A meeting of wealthy political donors and prospective donors to highlight a network of political attack groups will be occurring today and tomorrow, The Texas Voice has learned.
The event is hosted by the Founders Network, which describes itself as “an invite-only group of business leaders dedicated to preserving the values that make Texas great. Preserving our culture, protecting our children, and promoting self governance over tyranny are battles worth engaging in.”
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According to sources, one of the leading forces behind the event is Tim Dunn, a prominent political donor from Midland. During the 2022 election cycle, Dunn contributed nearly $8 million to state candidates and committees and another $3 million to federal candidates and committees. Dunn’s primary vehicle for political giving in Texas is the Defend Texas Liberty PAC, which has received over $7 million from Dunn over the past two years.
Sources tell The Texas Voice that Dunn had once been a key member of another donor network, Texans First, which fizzled out due to dissatisfaction among its donor members that their funds were not being used effectively.
The Founders Network is said to be modeled after donor networks such as Stand Together, informally known as the “Koch Network,” on the right and the Democracy Alliance on the left. These networks organize events that connect donors with favored advocacy organizations which frequently work in concert with each other.
Tomorrow, the Founders Network event program includes a panel featuring five organizations- Texas Family Project, Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, Texans for Vaccine Choice, Texans for Strong Borders, and Texas Gun Rights. All five of these organizations have been publicly promoted by former State Representative Jonathan Stickland, whose company Pale Horse Strategies has been paid over $800,000 by Defend Texas Liberty. Texans for Vaccine Choice, Texans for Strong Borders, Texas Gun Rights, or their affiliated political action committees have all received direct financial support from Defend Texas Liberty.
During the 2022 Republican Primary election cycle, Defend Texas Liberty targeted 20 incumbent Republican state representatives for defeat. All 20 incumbent legislators targeted by Defend Texas Liberty won their primaries, many by margins over 50 points. Defend Texas Liberty was also a major donor to former State Senator Don Huffines’ unsuccessful primary challenge to Governor Greg Abbott. Huffines came in third place in the Republican primary, with just 12%.
The organizations featured by the Founders Network all frequently attack Republican elected officials. As reported by The Texas Voice last week, Texas Gun Rights has long been a vocal critic of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and has continued its attacks against Patrick during the current legislative session.
Texans for Strong Borders recently attacked Republican State Representatives for supporting HB 1152, a bill that would help alleviate the shortage of law enforcement officers in Texas by allowing honorably discharged veterans of the United States Armed Forces who are legal permanent residents of the United States to serve as a peace officer. Texans for Strong Borders’ rationale for opposing the bill was “no American job should go to a non-citizen.”
The event is set to kick off this afternoon with a panel featuring Texas Scorecard Publisher Michael Quinn Sullivan and Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi. As previously reported by The Texas Voice, official government records have listed Rinaldi as a member of the board of Directors for both Texas Gun Rights and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, the legal name of which is Fiscal Index Foundation, Inc. Rinaldi later told the website Current Revolt that he resigned from the Texas Gun Rights board after learning that the group would be attacking Patrick, even though Texas Gun Rights had been vocally critical of Patrick for many years and said last year that Patrick “has been a thorn in the side of Texas gun owners for years!”
In addition to remarks from Tim Dunn and the organization panel, the Founders Network session tomorrow will include a legislative panel featuring State Representatives Bryan Slaton, Tony Tinderholt, and Nate Schatzline. Slaton, Tinderholt, and Schatzline were the only three members of the Texas House to vote against Speaker Dade Phelan on the opening day of the current legislative session.
The event will conclude with closing remarks from Former State Representative Jonathan Stickland of Pale Horse Strategies.