The political machine of Midland oilman Tim Dunn came close to getting skunked in the Texas Republican primaries this year. Empower Texans went after sixteen House incumbents who are key to the chamber’s mainstream Republican majority in the GOP primary, but only captured two of the seats. So far this year, Dunn has put $2 million into the Empower Texans PAC, either for the primary or to save a few of his tea party-backed candidates in the general election—not to mention the $250,000 he has dropped on Attorney General Ken Paxton’s re-election bid.
But a few Texas setbacks aren’t about to keep Dunn from moving to the national stage as a major far-right donor. Other than a guy from Whitefish, Montana—who donated $300—Dunn is the sole source of money for a super PAC called Senate Reform Fund. Dunn contributed $2.2 million to the super PAC, which is working to defeat U.S. Senator Jon Tester, D-Montana. Running the Senate Reform PAC is Mark Meckler, the founder of the Tea Party Patriots in Georgia. Meckler now heads Dunn’s Convention of States, a project dedicated to rewriting parts of the U.S. Constitution.
Dunn’s Senate Reform PAC transferred $290,000 to the libertarian, anti-tax group Club for Growth, and so far has spent $1.1 million on radio, television, and digital advertising against Tester.
Back when the Senate Reform Fund was formed in July, the Montana Democratic Party blasted it for gaming the Federal Election Commission filing deadlines so no one would know where the money was coming from to help Republican Matt Rosendale defeat Tester. One of the anti-Tester ads by Dunn’s committee can be seen at the 1:14 minute mark of this story from a Montana television station:
The Montana senate race is key for both parties hoping to gain or retain control of the U.S. Senate. Already, a Montana record of $60 million has been spent on the contest between Tester and Rosendale. As of earlier this month, outside groups like Senate Reform Fund had spend about $8 million to defeat Tester, while Democratic-leaning groups had spent about $6.1 million to defeat Rosendale.
The Senate Reform Fund is not the only federal super PAC to receive Dunn money this year. In February, he donated $100,000 to Texans Are, a super PAC dedicated to defeating Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging the re-election of Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.