Political action committees are throwing their weight — and dollars — behind Republican Tarrant County judge candidates as the March 1 primary looms.
PACs have collectively funneled $301,000 into Betsy Price, Tim O’Hare and Robert Buker’s campaigns since July, boosting a well-established GOP funding advantage in the race.
What is a Political Action Committee (PAC)?
A PAC is a political committee organized by a business, ideological or labor interest with the purpose of raising money to elect and defeat candidates.
Democratic candidates Deborah Peoples and Marvin Sutton have received no PAC funding. Both Peoples and Sutton trail their Republican opponents in total money raised by a significant margin.
Donations from political action committees to Price and O’Hare’s campaigns set up a dynamic familiar to observers of the race, said Thomas Marshall, political science professor with the University of Texas at Arlington. Price is generally backed by fiscally conservative business interests and O’Hare receives the bulk of his support from more socially conservative groups.
“If the Fort Worth business establishment is pretty strongly pro Betsy Price, that’s going to carry enormous weight with political action committees,” Marshall said.
Price reels in familiar support
The former Fort Worth mayor established herself as a frontrunner early in the race, netting $334,872 from July 1 to Dec. 31.
From Jan. 1 to Feb. 22, she secured an additional $117,500 from PACs alone. Among them is PSEL PAC, funded by brothers Edward, Lee and Sid Bass.
The Bass brothers have been a force in Fort Worth politics for decades. They also have been consistent donors to Price, contributing over $17,000 when she ran for mayor. PSEL has contributed $50,000 to Price this year, more than doubling its previous financial support.
“They’re looking for conservative leadership,” Price said of the Bass brothers’ contributions. “They’ve never asked for favors. They know I’m easy to work with, and I’m a straight shooter.”
Price also received support from Realtors and groups representing landlords. The Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors PAC donated $25,000 in the new year, following 2021 contributions from Apartment Association of Tarrant County PAC and Metroplex Association of Realtors Inc. PAC.
Price also received support from the political action committees of some of Fort Worth’s most prominent businesses, including AT&T and aerospace manufacturer Bell Textron.
The Freese and Nichols PAC donated $2,500 to Price’s campaign. Freese and Nichols is an engineering and architectural consulting firm that conducts business throughout Tarrant County, including through city contracts.
“The Freese and Nichols PAC operates separately from our corporate business,” the company said in a written statement sent to the Fort Worth Report. “Decisions about political contributions to a variety of races are based on an assessment of candidates’ leadership abilities.”
O’Hare trails by several thousand
The DFW Conservative Voters PAC releases recommendations for races in Dallas, Denton, Collin, Parker and Tarrant counties each cycle. O’Hare was its pick for Tarrant County judge, and the group sent out mailers with a full list of recommendations to potential voters.
From July to February, Price brought in $207,500 from political action committees while O’Hare received $117,500.
“They support candidates who are for traditional family values, low taxes and limited government and those are things I strongly support,” O’Hare said in a statement to the Fort Worth Report.
We Can Keep It PAC contributed $103,000 to the O’Hare campaign, more than any other committee to any other county judge candidate. Yet, no information about the committee is readily available online. Records show the committee was formed on Jan 17, 2022. The PAC’s treasurer, Asher Gillaspie is an administrator at the law firm Bourland, Wall, & Wenzel based in Fort Worth.
O’Hare said the committee is a group of business leaders based out of Fort Worth who support candidates with biblical values.
“I’m honored to have their support in this race,” O’Hare said.
O’Hare received $1,000 each from the Kenny Marchant Good Government Fund and Defend Texas Liberty PAC.
“He reflects the most assertively, flamboyant conservative high-dollar set,” Marshall said, “which can certainly throw some very large amounts of money at things.”
Buker lags far behind behind Republican opponents
Buker is supported by Texas United for Texas PAC. However, the Fort Worth Report was unable to verify the PAC’s existence or current status, as it is not registered with the Texas Ethics Commission or the Federal Ethics Commission. He received a total of $1,000 from Texas United for Texas from July to February.
Byron Bradford has no political action committee support, according to campaign finance reports. The fifth Tarrant County judge Republican candidate, Kristen Collins, didn’t submit an eight day report.
Final donations made in the run-up to the primaries will likely be less effective than money spent by the candidates earlier in the campaign, Marshall said. Securing door knockers and TV ads is harder late in a campaign no matter how much cash on hand a candidate has.
“Early money is more effective, dollar for dollar, than late money is,” Marshall said. Regardless, he said, “Money follows winners.”
Disclosure: Betsy Price has been a financial supporter of the Fort Worth Report. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.
Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.