New super PAC raises nearly $10 million to register new Republican voters in Texas

Texas Tribune News

As the convention winds down, delegates get their picture taken in front of the Texas flag-themed GOP elephant during the final afternoon of the Republican Party of Texas convention in San Antonio on Saturday, June 16, 2018.
As the convention winds down, delegates get their picture taken in front of the Texas flag-themed GOP elephant during the final afternoon of the Republican Party of Texas convention in San Antonio on Saturday, June 16, 2018.
Robin Jerstad for The Texas Tribune

A new super PAC focused on registering new Republican voters in Texas has raised nearly $10 million from some of the state’s biggest GOP donors, according to its first report to the Federal Election Commission.

Filed early Wednesday morning, the disclosure shows that the group, Engage Texas, took in $9.6 million between when it registered with the FEC in mid-April and when the reporting period ended June 30. It spent $336,000 and has $9.3 million in the bank.

Engage Texas launched in mid-June with the promise of signing up and turning out hundreds of thousands of new GOP voters to help keep the state red in 2020. The super PAC is being led by Chris Young, a former top staffer at the Republican National Committee.

The group’s initial donor list features a who’s who from the Texas GOP donor community. There are half a dozen individuals and entities that gave $1 million each:

  • El Paso oilman Paul Foster
  • Retired Doss couple Michael and Mary Porter ($500,000 each)
  • Houston oil tycoon Joseph C. Walter III
  • Houston developer Richard Weekley, who sits on the Engage Texas board
  • Hillwood Development Company, the Dallas-based real estate company led by Ross Perot Jr.
  • Energy Transfer, the Dallas-based pipeline company whose CEO is Kelcy Warren

Engage Texas also received a combined $1 million from two Houston companies, Trinity Equity Partners I LP and Trinity Equity Partners II LP, that are tied to the private equity firm Quantum Energy Partners. It is run by another familiar name in GOP donor circles, Wil VanLoh.

It appears Engage Texas has wasted little time getting to work, reporting 17 people on payroll through June in addition to Young. One of them is Kristy Wilkinson, who was deputy campaign manager for Gov. Greg Abbott’s reelection bid last year and previously the RNC’s Texas state director.

Disclosure: Ross Perot Jr. and Paul Foster have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.