what they took in during the same time period in the last election.
One hundred percent of House Rep. Dustin Burrows’ campaign contributions on the first financial reports for 2020 were from donors outside his district. In fact, all but three donations were from Austin. While Austin lobbyists and PACs can write big checks, they can’t vote. Lack of support from inside his district, combined with an ongoing investigation by the Texas Rangers, could mean Burrows is vulnerable heading into 2020.
The two most prominent conservative PACs in Texas are Empower Texans and Texas Right to Life, both ranking on the top ten lists in the last election cycle for most contributions and most money spent. So far, neither PAC has donated one dime to any candidate or campaign for 2020.
ActBlue Texas, a PAC dedicated to helping elect Democrats, took in a jaw-dropping 16,122 individual donations as of the first campaign reports of 2020. For context, during the same time frame, Associated Republicans of Texas collected 306 individual donations. This is good news for Democrats as there is no better predictor of success on election day than a large number of individual donations, no matter the dollar amount.
Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC has taken in $3,686,075, more money than any other Texas PAC, which they will have available to spend on campaigns in 2020. Even with this impressive haul, TLR’s receipts represent only five percent of the total money given to Texas candidates and PACs so far this election cycle.
The most interesting donations from the first campaign finance reports of 2020 are the ones that are missing. Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen took in only $1,000. For context, during the same time period after the last legislative session then-Speaker Joe Straus took in $340,955.
Abbott is known for his nearly superhuman ability to raise money, and so far this election cycle he does not disappoint. Since he handily secured reelection last November for a four-year term, one might expect his campaign donations to slow. Not even close — his $12 million haul is even more than he raised in the same time frame two years ago.
Ninety-eight percent of all donations made to Texas candidates and PACs so far for the 2020 election cycle were for $1,000 or less.
The 13 American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain 243 years ago. “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
We are thankful this week for this great nation, for freedom, and for you, the Transparency Texas community, because you care about preserving that freedom.
The first contribution and expenditure numbers for the 2020 election cycle are here. Texas candidates and PACs have received $4,197,916 in contributions already this year, primarily related to the special elections in the state legislature. Expect those numbers to soar when the semi-annual reports become available in mid-July.
Governor Abbott deleted zero expenses from the Texas budget. Although he has line-item veto power, he chose to approve the entire $250.7 billion two-year budget.
This week Governor Abbott signed Senate Bill 2 into law. Officially known as the Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act of 2019, this law requires cities and counties to get voter approval if they wish to increase property taxes by more than 3.5 percent over the previous year. Local school districts can increase taxes by no more than 2.5 percent over the previous year. Prior to the passage of this law, local taxing entities were able to raise taxes by eight percent each year before voters had the opportunity to petition for a vote on the increase.
This week Governor Abbott signed five bills which are designed to fight human trafficking, increase resources for survivors of sexual assault, and eliminate Texas’ rape kit backlog. Abbott said these new laws are about “making Texas a hostile place for human traffickers and providing protection to the victims of this heinous crime.”
The Texas legislature just passed a jaw-dropping budget of more than a quarter of a trillion dollars for the next two years, a 15.7 percent increase over the last two-year budget set in 2017.
There are 11 state representatives who serve on the Calendars Committee in the Texas House. Speaker Bonnen made headlines this week by allegedly using the Calendars Committee to kill several conservative bills.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced this week that state coffers would take in half a billion dollars more than previously projected, largely due to increased estimates of tax revenue from oil and gas production. Will the lawmakers in conference committee — which is currently finalizing the state budget for the next two years — choose to spend the extra money, dedicate it to the “Rainy Day Fund,” or return it to taxpayers in the form of tax relief?
The Texas Senate’s school finance reform proposal includes a $5,000 across-the-board pay raise for all public school teachers and librarians.
The Texas House postponed deliberating on property tax reform three times before finally passing a preliminary bill this week. Three also represents the number of key pieces of legislation lawmakers have linked together in an all-or-nothing legislative gambit — property tax reform, school finance reform, and an increase in sales tax.
Texas House Bill 1325 passed with the approval of every Republican and Democrat. This bill allows Texas farmers to grow hemp (a plant cousin of marijuana) and legalizes many hemp-derived products, such as CBD oil, as long as these products contain no more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana users a high.
Ninety-eight percent of all political contributions made in the 2018 Texas election cycle were for $1,000 or less.
The Texas Senate passed a $248,000,000,000 budget this week. Now the Texas House and Senate will form a conference committee to resolve the several billion dollar difference between their two budgets.
One hundred percent of the members of the Texas House of Representatives — Republicans and Democrats alike — voted in lockstep to approve a budget which increases government spending by approximately 16 percent.
Given the current balance of power in the Texas Senate, it only takes one Republican to break ranks with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in order to prevent legislation from receiving a vote.
HR 1, which passed in the U.S. House March 8, would, for the first time, require political advocacy groups (i.e. pro-green energy groups or pro-life organizations) that spend as little as $500 on online ads to submit detailed reports to the government. (At this time, HR 1 is not scheduled for a vote in the Senate.)
The number of taxpayer-funded lobbyists hired by the Texas Municipal League in the last legislative session.
Beto O’Rourke, who proclaimed that he wasn’t taking a dime of corporate or special interest PAC money, still accepted $170,000 collected by J Street PAC, a group which promotes a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Texas lobbyists received $77,725,000 in 2017 for representing clients who appear to receive their funding exclusively or almost exclusively from taxpayer money.
Texas House Rep. Terry Meza has filed a bill which would limit the amount of money an individual or PAC can donate to any Texas candidate, politician, or PAC to $5,000 per calendar year.
Texans spent $406.2 million in the last election cycle to influence which politicians will get to manage — and how they will manage — $216.8 billion of taxpayer money. That means political donations totaled a paltry 0.19 percent compared to the state budget.
The number of emergency items declared by Governor Greg Abbott in his 2019 State of the State Address. They include school finance reform, property tax reform, increasing teacher pay and school safety, as well as increasing mental health services, and disaster response.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar projects there will be approximately $119.1 billion in state funds available for lawmakers to spend in the next two-year budget, up from $110.2 billion in the last two-year budget.
The amount of money donated to Texas House Rep. Dennis Bonnen in the 26 days after he announced he had the votes necessary to be the new Speaker of the Texas House.
The number of issues agreed upon by Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen as top priorities for the 86th Texas Legislative Session — reduce the rate of property tax increases and reform school finance.
The total amount of money paid to each Texas lawmaker for his or her work during the 140-day legislative session.
Ninety-eight percent of all contributions in the 2018 Texas elections were for $1,000 or less.
The total amount of money spent by the top 10 PACs in the 2018 Texas elections, as of the most recent reports on file with the Texas Ethics Commission.
The total amount of money given by the top 10 individual donors to Texas candidates and PACs this election season, as of the most recent reports on file with the Texas Ethics Commission.
The amount spent by Texas candidates and PACs in the 2018 election season, according to the most recent reports on file with the Texas Ethics Commission.
The amount of money Texans have spent this election season to influence their government in Austin. Other than voting, donations are the primary way citizens exercise their right to political speech. We are thankful for this freedom.
The amount of campaign cash presumptive Speaker of the Texas House Dennis Bonnen shared with other candidates in the 2018 election season.
Texas State Senator Joan Huffman’s fundraising advantage over challenger Rita Lucido.
The amount of money donated so far this election cycle through ActBlue, a PAC dedicated to helping elect progressive and Democrat candidates. As we head into the November elections, ActBlue is the most well-funded political PAC in Texas.
The total amount spent so far by Texas PACs and candidates to influence the 2018 Texas elections.
The amount of donor money Rhetta Bowers, candidate for Texas House District 113, has spent at hair salons, nail salons, and women’s clothing stores.
The amount of money spent so far this election cycle by Annie’s List, a Texas PAC dedicated to electing pro-choice, Democrat women.
The amount of money trial lawyer Jim Adler, aka “The Texas Hammer,” has donated to Beverly Powell to help her oust State Senator Konni Burton from SD10.
The amount of money donated by John Nau, Chairman of Associated Republicans of Texas PAC, to Democrat Julie Johnson via the Beer Alliance of Texas PAC.
Governor Greg Abbott’s cash-on-hand advantage over his challenger, Lupe Valdez.
The amount of money spent so far this cycle by Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush to fend off three primary opponents and Miguel Suazo, his Democrat challenger, all of whom have attacked over Bush’s handling of the Alamo renovation project.
One cent. The spending-per-vote by Roman McAllen to win the Democrat primary for Texas Railroad Commissioner.
The amount of campaign money Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar donated to the American Red Cross to assist with Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.
The amount of money Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller paid his campaign treasurer, rock legend Ted Nugent, for signed guitars used at a fundraiser.
The amount Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took from his campaign account to give to his wife’s campaign account to benefit her run for Texas Senate.
The amount of money Mike Collier’s campaign for Lt. Governor has paid to Collier Analytics, LLC, making it the top recipient of funds from his campaign.
The amount of donor-given campaign cash spent so far in the 2018 Election Cycle by Governor Greg Abbott on advertising, the bulk of which went towards purchasing future TV spots.
The amount of donor-given campaign cash spent so far in the 2018 Election Cycle by Texas candidates and PACs at Whataburger!
The amount of donor-given campaign cash spent so far in the 2018 Election Cycle by Texas candidates and PACs at The Austin Club.
The amount of donor-given campaign cash spent so far in the 2018 Election Cycle by Texas candidates and PACs on Starbucks.