The 2 Billionaires Funding Ted Cruz Makes Him More Powerful Than Ever

( On Sunday night, CNN premiered a new documentary called “Deep in the Pockets of Texas,” which is focused on Senator Ted Cruz’s ties to billionaires in his home state.

The documentary traced back the full money trail from a group of billionaires in Texas to the political shift to the far right the state’s political officials have taken in recent years. According to the documentary, two of those people have been responsible for roughly two-thirds of the funding from super PACs that supported the 2016 presidential campaign of Cruz.

Republicans have dominated the political scene in Texas for almost 30 years now. It all started when George W. Bush took down the incumbent Democratic Governor Ann Richards back in 1994

Since then, though, there has been a quick and significant shift to the far right in terms of ideology. The CNN documentary attributed much of this to Farris Wilks and Tim Dunn, two Texans from the western part of the state who have earned billions in the oil industry with fracking.

As Ed Lavandera, the senior national correspondent for CNN, pointed out in the documentary, those two men — as well as members of their immediately family — have poured millions into campaigns to support conservative PACs and candidates directly in races all over Texas in the last 10 years.

Campaign finance laws in Texas don’t have limits on donations if given to candidates for state office. This has allowed Wilks and Dunn to give out these millions of dollars both directly to the candidates and also indirectly through PACs. CNN’s analysis showed that their donations alone made up a majority of the contributions for certain candidates.

In the documentary, a long-time political reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bud Kennedy, was interviewed. In it, he said:

“I don’t think regular Texans are as conservative as their elected officials.”

At the same time, Kennedy said he didn’t believe that most Texans knew only a “handful” of very rich men have such a strong influence over so many different members of the state Legislature.

Lavandera claimed in the documentary that Wilks and his brother as well as Dunn have leveraged the wealth they have to gain significant influence in Texas politics. He said it’s tough to fathom that “a handful of billionaires” could be able to pull something like that off in Texas, where there are 30 million residents.

As Kennedy commented:

“I don’t think anybody can identify any other reason — it’s that money that’s pushing Texas to the far right. The districts are so big and sprawling it’s impossible to find somebody that everybody knows. So, you have the West Texas money that comes in and hand picks a candidate nobody’s ever heard of, and they put $2 million into a campaign and they beat all the local candidates.”

Not all Republicans in the state are in favor of what’s happening, either. Kel Seliger, a Republican state Senator, for example, compared the politics in Texas to what’s going on in Russia. He said:

“It’s a Russian-style oligarchy, pure and simply. Really, really wealthy people who are willing to spend a lot of money to get policy made the way they want it — and they get it.”