Formed in 1973, Texas Right to Life is the largest pro-life organization not only in Texas, but also within the southern United States. Texas Right to Life is made up of three related entities: the Texas Right to Life Educational Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Texas Right to Life Committee, Inc., a 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, and the Texas Right to Life PAC, a general-purpose political action committee.
Active in the Texas Capitol, Texas Right to Life lobbies extensively for pro-life legislation on issues ranging from abortion to medical ethics concerns for patients denied life-sustaining treatment. At the conclusion of every legislative session, Texas Right to Life compiles and issues the Pro-Life Legislative Scorecard, ranking House and Senate members based on pro-life or pro-abortion stances taken during the legislative session. These scorecards often dictate which primary and general races the Texas Right to Life Political Action Committee will become involved in.
1. A Different Approach
The most common approach for PACs is to raise funds from individual donors and then turn around and give that money directly to candidates. Many PACs have statewide reach and have spent years developing relationships with donors, whereas many State House and Senate candidates don’t have the time or relationships to raise large amounts of money, especially if they’re not an incumbent.
Texas Right to Life’s PAC takes a somewhat different approach to how they utilize their PAC’s resources. While they do directly contribute to some campaigns, they most often prefer to make their own campaign expenditures. In the 2016 election cycle much of Texas Right to Life’s PAC money went to vendors such as Wishlist Direct, Strategic Media Placement, and Vitale and Associates. These vendors provide mail, television and radio ads, and polling services for political entities. While this approach isn’t the norm for PACs, Texas Right to Life’s success in elections over the last three cycles likely means they won’t be changing their approach anytime soon.
2. The Most Influential Pro-Life Group in Texas
The numbers don’t lie. Whether you look at total dollars raised, individual donors, endorsees who won their election, or virtually any of the other standard metrics by which a PAC’s influence is measured, Texas Right to Life comes out on top. There are other groups, such as Texas Alliance for Life PAC, which also raise funds and work to influence elections, but none have the statewide influence of Texas Right to Life. Their fundraising prowess, statewide network, and full-time lobby team at the Capitol during the legislative session ensure their voice is heard in the halls of the Capitol as well as homes across Texas.
3. Top Donor Support
Two of the top ten donors in Texas also appear as the top two donors to the Texas Right to Life PAC: Houston-based power couple Holloway Frost and Kathaleen Wall, and Cisco-based Farris & Jo Ann Wilks. These two couples’ track record of supporting some of the most conservative organizations and candidates in the state lines up with the endorsements and policy positions Texas Right to Life has taken over the last several election cycles. Their financial support, coupled with contributions from hundreds of other donors from across Texas, has given Texas Right to Life the ammunition necessary to compete in Texas elections.
Most interesting donation:
Texas Right to Life directly supported one lone Democrat. Just before the donation moratorium– the period during the legislative session when representatives and senators are prohibited from receiving campaign contributions – Texas Right to Life PAC donated $500 to Democrat State Representative Ryan Guillen. A look at the pro-life Scorecard can explain why: State Rep. Guillen has a history of voting pro-life during his tenure. Additionally, and maybe more importantly, State Rep. Guillen was assigned to the House Committee on State Affairs, the main committee to which Texas Right to Life’s legislation is sent by Texas House Speaker Joe Straus. Arguably, State Rep. Guillen is one of only two members assigned to this Republican-controlled committee who is friendly with Texas Right to Life.
Our Capitol Crowd series outlines and highlights the politicians, advocacy groups, and donors that have the biggest impact during the 140-day legislative session. Check back throughout session for updates.