Governor Greg Abbott isn’t up for reelection for another three years, but that didn’t stop him from posting one of his most impressive fundraising quarters in recent memory: $15.6 million over the course of roughly three weeks from June 20 to July 13, according to his filings with the Texas Ethics Commission. The haul will likely provide a big advantage if someone—say, an upstart on his right flank or a quixotic Democratic challenger—dares to come for him in 2026.
Legislators and statewide officeholders can’t solicit or receive campaign cash during a regular legislative session, but the same laws prohibiting this fundraising remain mute about such activity during a special session of the Legislature—and these periods are always a bounty. (The Lege has held two special sessions this summer, the first ran May 29 to June 27, and the second June 27 to July 13. A third is expected in October.) Abbott is known for his fundraising prowess, but even by his standards, his latest cash grab after the moratorium lifted on June 19 was eye-popping. During a comparable period in 2019, according to his campaign team, he raised $12.1 million. Over a somewhat similar timeline in 2015, he raised more than $8.2 million.
The governor had a small army of some 6,900 small-dollar donors buoying him, too, suggesting that Republican voters support the three-term governor even in the face of some interparty bickering. But according to a Texas Monthly analysis, just 2.5 percent of Abbott’s donors (about 179) contributed nearly 96 percent of his donations. Indeed, “large” contributors—those who gave donations of more than $5,000—cut checks, on average, for about $83,000 compared with “small” donors, whose average donation amount was roughly $95. That balance skewed more toward big donors than it did for other statewide officials. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, for example, raised a little more than $4.2 million over the same period; his donors were almost evenly split between the “small” and “large” camps (71 versus 70), though people in the latter category contributed more than 99 percent of his overall haul.
“It’s a sign that Abbott’s still institutionally very important,” said Jim Henson, who directs the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “Remember, we are going to have another special session and he’s vetoed a lot of bills that may be back. So people have an incentive to stay in good standing with the governor. That’s not to suggest that his donors are buying particular products, but it’d be naive to think that campaign contributions are irrelevant to what happens in the governor’s office.”
Abbott’s largest donation came from Kenneth Fisher, the founder and executive chairman of Fisher Investments, a financial services company, who cut a check for $1 million on June 22. Fisher is a perennial donor to Abbott and has long cited Texas’s business-friendly environment as part of his reasoning for moving to the Lone Star State. Other deep-pocketed allies contributed to Abbott, too—namely, people he’s appointed as university regents or parks commissioners.
Take, for example, Robert Albritton, the chairman and CEO of the Fort Worth–based real estate investment organization Mayfair Investments. Albritton also serves as vice chairman of the board of regents at Texas A&M University, which has made national headlines in recent months after some regents and university donors voiced concerns about the perceived left-leaning credentials of Kathleen McElroy, a Black journalism professor hired to launch a new journalism program. In the end, the Texas A&M University system reached a $1 million settlement with McElroy and admitted, in the passive voice favored in such circumstances, that “mistakes were made” during the botched hiring process. Albritton was first appointed to the board by Abbott in 2015 and then again in 2021. And, on June 30, Mayfair Investments pumped $500,001 into Abbott’s super PAC—making the organization the second-largest contributor to the governor’s campaign account. Other A&M regents cut large checks to Abbott, too: Jay Graham gave $500,000, while David Baggett, John Bellinger, and Michael Hernandez each donated $250,000.
Abbott’s donor list also included a number of longtime political allies in the oil and gas industry, such as Midland oil mogul Syed Javaid Anwar, whom Abbott appointed to the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Board in 2015. According to campaign filings, Anwar and Kelcy Warren each gave $250,000. Warren is a pipeline executive who famously gave Abbott $1 million in 2021 after the failure of the state electrical grid, when experts called for Texas to require winterization of gas plants that fuel many power plants. Jeff Hildebrand, an energy executive from Houston who was appointed by Abbott to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission in 2019, and his wife, Mindy, each contributed $125,000.
Another special legislative session is likely this year, to debate Abbott’s proposal to use taxpayer money to fund school vouchers that could be used to help pay tuition at private schools. It’s not a surprise, then, that Abbott collected campaign contributions from wealthy voucher proponents. Doug Deason, the Dallas GOP megadonor who is the president of Deason Capital Services and a school voucher proponent, gave $25,000 on June 28, while his father, Darwin, a billionaire and business tycoon who sold Affiliated Computer Services to Xerox in 2010, chipped in another $75,000 on the same day.
Meanwhile, John Nau III, the CEO of one of the largest beer distributors in the country whom Abbott appointed as chairman of the Texas Historical Commission, donated $250,000. Matt Andresen, the CEO and co-founder of the Chicago-based Headlands Technologies, a global quantitative proprietary trading firm, and his wife Teri, who previously gave $1 million to Abbott’s 2022 reelection campaign against Democrat Beto O’Rourke, together gave $250,000. Buc-ee’s owner and Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission chairman Arch Aplin III, another long-standing donor, cut a check for $250,000 on June 28.
Some notable organizations also gave to Abbott. Santa Rosa Ranches gave $250,000 to the governor on June 29. (According to state documents, the organization has donated $750,000 to Abbott’s campaign coffers during the last three years.) Santa Rosa Ranches is part of the business enterprises of the Sullivan family—led by brothers John, Todd, and Billy—which is connected to the construction of Abbott’s billion-dollar border wall. The Chickasaw Nation, which runs more than twenty casinos in Oklahoma and has pushed for legal gambling in Texas—a proposal that didn’t have enough support to pass in the Texas House—donated $100,000 to Abbott. The influential Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, an arm of the largest and richest tort reform group in the state and the main vehicle for big business interests in Texas, chipped in another $100,000.
That Abbott has raised impressive gobs of money without even a whiff of a potential challenge could mean that he’s looking to convey strength to voters and lawmakers alike after spending big against O’Rourke in 2022. It’s also a signal that Abbott might be willing to play a bigger hand in legislative races during a presidential year where a divisive candidate such as Donald Trump might be at the top of the ticket and where he might want to punish fellow Republicans who don’t help pass his priority bills. “If you look at, for example, the 2020 election in Texas, the governor and his political team were very involved in legislative races particularly in the state House,” Henson said. “Having the money and continuing to spend it continues to project strength at a time of a lot of internal divisiveness continuing in the Republican Party.”
- More About:
- Politics & Policy