Has the Texas House Been Compromised?
By Chad Carnahan
(If you prefer a video version of this article, please click here).
Is the pending impeachment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton purely political? How influential was House Speaker Dade Phelan?
In 2018, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, a friend to Paxton, donated $25,000 to the Paxton campaign. Paul later slipped into financial and legal trouble. He was accused of false statements to lenders in order to acquire business loans.
Paxton is alleged to have used his office to assist Paul beginning in 2018. Since only rumors and insinuations have surfaced, whether he did or did not is uncertain. Paxton has the huge job of managing an office of 700 attorneys litigating up to 30,000 cases a year. Yet this single case involving Nate Paul is repeatedly advanced by anyone who opposes Paxton.
One of the people opposing Paxton has been House Speaker Dade Phelan. Phelan became the Republican Speaker behind universal support from Democrat House members, and he has repeatedly undermined the Republican agenda in favor of Democrat priorities.
On May 19th, House Speaker Dade Phelan was apparently intoxicated and incoherent while at the podium (Video here). On May 23rd, Ken Paxton responded by asking the House General Investigations Committee to remove the obviously impaired speaker for violation of House rules.
Instead, the Committee immediately voted to impeach Paxton. Rapid action in a lethargic House known for delay and indecision was very odd. Why the rush?
Under Phelan’s dominating leadership, the 2023 House session has accomplished very little. No school choice. No border security. No cartel pushback. No election integrity. Only belated action on gender modification and woke education. Yet it worked through the weekend to impeach the Attorney General barely 72 hours after Paxton criticized Phelan. Is this a vendetta by the Speaker?
How did Dade Phelan gain such an iron grip on the Texas House?
The unproven accusation against Ken Paxton is that he provided favors to Nate Paul for a $25,000 donation. However, a search of public records at transparencytexas.org proves that many Texas House members have accepted large donations directly from Speaker Phelan. Most are much larger than $25,000. So, here’s the obvious question – does that “contribution” buy influence at the right time?
The chart below reflects campaign donations during the 2022 election cycle.
Of the 60 Republicans who voted to impeach Ken Paxton, 46 received either 1) a significant Phelan donation or 2) a committee chairmanship from Phelan. The donations totaled $3,709,677. The committee chairmanships totaled 24. The average donation was over $80,500, and the committee chairmanships, with oversight over the $320 billion Texas budget, are worth much more. Would House members dare to challenge the Speaker who made all this possible?
Of the 23 Republicans who voted against impeachment, only one received a chairmanship. Only five received a Phelan donation. Other than the unopposed candidates, only ten Republicans outside of Phelan’s influence voted for impeachment.
Dade Phelan’s Texas House talks about corruption in the Attorney General’s office. Wouldn’t it be more important to examine massive donations that appear to be compromising the integrity of the Texas House? At its next meeting, should the Republican Party of Texas consider more than the problem of Phelan’s leadership? What should be done about the willingness of House Republicans to follow him?
|Republican Representative||District||2022 Donation from Dade Phelan||Committee Chairs Awarded by Phelan|
|Ashby, Trent||9||$0.00||Culture, Recreation, Tourism|
|Buckley, Brad||54||$87,367.07||Public Education|
|Burns, DeWayne||58||$0.00||Land & Resource Management|
|Button, Angie Chen||112||$95,534.44||International Relations & Economic Development|
|Cain, Briscoe||128||$0.00||Agriculture & Livestock|
|Capriglione, Giovanni||98||$22,100.00||Pensions, Investments, Financial Services|
|Cook, David||96||$0.00 (Unopposed)|
|Dean, Jay||7||$0.00 (Unopposed)|
|Frank, James||69||$0.00||Human Services|
|Geren, Charlie||99||$0.00||Speaker Pro Tem|
|Goldman, Craig||97||$0.00||Energy Resources|
|Guillen, Ryan||31||$112,400.00||Homeland Security|
|Harris, Cody||8||$0.00||Local & Consent Calendars|
|Hunter, Todd||32||$0.00 (Unopposed)||State Affairs|
|King, Ken||88||$47,700.00||Licensing & Administrative Procedures|
|Klick, Stephanie||91||$419,826.00||Public Health|
|Kuempel, John||44||$0.00||Higher Education|
|Landgraf, Brooks||81||$28,600.00||Environmental Regulation|
|Leach, Jeff||67||$65,150.00||Judiciary & Civil Prudence|
|Lozano, J.M.||43||$0.00||Urban Affairs|
|Metcalf, Will||16||$0.00||House Administration|
|Meyer, Morgan||108||$145,400.00||Ways & Means|
|Murr, Andrew||53||$52,348.00||General Investigating|
|Noble, Candy||89||$0.00 (Unopposed)|
|Patterson, Jared||106||$0.00 (Unopposed)|
|Vasut, Cody||25||$0.00 (Unopposed)|
|Wilson, Terry||20||$0.00||Defense & Veteran Affairs|
|Total Phelan Donations||$3,709,677.00||24 Committee Chairmanships|
Donation data provided by transparencytexas.org, which provides detailed and validated information on money in politics.