A review of Texas Supreme Court candidates’ campaign finance reports shows that the Republican incumbent justices have out-fundraised their primary challengers by more than seven-to-one and outspent them by more than four-to-one.
For Republican primary candidates, Texas Lawyer analyzed campaign finance reports from the Texas Ethics Commission covering Jan. 1, 2013, through Jan. 23, 2014. Some candidates organized their campaigns later and didn’t file reports for the entire period.
Texas Lawyer identified the lawyer-donors based on a self-reported category on the reports and counted law firms based on name recognition.
The primary campaigns of Democratic Supreme Court candidates are sleepier—they’re running unopposed—and third party candidates don’t have primaries.
Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, the incumbent, raised a total of $569,960. Among other donors, Texas Lawyer counted at least 90 lawyers, 39 law firms and 10 law firm political action committees that gave to Hecht. The largest amounts came from the Locke Lord PAC and the Vinson & Elkins Texas PAC, which each gave $10,000.
On the expenditures side, Hecht spent $745,764. His largest expense was $425,030 for TV ads. Hecht said he has run six primary campaigns for the high court, and it’s not uncommon for candidates to buy TV ads.
As of Jan. 23, Hecht had $26,211 left in his war chest, according to the reports.
Hecht’s opponent in the Republican primary, Robert Talton, raised $30,000—all from seven lawyers at The Lanier Law Firm—between Nov. 14, 2013, to Jan. 23, 2014.
Talton, attorney at the Woodfill Law Firm in Houston, reported expenditures of $24,808. As of Jan. 23, he had $7,860 left. He also reported a $50 outstanding loan.
Justice Jeff Brown, the incumbent, raised $311,648. Texas Lawyer counted at least 94 attorneys, 79 law firms and seven law firm PACs that contributed. Among others, Brown attracted support from high profile lawyers like Rusty Hardin of Hardin & Associates, who gave $1,000 and Joe Jamail of Jamail & Kolius, who gave $5,000. The most money from a single firm came from Vinson & Elkins, which contributed $23,500.
Among Brown’s total spending of $141,556 were a few interesting expenditures. He spent $3,465 for Facebook advertising. He’s also the only one who paid salary and payroll taxes for a campaign staff member who earns $2,486 monthly.
Another interesting cost: Brown paid attorney fees of $3,300 for representation in a failed ballot challenge by opponent Joe Pool Jr., who alleged some of Brown’s petition signatures to get on the ballot were invalid. 201st District Judge Amy Clark Meachum held a hearing on Jan. 6 and later that day denied Pool’s request for a temporary injunction. [See, "Judge Resolves Ballot Fight in Texas Supreme Court Race," Texas Lawyer, Jan. 13, 2014, page 7.]
The reports show Brown had $213,508 left in his campaign account on Jan. 23. Brown said he plans to buy TV ads.
Pool is general counsel at Trans Texas Holdings Corp. His reports only cover the period of June 18, 2013, through Jan. 23, when he raised $33,100. Six lawyers donated to Pool’s campaign—including five from the Lanier firm—and Pool gave himself $1,100.
Pool’s reports show he paid $11,000 in attorney fees for his ballot challenge to Brown’s candidacy.
Pool has spent $32,222 and he reported nothing left in his war chest.
Incumbent Justice Jeff Boyd is running unopposed in his primary. He has raised $559,973 in donations. Among his donors are at least 78 firms and 111 lawyers. Among the law firms or their PACs from which he received contributions are Andrews Kurth, Thompson & Knight, Haynes and Boone, Baker Botts, and Bracewell & Giuliani. Plaintiffs lawyers Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm and Tony Buzbee, owner of The Buzbee Law Firm in Houston, their firms and members of their firms gave Boyd’s campaign at least $20,000. Total expenditures were $160,249.
Boyd maintained a war chest of $440,905, which he may need for the general contest in November, where he will face Democratic, Libertarian and Green Party opponents.
Incumbent Justice Phil Johnson raised $338,812 in contributions, including contributions from at least 170 lawyers and 150 law firms or their PACs. Either directly or through their PACs, the following all contributed to Johnson’s campaign: Bickel & Brewer; Beck Redden; Norton Rose Fulbright (formerly known as Fulbright & Jaworski); Baker Botts; Haynes and Boone; and Jackson Walker.
Johnson reported that he had $275,261 left in his war chest.
Johnson’s opponent in the primary, 14th Court of Appeals Justice Sharon McCally, raised $47,750. She also reported a $8,000 loan to herself. She has received contributions from at least 30 law firms or their PACs and 40 lawyers. Among McCally’s contributors: Rusty Hardin, who also serves as her campaign treasurer, and Houston’s Fleming Nolen & Jez.
She spent $15,933 and maintains a war chest of $37,050.