Tribe: Conservative Republican
Texas Right to Life (TRTL) is the largest, and oldest pro-life advocacy group in the state of Texas. Their political arm lobbies legislators during the legislative session to enact conservative reforms on life issues, while their PAC works during campaign season to elect conservatives and defeat Republicans they deem unwilling to stand for life.
With a brand as strong as any in the state and an issue set near-and-dear to virtually all Republican primary voters, TRTL wields significant political influence without having to pay top dollar to do so. While most PACs make direct contributions to candidates by giving them money for their campaigns, TRTL opts to spend most of their PAC dollars on in-kind contributions where they advocate on a candidate’s behalf. Practically speaking, this might mean that instead of giving a campaign $5,000, TRTL would instead use that money on radio ads, billboards, mailers, etc. to promote that candidate in his or her district – all under the TRTL brand.
A quick look at the top nine recipients of TRTL dollars in the Texas House shows a clear bent toward supporting the Conservative Republican tribe. Note: this table reflects only direct contributions to campaigns.
|Top Ten Texas House Recipients – 2016 Cycle|
***Shown are the top nine supported candidates who won the office they sought, as they have votes to examine from the 85th Legislative Session.
Supporters of TRTL claim the PAC’s duel approach to funding candidates is the most impactful means of engaging the political system. TRTL’s direct contributions to candidates go to some of the most pro-life members of the Texas House, but it’s their method of using in-kind contributions that sets them apart. Spending a majority of their money this way allows TRTL to ensure their dollars are being spent reaching voters, instead of on frivolous campaign expenditures. In addition to their unique model, TRTL’s willingness to support members of the Conservative Republican tribe (often the targets of money-flush Austin lobbyists), and openly opposed Liberal Republicans in House Leadership sets them apart as the most conservative pro-life group in the state.
Critics of TRTL argue that Texas is already one of the most pro-life states in the country, and that a majority of the reforms TRTL pushes each session are merely small, fringe items. Abortion is TRTL’s main issue, and opponents argue real change in abortion law can only come from Washington. Insisting Texas lawmakers pass laws that may not hold up in court is a waste of time. This, coupled with the fact that TRTL spends a good amount of its time targeting the Republicans it believes insufficiently pro-life, rubs many at the Capitol the wrong way. Critics believe TRTL would be better served to help build a Republican majority, from which Texas could protect the pro-life gains that have been made in the state since Roe v. Wade.
The Bottom Line:
TRTL falls squarely into the Conservative Republican tribe based on the candidates they support with both direct and in-kind contributions. As the most conservative pro-life organization in Texas, they’ve drawn a line in the sand when it comes to their support of Republican lawmakers. The way TRTL sees it, either legislators are willing to stand and fight on pro-life issues, or they are part of the problem. Commitment to pro-life principles and values is prioritized above all else, and action is demanded of those seeking TRTL’s support. Of all the PACs we’ve highlighted in this series, TRTL spent the least on candidates including both direct and in-kind contributions. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they pack the smallest punch of the group; for evidence one need only look at the electoral defeat of several former Liberal Republican lawmakers.
If voters see a large contribution to their politician from Texas Right to Life, they can likely assume that person is the most conservative candidate in their respective race and will likely be a thorn in the side of the established leadership structure in Austin.
An Easy Guide to the Big Money PACs in Texas Politics – In this Series: