A Visual Look at the 2018 Election Cycle in Texas

I’m not saying there are three major parties in Texas. Donors are saying there are three major parties in Texas.

I keep track of campaign finance in Statewide, Senate and House races in Texas. I go into the Texas Ethics Commission website after every filing period ends and go PAC by PAC, candidate by candidate, and update my data, turning it into pie charts, bar graphs and lists. Now that the 2018 cycle is done I wanted to sum things up, but I wasn’t sure how best to do it. I could just give some numbers, throw out a few more pie charts, but to really understand how all of this relates, I needed another tool.

I pulled all of my data together and went to kumu.io to leverage their platform for interactive data maps. I think the results are pretty amazing.

Full 2018 Texas Election Cycle

How did I put this monster together? I went through and rolled up all of my data and used contributions to campaigns or PACs of $50,000 or more as my floor. That brought in well over 450 individuals and groups. Then, I decided to only include contributions of $5,000 or more. This was to isolate on only the biggest contributions from the biggest contributors. It still resulted in a diagram that is incredibly complex, with over 2,800 connections between contributors, PACs, and campaigns.

Kumu.io is a really cool platform. You can lock things down to force them to display a certain way, or you can let it organically take shape. That’s what I did here. All of the connections were loaded in via a spreadsheet, with From, To, and Contribution columns. That’s it. Based on the contributions, the system automatically scales up the size of the contributors circle. The bigger the circle, the more that donor’s money was influencing things.

When the first connection is made between a donor and candidate, it’s a loose connection between the two. When a donor makes a second connection to another candidate, the tension increases, pulling like elements closer together. When you load in over 2,800 connections, the individuals, candidates, and PACs who are at least perceived to believe the same things clump together.

I see the map in three pieces. Left, Middle, and Right. Let’s do a quick run through each.

Left portion of the 2018 Election Cycle map

The left portion of the map is the least convoluted, the least complex. Notice the circles here are all of fairly similar sizes. No outsized mega donors.

Annie’s List PAC is in this quadrant. They gave $285,548 in contributions over $5,000

Annie’s List PAC

Lone Star Project PAC gave $476,500 in contributions over $5,000

Lone Star Project PAC

Let’s push to the Middle. This is where things get really complex, really quickly.

Now you have a lot of large donors, who are pushing to a lot of candidates. Let’s examine a few of them.

Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC is the largest donor in the 2018 cycle. They gave $5,654,614 in contributions over $5,000.

Texas Association of Realtors is 5th largest donor in the 2018 cycle. They gave $3,516,013 in contributions over $5,000.

Associated Republicans Of Texas Campaign Fund PAC was the 6th largest donor this cycle. They gave $2,656,775 in contributions over $5,000.

Texas House Leadership Fund PAC was 11th overall, and gave $1,166,409 in contributions over $5,000.

Border Health PAC was 12th overall, giving $1,020,000 in contributions over $5,000.

Joe Straus, the former Texas Speaker Of The House, was tied for 13th overall. His campaign gave $1,020,000 in contributions over $5,000.

AT&T was very invested in our legislators, giving $625,000 in contributions over $5,000.

Charles Butt gave $785,000 in contributions over $5,000

And the last group I’ll highlight in the middle is the Texas Trial Lawyers Association PAC. They gave $717,075 in contributions over $5,000.

Now, before we push forward, scroll back through the items I’ve highlighted from the Left and Middle. For the most part, the big donors in each of these sections are giving to candidates / PACs that also fall into the same section. There are many other candidates, donors and PACs here in this middle section. That tells you that their interests are very similar. I’m giving to groups that hold similar goals as far as perspective on direction for our state. The crossover of groups into other sections is fairly limited.

Let’s look at the Right. Do those giving in this category crossover?

Let’s start with the largest circle in the right, Empower Texans. They were the number 2 donor in the 2018 Election Cycle, giving $4,285,030 in contributions over $5,000.

Number 3 for the 2018 cycle was Tim Dunn, giving $4,103,050 in contributions over $5,000, with most of that going to Empower Texans.

Number 4 for the 2018 cycle? Farris Wilks. He gave $3,718,175 in contributions over $5,000.

Mayes Middleton was number 7 for the 2018 cycle, giving $2,167,000 in contributions over $5,000. But, $1.7 million of that was toward his own campaign for a seat in the Texas House.

Greg Abbott was 8th total contributions, with $1,515,415 in contributions over $5,000. A note on his map: I didn’t include those giving to Abbott. He raised a whole lot of money, from a whole lot of sources. What is reflected here is just who he contributed to.

Right behind Greg Abbott on the contributions list is Farris Wilks brother, Dan Wilks. He gave $1,441,000 in contributions over $5,000.

Texas Right To Life PAC is next, giving $1,357,506 in contributions over $5,000.

Right behind Joe Strauss on the overall contribution list is Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. He gave $986,738 in contributions over $5,000. There is a lot going on in this map.

As the two are pulled closely together on the map, let’s also show you Attorney General Ken Paxton. He did not contribute significant dollars to other candidates, but his chart is interesting.

Another big donor in this section is Kyle Stallings. He gave $942,799 in contributions over $5,000.

Other than the candidates themselves, the donors in the right section don’t seem to give any further toward the middle section than Dan Patrick and Greg Abbott. Based on the way they give, to a common set of recipients that don’t overlap much at all, there looks to be a schism in the Republican Party, creating a third group where two carry the same party name.

I could keep going, as there is a LOT more to dig into, but I think I’ll pause here, and give you a chance to take a look at the map yourself. Play with it and see what you can find. When you hover over a circle, it will fade out the non-connected elements, which is how I grabbed these screenshots. The search box in the upper left hand corner will let you find someone in an instant. And the 3 little dots on the side panels are how you open and close them, to see more details or more of the map. A word of warning: On a phone screen, the map is pretty overwhelming. A monitor or iPad is how I would recommend digesting it.

Here is it. Go have a ball! 2018 Texas Election Cycle.

I chart Texas Politics at christackettnow.com and write about things that matter (to me at least) whenever the muse hits.