Republican megadonors are pumping thousands of dollars into Texas 7th congressional district, one of two battleground districts flipped by Democrats in 2018.
The Houston area district is currently held by Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, a moderate Democrat facing off against GOP Army veteran Wesley Hunt in a competitive but Democratic-leaning race.
Federal Election Commission filings show the Women Speak Out PAC, a partner of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, has dumped $59,313 total into the race, most recently reporting thousands of dollars in canvassing expenditures in support of Hunt and against Fletcher.
This election cycle so far, 98 percent of Women Speak Out PAC’s funding has come from just one person: Jan Duncan, a GOP megadonor and wife of the late Dan Duncan, an oil & gas billionaire once described by the Chronicle as “Houston’s richest man.”
The Duncan family and Enterprise Products — the multi-billion-dollar pipeline company owned and founded by the Duncans — were repeat donors to John Culberson, the district’s previous Republican incumbent (ousted by Fletcher by a five-point margin). Employees at Enterprise Products, mainly executives, have funded a total of $55,899 into Hunt’s campaign and make up a plurality of his campaign’s contributions.
To be clear, Fletcher has also benefited from oil and gas money this cycle (albeit less than Hunt), something that is not particularly surprising given the location of her district in Houston’s Energy Corridor, home to some of the largest oil companies in the country and thousands of their employees. Fletcher’s voting record so far in Congress has shown her to be overwhelmingly opposed to legislation backed by Trump, but the congresswoman has maintained a careful balancing act on oil & gas issues, most notably opposing a ban on fracking and the Green New Deal.
This hasn’t stopped Hunt from fabricating myths about Fletcher’s positions on those issues as a way to galvanize support in the Houston area district, one of the wealthiest in Texas.
It’s clear that dark money groups see something advantageous in Hunt’s candidacy. One easy guess is Fletcher’s support and Hunt’s opposition to the Paris Agreement, a worldwide agreement to reduce carbon emissions to prevent climate change that President Trump withdrew from in 2017. Likewise, on social media, Fletcher has sounded the alarm on climate change while Hunt hasn’t mentioned the phrase “climate change” once.
It’s evident GOP donors who have a lot of interest in Houston’s Energy Corridor and are still upset by the upset in 2018 yearn for a lawmaker skeptical of climate change like their previous favorite Culberson, who once waved off the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as a “statistical anomaly.”
Other outside groups supporting Hunt include the Lone Star Values PAC, a super PAC that only reported one $75,000 contribution this cycle received entirely from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC funded almost exclusively by $100,000 or more donations, including American Action Network, a dark money group that spends millions in media each cycle.
Photo: aluxum/Getty Images
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at email@example.com