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Corrupt Texas Republicans Are Nothing New
Who owns Greg Abbott? Decades of money trails and political favors created the monster we all now know.
Considering the current state of Texas politics, when you see “the most corrupt person in Texas government,” your mind likely jumps straight to Ken Paxton. While Paxton is corrupt beyond belief, one man has overshadowed Paxton in both the dollars and in the amount of time he’s been able to stay in office unchecked. That man is Gregory Wayne Abbott.
The great Molly Ivans once said, “In Texas, we do not hold high expectations for the governor’s office; it’s mostly been occupied by crooks, dorks, and the comatose.”
Governor Greg Abbott has spent a lifetime taking money from wealthy donors and using his office to take actions that would seemingly benefit his donors. Of course, we don’t typically punish Conservatives who take money for political favors in Texas. We look the other way, or at least we have a history of doing so. If the Senate convicts Ken Paxton, he may be the first Republican in Texas history held accountable for selling political favors. Perhaps that’s why the right is so outraged at his impeachment.
Texas Conservatives are corrupt. That’s how it always has been. We just silently agree as a collective to look the other way.
Greg Abbott trended on Twitter (again).
Many people were discussing Abbott, the slew of bad bills he signed this week, his ongoing public fight with Dan Patrick, and how Texans are being asked to sleep with the air at 82° because our grid is still broken.
But this question came up repeatedly: “Who owns Greg Abbott?”
Many are putting the dots together now that Nate Paul owned Ken Paxton. These Republicans do more harm than good and take actions that only benefit an elite few. So, they must be bought and paid for.
My answer was: “A lot of people.”
A lot of people own Greg Abbott. Twenty separate donors each gave Abbott over $1 million. Over 150 different donors gave Abbott over $100,000. Greg Abbott is the king of fundraising, and there have been decades of evidence that he does political favors. And every year, the big pot of oil execs and real estate moguls in his pockets continues to grow.
Let’s talk about it.
Abbott’s first year on the Supreme Court was in 1996.
According to the 1996 reports from the Texas Ethics Commission, Abbott pulled in $8,355 in donations that year.
Then in 1997, we saw this report:
This 1997 news clip sheds a little light on what began the snowball of corruption. According to the clip, Justice Greg Abbott took $27,000 from lawyers and businesses who argued cases at the Texas Supreme Court. According to the Texas Ethics Commission, in 1997, Abbott pulled in $446,660 from campaign contributions. A huge number compared to the $8,355 he received in 1996.
Allegations of corruption have long plagued the Texas Supreme Court.
In 1999, PBS Frontline aired a special called “Justice for Sale.” They specifically talk about the corruption in the Texas Supreme Court and how it has been a long-standing practice for SCOTEX judges to take money from businesses and lawyers who have cases with them.
A 2001 report from Catholic University Law Review concurred.
The Texas Supreme Court, ironic as it may be, is one of the most corrupt institutions in the State of Texas. This is where Greg Abbott catapulted his career as one of the most corrupt governors America has ever seen.
In 1998, Abbott pulled in $528,565 in campaign donations.
But what was he doing while sitting on the bench?
During Abbott’s term as a SCOTEX justice, he made decisions favoring businesses in civil suits but rarely made the news. There were only a few cases in which Abbott made headlines, mostly because he wrote the majority opinion.
1996: The Texas Supreme Court ruled that the Constitutional right to privacy did not protect adulatory. Abbott wrote, “Privacy does not include the right to maintain a sexual relationship with someone else’s spouse.”
1998: A ruling from SCOTEX made firing injured workers easier. In 2022, Texas and Oklahoma are the only states in the U.S. that don’t require private employers to purchase workers’ compensation. In 1998, Texas was the only one. Abbott wrote about this decision: “The law is intended to apply to employees and employers who act under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act.” So, if a company chooses not to obtain workers comp and a worker is injured, they can fire the worker.
2000: In Texas, an unmarried minor seeking an abortion must have a signed affidavit from her parents to get the medical procedure. A 2000 law allowed a minor to bypass her parents by seeing a local judge. While the courts ultimately upheld this law, Greg Abbott dissented.
During his time as a Texas Supreme Court justice, he pandered to extremists and business interests alike.
In 1999, Abbott spoke at an event for the Christian Legal Society, a far-right legal organization tied to Alliance Defending Freedom. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
Then in 2001, he gave a speech at the Mansfield Business Expo, where he spoke about the relationship between justice and businesses.
That same year, Abbott resigned from his position on the Texas Supreme Court to seek higher office.
However, deciding what he would run for took him a while. First, he announced he would run for Land Commissioner, and then there was speculation he would run for Lt. Governor. Finally, he settled on Attorney General.
During Greg Abbott’s first run for Attorney General, he raised well over $3 million.
In his first few months as Attorney General, he operated like his predecessor, John Cornyn. No matter how you feel about Cornyn now, he was much milder while he was Attorney General. In early 2003, Abbott was seen with Senator Rodney Ellis and spoke about cracking down on corporate fraud. The Baytown Sun reported on this in an article where they doubted Abbott’s sincerity since he had received multiple donations from Enron before they collapsed.
Of course, 2003 was the year that Republicans stole the Texas House.
And Newly-elected Attorney General Greg Abbott helped them. It should be noted that before the redistricting took place, Abbott told Republicans redistricting wasn’t necessary. But, after the GOP did it, Abbott sided with them.
With Tom Delay at the helm, Republicans redrew the already redistricted maps in 2003 to gerrymander the next election and steal the Texas House. Democrats broke the quorum and high-tailed it to Oklahoma to stop them.
Abbott helped them determine the legality of the redistricting maps, just as he did in 2011 and Paxton did in 2021, although Abbott denied any impropriety.
When House Speaker Tom Craddick ordered DPS to arrest quorum-busting Democrats, a federal judge ruled DPS had no authority. Greg Abbott appealed that ruling. The 2003 redistricting cost taxpayers over $700,000.
Abbott continued to win elections, despite being unpopular.
His campaign brought $5.6 million from the 2006 election, including $193,000 from Dr. James Leininger. Leininger founded the Texas Public Policy Foundation and has been called the sugar daddy of the religious right.
In 2006, the future governor continued to perfect his role as a cartoon villain.
2006: Abbott argued at the Fifth Circuit of Court Appeals that Texas should execute mentally ill people on death row.
2006: Texas sued the Federal Government over Medicare clawback payments, which would have saved Texas $1.7 billion over eight years. But, the gist of Abbott’s argument was “states’ rights.”
2006: When the Comptroller General opened an investigation on the Texas Residential Construction Commission, Abbott shut it down, a payback to one of his biggest donors, Bob Perry.
2007: Abbott was in the news again when he ordered an attorney to file an appeal six minutes before the execution of a man with an IQ of 64. The attorney had computer problems and didn’t file the appeal on time.
2007: Abbott sues labor unions in favor of right-to-work laws.
2008: When a Christian Conservative District Attorney got himself in hot water over sending racist and sexually explicit emails on his work computer, Greg Abbott refused to investigate.
2008: The Texas Attorney General’s office spent $1.4 million to prosecute 26 Democrats, mostly minorities, who walked absentee ballots to the mailbox for sick or elderly voters. The Texas Observer warned that year, “Vote by mail, go to jail.”
2008: This was when the Texas Youth Commission (TYC) scandal broke loose. While Abbott was bragging about being tough on sex offenders, his office ignored dozens of complaints that children were being molested at TYC.
Of course, all of that pales in comparison to Abbott’s latest political stature.
Many of these donations gave the appearance of impropriety. Like the $1.2 million Kelcey Warren gave him for the grid failures. Or the other $1.2 Michael and Mary Porter, as he’s seen here at the Porter ranch with other recipients of their money:
Greg Abbott's 27-year political career has been marked by a consistent pattern of selling political favors to wealthy donors and special interests. His ability to amass enormous campaign contributions and maintain unchecked power has allowed him to perfect the art of trading influence for financial gain.
From his time on the Texas Supreme Court to his current position as governor, Abbott has demonstrated a willingness to prioritize the interests of his donors over the needs of the people.
So, who owns Greg Abbott? Perhaps a better question would be: who doesn’t?
“Americans are not getting screwed by the Republican Party. They’re getting screwed by the large corporations that bought and owned the Republican Party.” - Molly Ivins.