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Slaton, Paxton, And The Republican Civil War
Money, Power, and Ideology: Understanding the Texas GOP's clash of factions.
Over the last several days, as the political heads and national news discuss Paxton’s impeachment, there are questions (mostly from Democrats) that keep popping up.
Did Republicans suddenly get a conscience?
Did the GOP now find out about Paxton’s crimes?
None of that. It’s all about the Republican Civil War currently happening in Texas.
Wait, you didn’t know there were dueling factions in the Texas GOP, each trying to tear the other down? A great reason to subscribe to Lone Star Left: I’ve been following the GOP drama for years and have all the tea.
There are two factions in the Texas Republican Party: the Tea Party Faction and the Business Faction. These factions are essentially the same ideologically, and you’ll see will often vote the same. But, the Tea Party Faction is a lot meaner, willing to break laws/rules, and lives by scorched earth politics. On the other hand, the Business Faction wants to play by the rules and always act with professionalism and integrity.
During the Trump years, we saw this split begin to form as the leader of the Republican Party (Trump) was lying, corrupt, hateful, and criminal. However, the GOP further down the ranks looked up to him and his behavior. So, they became bold and angry.
I noticed long before the 2020 election how much of the Texas GOP was in chaos. The term “RINO” was thrown around more and more. And just like everything else, Covid exacerbated it.
Was there one specific point we could consider as the catalyst for the split? Or has it been more of a gradual and increasing divide?
In September 2020, because of Covid, Governor Abbott increased the early voting days. That led to the Tea Party Faction protesting outside the Governor’s mansion while he was out of town. They shouted at the empty House, screaming “tyranny” and “freedom.”
This social media post from Republican insider Jason Vaugh pretty much sums up the events leading up to the election in 2020.
While all this was happening, Ken Paxton used the Attorney General’s office as his piggy bank and mob extension. Then he tried to overturn Trump’s election (as well as participated in January 6 events).
Abbott never addressed it publicly, but it should be noted that the protesters outside of his empty House that day included Sid Miller, Allen West, Matt Rinaldi, Don Huffines, and Michael Quinn Sullivan.
Once the 87th Legislature started, much focus was put on then-freshman Bryan Slaton and his words and actions. From the get-go in 2021, Slaton pushed for “no Democratic chairs” because that’s what they did in Washington, D.C.
Slaton spent the entirety of the 2021 session talking about children’s genitals. He repeatedly tried to add amendments to bills unrelated to what kids have in their pants. For example, one of the amendments he was pushing demanded that schools check children’s private parts before allowing them to play sports.
Slaton’s peers grew to hate him on both sides of the aisle. (See: Why Does Everyone Hate Bryan Slaton?) His amendments were creepy and gross, and all came from the direction of Jeff Younger. One time, Slaton even cried tears on the front mic over how Younger’s daughter was allowed to have gender-affirming care. But even as contentment toward Slaton grew in the House, the Trump base began to idolize him. That’s what they wanted, someone who was mean and wanted to hurt people, not how the Business Faction acted.
If you’re unfamiliar, Jeff Younger is the man from Coppell who had a transgender daughter and fought the court against denying gender-affirming care for her. It made national news, and after the divorce, Younger’s extremely toxic behavior led a judge to issue a no-contact order. So Younger, distraught in his bubble of hate and bigotry, appealed to the legislators in Austin for help to deny his transgender child care.
Republican legislators take action only when it’s something their donors push for. At the time, no one was pushing for banning gender-affirming care. But Younger and Slaton did appeal to one man, Texas’ biggest Oligarch, Tim Dunn.
When the legislative session ends, election season begins.
Immediately following the 87th legislative session, Jeff Younger filed to run for office. Slaton was running for re-election, and Don Huffines announced he was running for Governor.
The thread that tied them all together was Tim Dunn. Ferris Wikles was also a big donor in the 2022 election but only spent a fraction of what Tim Dunn paid. All-in-all, Dunn spent $8 million on Texas’ 2022 elections. $7.1 million went to the Defend Liberty PAC (run by former representative Jonathan Stickland).
Don Huffines received $3.6 million from the Defend Liberty PAC and another $200,000 directly from Tim Dunn. Huffines was being painted as the alt-right superhero. He was going to defeat Abbott and turn Texas into a Christofascist paradise. But Huffines record was tainted. He refused to fire white nationalists on his staff, boycotted Black history, and once pushed racial profiling.
Huffines was the white supremacist candidate who lost the Republican primary. The Defend Liberty PAC and its donors never supported Abbot, nor did they ever give money to Dade Phelan.
The PAC did give $1.2 million to Ken Paxton, however. They also gave:
$830,000 to Pale Horse Strategies (Jonathan Stickland’s company).
$153,000 to Bryan Slaton.
$125,000 to the Republican Party of Texas.
$115,000 to the Texans for Strong Borders PAC.
$73,000 to Jeff Younger.
Mind you; this is all separate from another nearly $1 million Tim Dunn gave to various candidates.
Follow the money.
In a shocking expose last November, the Texas Observer reported how Tim Dunn had spent millions of dollars on “pink slime journalism, stories that promote special interests under the guise of local journalism are interspersed between algorithmically generated content, republished press releases, and other thinly sourced, low-quality articles.”
According to the Texas Observer, “At least 77 websites identified with this network in Texas alone that launder advocacy for conservative groups and talking points such as property tax relief, attacks on alternative energy sources, and fearmongering about the border.”
Dunn, for years, has been using his money to spread a narrative and get politicians who support that narrative elected. And it’s worked in the past, but Dunn’s political picks have not won elections over the last few election cycles. Ken Paxton and Bryan Slaton were the only politicians he poured big money into in the previous election cycle who won.
So, you have this one camp—the Tea Party Faction—pouring mountains of cash into narratives and candidates that support fascism, bigotry, racism, oil, pollution, poverty, anti-LGBTQ, and just pure hatred.
The Business Faction is not benefiting from this as they aren’t getting any big Dunn dollars, and these pink slime websites call them “RINOs.” The Tea Party Faction calls them RINOS.
Unfortunately for Dunn, the monster he helped build grew much bigger than him. So now, dozens of other billionaires and millionaires are willing to throw their cash around for political favors. That’s how Greg Abbott pulled in $111 million without Dunn’s money, and Dade Phelan pulled in $11 million for his race.
The politicians who didn’t get Dunn’s money aren’t subservient to him. But Dunn still owns the narrative. Since 2020, because of Covid, the chasm between the Tea Party Faction and the Business Faction has grown wider and wider.
Then, the Republican Party of Texas elected Matt Rinaldi as their chair.
Rinaldi is a big recipient of Dunn’s cash and pushes the same Christofascist ideas as everyone else in that crew. This has even led to public fights between the Texas Republican Party and elected Republicans.
Many Republicans saw this developing at the end of 2021 and jumped ship. As a result, around 20 legislators decided not to seek re-election, most of which were Republican.
This led to a very entertaining and sad Republican primary in 2022.
All the while, Bryan Slaton was campaigning on children’s private parts and ensuring no Democrats held chair positions in the Texas House.
The partisan chair issue was never a thing before in the House’s history until Slaton made it an issue. Since Slaton’s biggest donor also controlled much of the Republican narrative in Texas through these pink slime websites, he got the base behind this idea. Phelan caved with a compromise of reducing the chairs but not banning them altogether.
When Phelan was re-elected as House Speaker, the Tea Party Faction completely melted. While both factions wanted to take away the rights of women and minorities, the Tea Party Faction wanted to be mean about not allowing Democrats to hold chairs, speak, or be any part of the government…even if they won elections.
The Business Faction believes in decorum and mutual respect.
After Slaton was expelled, the narrative came from Dunn’s websites, like the Texas Scorecard, and organizations like the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Texans for Strong Borders, which were anti-Dade Phelan and anti-RINO.
The best way to summarize it would be a fight between the far-right and the far-far-right. The narrative was mad that Democrats killed some of the fascist priorities, and they blamed Phelan for allowing it to happen. This was more of pandering to their base because the people who control the narrative understand how politics work in Texas.
Democrats killed bills, and Republicans still led key committees.
The vote to oust Slaton was unanimous, but the Tea Party Faction never spoke out about the Slaton investigation until after he was expelled. Only then, each of them, Matt Rinaldi, the Texas Scorecard, and their various flunkies denounce Slaton’s behavior. But, as it turns out, a secret whistle-blower among the Tea Party Faction’s ranks has been spilling all the secrets, including how the Texas Scorecard tried to cover up Slaton’s unethical behavior.
When videos of Phelan and other Republicans drunk on the House floor surfaced, they took it and ran with it. Sending out to the voting Republicans of Texas that their Christofascist agenda couldn’t get passed because Dade Phelan was drunk.
I uploaded videos of several Republicans seemingly drunk on the House floor, but the one of Dade Phelan came directly from Jonathan Stickland. First, the Texas Scorecard wrote a story about it, and then Ken Paxton demanded Phelan’s resignation.
This week, another interesting detail was revealed when the anonymous Republican whistle-blower published proof that Ken Paxton owes $750,000 to Defend Texas Liberty PAC, Stickland’s PAC, funded by Tim Dunn.
Paxton’s demand for the Speaker to resign helped continue the narrative: Tim Dunn’s narrative, which he spends millions of dollars shaping each year.
Within days, the House Committee on Investigation announced the investigation of Ken Paxton. While the public just found out about the investigation last week, it was just a coincidence that it was the same week the Tea Party Faction was trying to take down Dade Phelan.
What would Ken Paxton do for $750,000?
According to the House Committee's report, Paxton accepted approximately $20,000 worth of countertops as a trade-off for an unredacted FBI search warrant for Nate Paul.
Just imagine what he would be willing to do for $750,000. It also should make you wonder about the 23 Republicans who voted against impeachment. How much were they in debt to the Texas Oligarchs who funded the Tea Party Faction?
The Tea Party Faction vs. the Business Faction. While it may seem like this is a new “all of a sudden” thing, it’s not. It’s been brewing for a long time. You better believe they are in the midst of a civil war, and it’s far from over.
It’s hard to say right now if Paxton will be found guilty in the Senate impeachment trial. But whether he is or not won’t stop the political bloodbath we’ll witness with Republicans leading up to the 2024 election. There will be a lot of money behind it, and it will hurt them in the long run.
This Republican civil war will give Democrats a leg up in a state that’s long been trending blue. Will they be able to control messaging and show would-be voters how corrupt the GOP is? Only time will tell.