Gaslighting The Money In Texas Politics

For a group that represents less than 3% of spending in primaries you spend 100% of your time worried about them and not the other 97% of the money spent in primaries. Seems silly, ...because it is.

Whenever you start discussing the immense amounts of money those in Empower Texans world have spent on a very small number of candidates, attempting to buy their way to religious dominion over our state, there is always an Empower Texans apologist who shows up (see the quote at the top). Many of these folks have been on the payroll of an ET related politician or group, and will throw out the idea that ET was just 3% of the money in Texas politics, so “you are letting them live in your head rent free”. When you look at the aggregate in Texas politics (meaning every House, Senate, Judicial and Statewide race), that % is about right. But, politics don’t exist in the aggregate. It’s all individual races, and spending in a focused manner has influence well above a 3% aggregate.

Where do you have the most individual races, where your spending can be very focused? There are 150 races in the Texas House every two years. Money gets spent broadly across House, Senate and Statewide races, but the House sees the most attention. That is where we will focus.

In the Texas House races, from 1/1/17 through 3/6/18, the March primary date, $28 million went to candidates with a “R” next to their name.

  • Empower Texans was the top donor, giving $1.8 million. That’s 6.4%.
  • Texas Right To Life, which has almost all of the same top donors as ET, gave $927k. That’s 3.3%
  • Farris Wilks, the #2 donor to ET and #1 to TRL, gave $384k on his own. That’s 1.4%
  • Darlene Pendery, one of the top 9 ET donors, gave $225k. That’s 0.8%
  • New Leadership PAC, which is funded by those affiliated with ET, gave $203k. That’s 0.7%
  • Stacy Hock, who is connected to the ET donors, gave $132k. That’s 0.5%

When you total everything up in the Texas House races, those who fund Empower Texans and other affiliated PACs pushed a full 20% of the money into Republican primaries. That’s a lot more than a 3% influence.

But it isn’t just about the overall percentage.

When you look at a candidate, you hope to see someone who is broadly supported by their district. That means lots of donations from lots of sources. When you see a candidate who has a significant portion of their funding coming from a single source, or a single ideology, you know that individual or group of individuals will have an outsized influence on the trajectory of that politician. If that’s who got you elected, you are going to listen very closely when they give marching orders. Well, you listen closely if you still want their help to get re-elected.

43 different legislators / candidates received money from Empower Texans / Texas Right to Life PACs (grouped together because of the common mega-donors behind both orgs)

When you look just at the contributions from Empower Texans from 01/01/17–03/06/18, you go from a top 5 of:

  • $212,800 to Bo French in HD99
  • $155,714 to Kyle Biedermann in HD73
  • $152,800 to Mike Lang in HD60
  • $135,600 to Armin Mizani in HD98
  • $116,800 to Thomas McNutt in HD8

to a bottom of:

  • $2,500 to Danny Ward in HD11
  • 7 way tie of $10,000 to Matt Rinaldi, Matt Shaheen, Jeff Leach, Deanna Metzger, Bill Zedler, Cole Hefner, and Matt Krause

All in all, it totals $1.8 million. But then add in the contributions from the rest of Empower Texans World, those who give almost exclusively to the Empower Texans / Texas Right to Life candidates. Here are the 19 I’m focused on:

  1. Empower Texans PAC
  2. Texas Right to Life PAC
  3. Tim Dunn (Vice-Chairman of Texas Public Policy Foundation TPPF)
  4. Farris Wilks
  5. Dan Wilks
  6. Kyle Stallings (TPPF board member)
  7. Dick Saulsbury
  8. Mayes Middleton (former TPPF board member)
  9. Darlene Pendery
  10. Monty Bennett
  11. Holloway Frost & Kathaleen Wall
  12. New Leadership PAC
  13. Constituents Focus PAC
  14. Dartmore GP (a Monty Bennett LLC)
  15. MJB Operating (a Monty Bennett LLC)
  16. Stacy Hock (TPPF board member)
  17. Jeff Sandefer (TPPF Board Member)
  18. Windi Grimes (TPPF board member)
  19. Jonathan Stickland’s Campaign

Once you total up what the 19 above are giving, the totals can jump dramatically.

When you look at the contributions from all of Empower Texans World from 01/01/17–03/06/18, you go from a top 5 of:

  • $411,132 to Mike Lang in HD60
  • $348,764 to Bo French in HD99
  • $277,005 to Jonathan Stickland in HD92
  • $255,558 to Thomas McNutt in HD8
  • $245,102 to Susanna Dokupil in HD134

to a bottom of:

  • $233 to Amber Pearce in HD45
  • $1,000 to James Frank in HD69
  • $2,500 to Scott Kilgore in HD102
  • 4 way tie of $5,000 to Rodney Anderson, Stephanie Klick, Todd Hunter, and Dennis Bonnen

At this point, I’ve thrown a whole lot of dollar amounts at you, but lets come back to percentages. Remember, the apologists will try and gaslight you and tell you that Empower Texans was just 3% of spending in political races. Let’s use that logic and see what percentage Empower Texans World was to all of the candidates. If a candidate is just 3% funded by Empower Texans World, yes apologist, you are right, I’m probably worried about nothing. Let’s go to the numbers.

This is where it gets kinda scary. When you look at the actual percentages, of how much money came into a campaign from 01/01/17 through the primary election date of 03/06/18 from Empower Texans World versus the total dollars in, the numbers are mind blowing.

Here are those who were actually elected and served in the Texas House in the 86th legislature and how beholden they are to the ideologies of Empower Texans:

  • Mayes Middleton (HD23) — 92.2% (Yes, this is almost all his own money, but he is a major donor to Empower Texans, so is very much down with the ideology)
  • Mike Lang (HD60) — 75.2% (from 9 of the 19)
  • Jonathan Stickland (HD92) — 73.8% (from 12 of the 19)
  • Briscoe Cain (HD128) — 64.9% (from 11 of the 19)
  • Kyle Biedermann (HD73) — 60.1% (from 7 of the 19)
  • Tony Tinderholt (HD94) — 52.9% (from 6 of the 19)
  • Valoree Swanson (HD150) — 51.4% (from 9 of the 19)
  • Jared Patterson (HD106) — 46.6% (from 8 of the 19)
  • Bill Zedler (HD96) — 45.1% (from 4 of the 19)
  • Steve Toth (HD15) — 39.9% (from 8 of the 19)
  • Matt Schaefer (HD6) — 36.7% (from 8 of the 19)
  • Matt Shaheen (HD66) — 19.8% (from 4 of the 19)
  • Matt Krause (HD93) — 17.6% (from 5 of the 19)
  • Stephanie Klick (HD91) — 13.1% (from 1 of the 19)
  • Cole Hefner (HD5) — 11.1% (from 1 of the 19)
  • Dwayne Bohac (HD138) — 10.7% (from 1 of the 19)
  • Jeff Leach (HD67) — 6.2% (from 7 of the 19)
  • James Frank (HD69) — 0.9% (from 1 of the 19)
  • Dennis Bonnen (HD25) — 0.8% (from 1 of the 19)
  • Todd Hunter (HD32) — 0.8% (from 1 of the 19)

Three. There are three on that list below 3%.

And then you look at those who were running for office, but lost. And thank goodness they lost (several lost in a run-off, and the dollars for the run-off are not calculated in here). Some of them would not have had a single individual thought in their heads:

  • Damon Rambo (HD25) — 92.2%
  • Matt Beebe (HD121) — 86.8%
  • Emily Kebodeaux Cook (HD18) — 85.1%
  • Bryan Slaton (HD2) — 82.1%
  • Jason Huddleston (HD88) — 80.8%
  • Jay Wiley (HD47) — 80.8%
  • Kevin Fulton (HD126) — 79.5%
  • Drew Brassfield (HD87) — 78.5%
  • Chris Evans (HD59) — 77.4%
  • Stewart Spitzer (HD4) — 77.4%
  • Garrett Boersma (HD9) — 76.7%
  • Mark Roy (HD64) — 75%
  • Armin Mizani (HD98) — 74.2%
  • Bo French (HD99) — 67.8%
  • Danny Ward (HD11) — 65.8%
  • Brent Lawson (HD62) — 65.6%
  • Deanna Metzger (HD107) — 64.6%
  • Jonathan Boos (HD113) — 52.2%
  • CJ Grisham (HD55) — 52.1%
  • Thomas McNutt (HD8) — 46.2%
  • Susanna Dokupil (HD134) — 41.1%
  • Jill Wolfskill (HD13) — 40%
  • Scott Kilgore (HD102) — 36.2%
  • Chris Fails (HD122) — 33.7%
  • Brandon Hall (HD55) — 31%
  • Matt Rinaldi (HD115) — 30.1%
  • Mike Schofield (HD132) — 17.2%
  • Lisa Luby Ryan (HD114) — 16.2%
  • Ashley McKee (HD4) — 10.3%
  • Ron Simmons (HD65) — 3.8%
  • Rodney Anderson (HD105) — 3.6%
  • Amber Pearce (HD45) — 0.2%

Is money is politics a problem? If you are asking me, yes, absolutely, no matter which side of the aisle it’s coming from. Are there other groups who are spending broadly on candidates to attempt to gain influence? Yes, absolutely. But the spending from other groups and individuals doesn’t appear to be as broad, or dominating a contribution sheet like what I’m seeing from Empower Texans World.

If you have read my previous story, The Hail Mary?, you know that the big donors (at least so far), seem to have bailed on the Empower Texans PAC. Don’t worry, they will be back. Maybe not with Empower, but they will find new vehicles to attempt to buy politicians so that they can impose their religious beliefs upon Texans.

Don’t let Empower Texans World apologists gaslight you, by taking the biggest broadest numbers to bury what is really happening, trying to tell you what you are seeing with your own eyes isn’t true. Those with some extremely large bank accounts and a very far right-wing religious belief set are and will continue spending a ton of money on Texas politics. We have to continue calling them out and supporting real people powered candidates. We can do this.

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

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