Jan. 17—AUSTIN — Oil and gas executives. A Walmart heiress. The owner of the Houston Rockets. Those are just a few of the people who rushed to give money to then-presumptive Speaker Dennis Bonnen in the weeks after he announced he’d clinched the top post.
Bonnen, a bank executive and Republican, raised $4.1 million between July and December. Just under $4 million flooded in from interest groups ranging from beer distributors to communications companies and wealthy executives in the weeks after he declared in November that he had the votes to win the speakership. He was elected unanimously this month. In July, he reported having $707,000 on hand.
Bonnen raised a little less than Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who runs the Texas Senate. Patrick, who ran opposed in the general election, picked up $4.89 million.
The rush was on to raise money — lawmakers are banned from fundraising during the Legislative session that runs through Memorial Day. The political war chests can be used to dole out campaign contributions to candidates they want to support in future elections.
Here’s a breakdown of the Legislative leaders’ biggest campaign donors who gave more than $50,000:
HOUSE SPEAKER DENNIS BONNEN — Border Health PAC gave $100,000. The political action committee donates to candidates who support physicians on the border. The PAC cut two checks, including one for $75,000 during Thanksgiving weekend. — Charles C. Butt, the CEO of H-E-B grocery store chain, gave $75,000 and covered a $2,100 event bill after Bonnen declared victory in the speakers race. Butt also gifted Bonnen $10,000 before Bonnen had secured the speakership. Butt is a longtime public education advocate and lawmakers expect to focus on reforming how the state funds schools this year. — A&M PAC, which operates on behalf of the the Texas A&M University System, contributed $50,000. — Executives from Hunt Consolidated Inc. collectively gave $75,000. Hunt Consolidated is privately owned and is home to a collection of companies involved in oil and gas, real estate, investments, ranching and infrastructure. Woody Hunt, executive chairman of the Dallas-based company, gave $50,000 while Senior Chairman Ray Lee Hunt gave $25,000. — Tilman J. Fertitta, owner of the Houston Rockets, gave $50,000. Also the owner of Landry’s Restaurants, he covered an event for Bonnen totaling $5,250 for a total contribution of 55,250. — AT&T Inc. Texas PAC gave $52,000 — $2,000 of which came in before Bonnen announced his bid for speaker. AT&T employs 38 registered lobbyists to influence Texas policy. — Alice L. Walton, the wealthy heiress of Walmart family, gave Bonnen $50,000. She is the richest woman in Texas, according to Forbes. — Paul L. Foster, a University of Texas System regent and an executive at Western Refining Company, gave $50,000. — Friends of UT Southwestern Medical Center, also known as FOMCPAC, gave $50,000. — Dallas billionaire H. Ross Perot Jr., who founded real estate development company Hillwood Development Corp., gave $50,000. He also contibuted to Patrick. — John Nau III, Silver Eagle Distributors executive in Houston, gave $50,000. Nau serves as Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign treasurer. Silver Eagle is the nation’s largest Anheuser-Busch distributor.
LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK
Dan Patrick, who leads the Texas Senate, has also been raising big money going into the legislative session. Seven different donors have given Patrick’s Texans for Dan Patrick account at least $50,000 each since Oct. 30. — The top donor was Darwin Deason, owner of Deason Capital Services LLC of Dallas, who sent Patrick a $150,000 donation in early November. Deason is a billionaire tech entrepreneur who created Affiliated Computer Service before selling it for billions to Xerox. — Kelcy Warren,who is a partner with Energy Transfer Partner of Dallas, gave Patrick $100,000. Energy Transfer Partner is natural gas and propane pipeline transport company. — Ryan Texas PAC of Dallas also donated $100,000 to Patrick’s account in early December. Ryan Texas is a tax consultant firm. — H. Ross Perot, the son of the one-time presidential candidate from Dallas, gave $75,000 to Patrick in late October. Perot, who also gave to Bonnen, is the chairman of a global real estate development company called Hillwood. — Cary Patterson, the founding partner of the Texarkana law firm Nix Patterson LLP, gave $50,000 in early November. — Steve Ledwell, VP of Ledwell and Sons of Texarkana, a truck manufacturing company, gave $50,000 in early November. — Another $50,000 came from FOMCPAC of Dallas. That is the Friends of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. That donation came the first week of December.
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