Federal Politics

Published — July 27, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Texas Senate race attracts $13 million in super PAC spending

Runoff draws national interest

Introduction

Tuesday’s Republican runoff for U.S. Senate in Texas is the most expensive congressional race this election, thanks largely to super PACs supporting the underdog tea party candidate over the far-better funded favorite.

Thus far the race has attracted a total of $13 million in spending by super PACs and other independent groups, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has raised nearly $30 million for the race against former state solicitor general and tea party favorite Ted Cruz — more than $21.5 million of it from his own personal fortune. That’s about three times as much as Cruz. Dewhurst’s campaign has also outspent Cruz’s by a ratio of about 3-to-1, according to FEC records.

Meanwhile, super PACs backing Cruz have spent $7 million according to reports filed with the FEC through Thursday, nearly as much as the $7.6 million spent by Cruz’s own campaign. Dewhurst, however, has benefited from $6 million in support from two Texas super PACs, one of which is backed by heavyweight Texas donor Bob Perry and billionaire Harold Simmons.

That’s far less than his campaign has spent, however; the Dewhurst campaign reported approximately $24.5 million in total disbursements in its most recent FEC filing in mid-July.

Super PACs were created following the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. They can accept contributions from unions, corporations and individuals and spend the money on ads attacking or supporting candidates but are prohibited from coordinating with a candidate’s campaign.

The two men are vying to fill the seat currently held by senior Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, who decided not to run for re-election.

Dewhurst outpolled tea party favorite Cruz in the May primary 45 percent to 34 percent, short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff. Dewhurst and Cruz will face off once again Tuesday in this season’s most expensive congressional race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The top spender on behalf of Cruz is the Club for Growth Action Fund at just over $5 million. Also supporting him is FreedomWorks for America. The group has spent more than $450,000 on behalf of Cruz’s campaign this year, according to FEC records.

FreedomWorks spokesman Ryan Hecker said without the momentum of “grassroots activism” from the past few years, Cruz would not be where he is.

“Dewhurst has an unlimited war chest, and if this was four years ago, I don’t think he would have had an opponent,” Hecker said. “But things have changed dramatically over the past few years.”

The lieutenant governor earned his fortune as an energy company executive. Dewhurst has pledged to repeal the Affordable Care Act, deregulate existing environmental regulations that hinder Texas business and cut spending.

The victor will face the winner of the Democratic primary runoff, also on Tuesday. Former state Rep. Paul Sadler and retired teacher Grady Yarbrough are the top candidates in that race.

The surge of outside money supporting Cruz reflects the national trend that helped tea party-backed Richard Mourdock of Indiana defeat six-term Republican incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar in that state’s May primary.

In Utah, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch spent heavily and moved to the right on the political spectrum to defeat tea party candidate Dan Liljenquist in the state’s May 8 primary election. Hatch won easily earning two-thirds of the vote in that race.

Club for Growth Action and FreedomWorks for America advocate for limited government, deficit reduction, tax cuts and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Both Club for Growth Action and FreedomWorks have run ads that paint Dewhurst as an “establishment politician” and “long-time insider” in contrast to Cruz, a “true conservative” and strict constitutionalist.

Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller said the anti-tax group has tried to make people aware that Dewhurst “is an establishment moderate who supported tax increases in the past.”

The Dewhurst campaign did not return a call requesting comment. However, he has described himself in the past as “the most conservative lieutenant governor in the history of the state of Texas.”

But the attacks aren’t one-sided. Pro-Dewhurst groups like the Texas Conservatives Fund and Conservative Renewal have bankrolled a series of Cruz attacks that have grown increasingly ugly.

A recent ad from the Texas Conservatives Fund misleadingly links Cruz, a private appellate lawyer, to Pennsylvania developer Robert Mericle, who was at the center of the 2009 “kids for cash” scandal. The developer pleaded guilty to bribing two federal judges to send juveniles to his private detention facilities.

Neither Texas Conservatives Fund nor Conservative Renewal returned calls seeking comment.

The super PAC Texas Conservatives Fund has scored six- and seven- figure donations from the state’s GOP establishment, including Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who has contributed $1 million, and homebuilder Bob Perry, who has contributed $300,000.

It is harder to tell who is backing Cruz. FreedomWorks for America, one of Cruz’s biggest supporters, has received approximately 40 percent of its money from its connected nonprofit, FreedomWorks, according to CRP. Because of FreedomWorks’ nonprofit status, it is not required to disclose where it gets its money.

Club for Growth Action also receives money from a connected nonprofit, though the amount and percentage are much smaller.

A July 12 study from Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm based in North Carolina, showed Cruz enjoying a 49 percent to 44 percent lead over Dewhurst, and a notably more energetic band of supporters.

The poll found that among voters who described themselves as “very excited” about voting in the runoff, Cruz’s advantage expands to a 59 percent to 36 percent margin.

Dewhurst’s supporters are less enthusiastic; the poll shows those who identify themselves as “someone excited” favor the lieutenant governor 51 percent to 43 percent. Dewhurst enjoys a 50 percent to 36 percent advantage with voters who described themselves as “not that excited.”

The findings suggest voter turnout, typically low in runoff elections, might determine the victor on Tuesday.

Although Dewhurst was a favorite early on, the ad campaigns of recent weeks have made the race much more competitive, said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University.

Early voting began July 23 and will continue through today. Turnout for this election is expected to be greater than it was for the primary — a surprising turn of events, given the heat of the Texas summer. That’s good news for Dewhurst, Jillson said.

“The phrase people are using is, ‘Will the higher turnout dilute the tea?’” he said.

Center for Public Integrity reporter Michael Beckel contributed to this report.

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Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Trump needs to conduct these activities because the entire MSM media, excluding Fox, is campaigning against him 24/7/365.

Didn’t Monica’s boyfriend’s wife and various criminal enterprises outspend Trump by almost 2-1?

CapitalistRoader
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CapitalistRoader

Why wouldn’t he get an early start on fund raising? Hillary outspent him two-to-one in 2016. The Dem’s are the party of big money. The President knows this and is attempting to get a jump on it. Of course the Dem candidate will outspend him in 2020 so it’s only rational that he starts fund raising now.

George Young
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George Young

Oh brother. We just 8 years of the Campaigner – in – Chief. Where was this journalistic rectal thermometer then. Just another article about 2000 words too long that merely takes another slap at Trump for something he far from initiated.

j stevenson
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j stevenson

The big difference between Trump and all the rest is his refusing to accept funds from lobbyists, so they don’t have the White House access they are used to. These are the donors who buy the presidency and are as pixxed off that he won the election as are the media and the Dems. Lobbyists have never been shut out of the WH and Trump has told them he is not for sale.

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Trump needs to be impeached and tossed in prison. Then have the key thrown away so he will never be free. Then he can see how it feels not to have freedom.

Mark Sullivan
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Mark Sullivan

Thank you for the usual insightful leftist low IQ Snowflake response.

barney
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hes not imprisoning them hes sending them back to their country chill tf out

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

WHY DONT YOU HAVE FREEDOM?

Tom Larkin
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Tom Larkin

First, something positive. I was happy to learn of empirical information in article. BUT, the article was so slanted against President Trump as to be deemed fake news (“Perhaps Trump just lied.” (Two different issues)). The article mentions that President Trump raised over $67 million, but ended 2018 with $19 million. President Trump spent over $40 million 2016 and 2017. President Trump conducted 57 political rallies. The article notes the hats and T-shirts sold, but NEVER MENTIONS THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF REPUBLICAN SENATORS during a mid-term election that lost the House and the number of political rallies in… Read more »

Ted Sirois
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Ted Sirois

At least Trump is getting donations from willing donors. Fresh from his first election, Obama used billions of our children’s tax dollars to save thousands of union jobs in the car industry and bailed out the banks and many Wall Street businesses. This secured his source of reelection funds for his reelection four years later.

South Jersey
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South Jersey

TRUMP 2020; IS AN AMAZINGLY SMART MAN! VERY ORIGINAL & CREATIVE. I AM HAPPY TO HAVE HIS AS POTUS.

SOUTH JERSEY
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SOUTH JERSEY

THIS ARTICLE WAS OBVIOUSLY WRITTEN BY, A TRUMP-HATE-GROUP. THAT FEELS; IT IS NOT NORMAL TO BE SUCCESSFUL WITH YOUR OWN BRAND NAME. WHEN, IF FACT, IT IS NORMAL! >>>>> THIS IS >>> FAKE NEWS!!! <<<< ie: A PACK-OF-LIES; SPUN INTO; DEFAMATION OF CHARACTER. FOR A SINISTER-AGENDA OF; FASCIST DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST, COUP D'ETAT