It’s money time for the 2016 presidential general election, and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is about to launch a two-day fundraising tour of Texas, starting in Dallas June 16, followed by San Antonio and Houston.
But will North Texas’ Republican donors be there for him?
The wealthiest families in Tarrant County – one of the most Republican counties in the state and where Fort Worth is located – have largely held back on contributions for the presidential race since Trump began gaining momentum in the spring.
Texas donors, according to federal data tabulated by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics’ opensecrets.org, contributed more than $90 million to Republican presidential candidates in both direct contributions to individual campaigns and super PAC donations in the 2015-2016 election cycle, through April 30, 2016.
Trump received $532,815 in Texas contributions, compared with home-state Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, with $45 million in both direct and super PAC contributions.
In this election cycle, Dallas oilman Ray Hunt has given $1.4 million to Right to Rise, the super PAC supporting Jeb Bush, as well as $33,400 each to the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
He also contributed to GOP candidates including $2,700 each – the federal maximum per election – to lawmakers who represent Tarrant County: Reps. Joe Barton, Kay Granger, Michael Burgess, Kenny Marchant and Roger Williams.
In Tarrant County, residents gave a total of both direct contributions and super PAC donations of $2.8 million to Republican presidential candidates, with over half, $1.5 million, going to Cruz, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Trump received only $25,583 from Tarrant County contributors. The reports are for 2015 through April 30, 2016.
Now, there are some signs that Republican donors, such as philanthropist Mercedes Bass, the locally prominent Moncrief family and well-known tycoon T. Boone Pickens, are overcoming the same discomfort felt by much of the Republican establishment and will give money to the New York real-estate mogul, who until recently had claimed that he did not even want donations.
But there still are pockets of resistance.
“A lot of people in Tarrant County sat on the sidelines during the primaries,” said Hal Lambert, a Fort Worth financier who was the national finance co-chairman of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.
“I was called to help with Trump two weeks ago and I said, ‘I’m just not going to be doing that,’,” said Lambert, a sought-after fundraiser. “Part of the reason is: Trump says he doesn’t need help from donors.”
But the last Republican candidate left standing is now looking for high-dollar contributions. According to one report, the Trump luncheon fundraiser in San Antonio on June 17 starts at $500 for a single ticket to $250,000 per couple.
Lambert, like Cruz, is unwilling to endorse Trump for several reasons, including what he describes as the billionaire’s efforts “to demonize” the Latino judge overseeing a case involving Trump University. He said he doesn’t like Trump’s suggestions that the United States renegotiate its debt, raise the minimum wage and impose a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports.
I’m a conservative first and a Republican second.
Hal Lambert, Fort Worth investor and Cruz fundraiser, on his reluctance to endorse Trump
Prominent Fort Worth attorney Dee Kelly, Jr., whose late father was a Texas political power broker, said, “I actively contributed early on to Rubio and then bailed after he left the race.” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. suspended his campaign after losing his home state to Trump.
Kelly said local Republicans likely will support the nominee – though he wouldn’t say that he personally supports Trump. “I hadn’t even thought about it until you called,” he said. “I’m definitely not voting for Hillary (Clinton). That leaves one choice. And I will vote.”
He added: “I haven’t seen a lot of footprints in Fort Worth yet for Trump.”
But there are some.
Mercedes Bass, the former wife of Fort Worth billionaire Sid Bass, still calls Fort Worth home despite her very high profile within New York philanthropic circles. Bass stepped down last week as interim chairwoman of Carnegie Hall after the board of trustees selected a new chairman –investor Robert Smith of Austin.
Asked whether she had known Trump from New York, Bass, who was traveling, responded by email, “Yes, I knew him during his marriage to Ivana. Always charming and intelligent.”
And will she back him? “Yes, I will support him and the Republican National Committee.”
For her political contributions in the 2015-2016 cycle through April 30, 2016, according to opensecrets.org, Bass gave $33,400 to the Republican National Committee and, in an unusual move, contributed to three GOP presidential candidates: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who each received $2,700, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who received $1,000.
Of the four Bass billionaire brothers, Sid Bass and Ed Bass did not contribute to any presidential campaigns through the April 2016 reporting period. Lee Bass and wife, Ramona, contributed to Rubio, Perry and a pro-Bush super PAC. Robert Bass and his wife, Anne, meanwhile, are prominent Democratic donors – but they did not contribute to Hillary Clinton during that time period.
Super PACs can accept unlimited donations from individuals, companies and labor unions but may not coordinate with a candidate’s campaign.
Fort Worth’s billionaire Moncrief family was active early on, with patriarch oilman W. A. “Tex” Moncrief giving $50,000 to Keep the Promise, a super PAC that supported Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Moncrief also gave $5,000 to Cruz.
His son Charlie and daughter-in-law Kit Moncrief each gave $2,700 to Bush’s campaign, with Kit Moncrief also contributing more than $25,000 to Right to Rise USA, a pro-Bush super PAC.
“They are supporting Trump,” said Kathy Wright, administrative assistant to W.A. and Charlie Moncrief at Moncrief Oil, when contacted by a reporter.
Toby Neugebauer, billionaire son of Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, who made his fortune in energy private equity, was a so-called mega-donor who led a pro-Cruz super PAC with his contribution of $10 million.
The younger Neugebauer, who lives in Puerto Rico and also owns a Texas ranch, asked by email whether he would now be supporting Trump, said, “I assume I will. I have not given it much thought as I have been extremely busy.”
Energy magnate T. Boone Pickens of Dallas was planning on holding a fundraiser for Trump at his ranch in June but postponed it over confusion about which Super PAC would get the contributions.
“Boone supports Donald Trump for president and is committed to help him win in November,” said Pickens’ spokesman, Jay Rosser. “Boone intends to utilize his ranch for fundraising initiatives to help secure his victory, but the proposed donor event for mid-June has proved overly problematic from a logistics and scheduling standpoint.”