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Money trail in state rep race has twists and turns

By Randy Keck
The Community News

If you are a Republican voter your mailbox has likely been bombarded lately with mailers asking you to either support or reject one of the candidates for Texas House District 60, Glenn Rogers and Mike Olcott.

Rogers is the de facto incumbent for the district. He previously represented counties to the west; redistricting added Parker County to his district.

Rogers is also the target of the lion’s share of negative campaign attacks through direct mail pieces and heavy radio advertising both in the district and even as far as Austin.

But who pays for all this negative campaigning? The Community News set out to discover who is paying the bills for the two campaigns, and who is paying the bills for the third-party negative attack ads that have been frequenting local mailboxes, usually originating from Political Action Committees (PACs).

The money trail is somewhat difficult to follow in some cases, but we feel voters should be aware of where the funds originate that are behind all those mailers.

One issue to grapple with in analyzing the candidates’ and PACs’ sources of funding is that the candidates are required to report their donors before the election; the PACs don’t have to reveal their donors until afterward.

Still, some of the entities involved have track records that allow us to at least get an idea of who is behind them.

Another thing to understand is that PACs can contribute money directly to campaigns, or they can engage in independent expenditures. In the case of independent t expenses, the law prohibits any coordination between a campaign and the PAC that supports it.

We’ll begin with the incumbent, Glenn Rogers.

Rogers’ top contributor is the Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND, which has donated $80,015.97. Second on the list is Dade Phelan, current Texas Speaker of the House, who added $55,184. In all Rogers has seven donors who have given more than $10,000. (See sidebar for a listing of all contributions of $5,000 or more).

Independently, Associated Republicans of Texas mailed a flyer supporting Rogers.  Records show the key backer of ART is John L. Nau, Chairman and CEO of Silver Eagle Beverages, one of the largest Anheuser-Busch distributors in the nation. Nau has contributed $1.4 million to the PAC. The above-mentioned Dade Phelan has donated $277,233.50 to the organization.

Direct donations to Mike Olcott are dominated by a single $100,000 donation by David and Darlene Pendery of Flower Mound. The Penderys have also supported Don Huffines in his primary challenge to Gov. Greg Abbott and Defend Texas Liberty.

There are three other donors who have given $5,000 or more. Olcott has also loaned his campaign $300,000.

From there the road is more winding, and requires explanation.

We can start with Empower Texans, a PAC started in 2008. Two of its heavier contributors over the years were Texas oilmen Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks. Over the years, Dunn contributed more than $7 million to the organization. Farris Wilks and his brother, Dan, donated $2.4 million.

And current House District 60 candidate Mike Olcott made a contribution in the past to the PAC.

For former State Rep. John Stickland, who recently moved to Parker County, Empower Texans was his biggest contributor.

But a couple of years ago Empower Texans dissolved. The money behind it did not.

Dunn and Wilks funded a new PAC, Defend Texas Liberty, each providing more than $2 million in funds. Stickland has claimed ownership of the PAC.

It is Defend Texas Liberty that is pushing out the aggressive anti-Rogers mailers and radio advertising. While not coordinating with or directly donating money to Olcott’s campaign, the PAC benefits Olcott by attacking his opponent.

Other than required public records, there is little information about Defend Texas Liberty. It has a bare-bones website and a Facebook page with 11 followers.

A couple of wild cards are Texas Scorecard, which some people have claimed is associated with Defend Texas Liberty, but we could find no information to support that other than the publisher of Texas Scorecard, Michael Quinn Sullivan, who was the CEO of Empower Texans.

Another organization attacking Rogers with mailers is the School Freedom Fund of Washington D.C. In the time we had available for research, we could not find any information about the PAC. The names of its donors will be available when filing is due after the election.

The diagram above provides our best effort at tracking independent expenditures in the race for State Representative in District 60, showing the entities involved and their primary benefactors.
The wavy lines on the diagram indicate money that is not contributed directly to a candidate, but is being spent on the candidate’s behalf by paying for communications attacking the candidate’s opponent. Solid lines with arrows represent direct payments.
Michael Olcott has donated money in the past to the now-defunct Empower Texans, but its largest benefactors were Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks, who together contributed almost $10 million to the organization over the years since 2008.
Michael Quinn Sullivan was listed as CEO of Empower Texans, which was the major donor to former State Rep. John Stickland’s campaigns.
Stickland has said he is the owner of a newer PAC, Defend Texas Liberty. The most recent documents show that the major benefactors of Defend Texas Liberty are Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks. While actual numbers will not be known until after the election, Defend Texas Liberty is financing major attacks against Glenn Rogers and some other Republican incumbents in the state.
Another indirect benefactor of the Olcott campaign is the School Freedom Fund in washington D.C. There is no available public information we could find about its funding sources.
The only independent expenditure we could find supporting Glenn Rogers is Associated Republicans of Texas, whose primary contributor is John Nau.

Glenn Rogers contributors
$5,000 or more
$80,015.97Texas Farm Bureau AGFUND
$55,184.00Dade Phelan
$41,434.81Texas REALTORS Political Action Committee
$30,250.00Texas Veterinary Medical Assn. PAC
$25,040.45Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC
$15,000.00Jim Martin
$10,000.00Charles W Gilchrist
$9,604.00Jim Martin
$7,500.00Texas Medical Association Political Action Committee
$7,000.00Blackridge Consulting LLP
$5,000.00Association of Texas Professional Educators Political Action Committee
$5,000.00The Charles Butt Public Education Political Action Committee
$5,000.00David Hawes
$5,000.00Don Crawford
$5,000.00Finley Ledbetter
$5,000.00H Ross Perot Jr
$5,000.00James F Neil Jr
$5,000.00Jeff Crawford
$5,000.00Jerry & Vickie Durant
$5,000.00Nancy Tartaglino Richards
$5,000.00Pamela Clark
$5,000.00Rural Friends of Texas Electric Cooperatives
$5,000.00Stephen Gilchrist
$5,000.00Texas Land Title Association PAC
$5,000.00Woody L and Gayle Hunt
Mike Olcott contributors
$5,000 or more
$100,000.00David A and Darlene Pendery
$6,000.00Charles Salisbury
$5,000.00Bo French
$5,000.00Charla Vinyard

Resources:

followthemoney.org

transparencyusa.org

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