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2023 Texas inauguration raised $4.7 million from donors

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

2023 Texas inauguration raised $4.7 million from donors” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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The 2023 Texas inauguration raised $4.7 million, with top donors coming from the hospitality and energy industries, according to records released Friday, more than five months after the event.

In a Friday afternoon news release, the 2023 inaugural committee released its list of contributors for the festivities, which marked the start of third terms for Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. Inaugural fundraising is unique in Texas politics because unlike campaigns, inaugural committees can accept corporate contributions and are not subject to the same reporting requirements.

The list of contributions added up to $4,651,350 and came from 136 businesses and donors. The previous inauguration raised a record-setting $5.3 million.

At $250,000 each, the top two contributors to the 2023 inauguration were Fertitta Entertainment Inc., the hospitality conglomerate owned by Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta, and Energy Transfer LP, the Dallas-based natural gas pipeline operator.

In second place was H-E-B, the Texas grocery store giant that gave $150,000.

In the news release, the inaugural committee did not comment on its expenses other than to say it “fully compensated the State of Texas for all inauguration-related expenditures.” After the 2019 inauguration, The Texas Tribune sued the committee under the Texas Public Information Act and successfully obtained its bank statements and spending ledger in an out-of-court settlement.

As for the contributors, many were already listed in the inaugural program as either “diamond,” “gold” or “silver” sponsors. However, the program did not specify how much each gave.

Feritta’s involvement is no surprise. He served as chair of the committee and had a front-row seat as Abbott and Patrick were sworn in.

Feritta also is part of a coalition that has been pushing to legalize sports betting in Texas. The bill for that won approval in the House during this year’s regular legislative session but did not get a hearing in the Senate. Patrick, the powerful presiding officer of the Senate, has continued to resist efforts to expand gaming in the state.

Another major gaming interest, Las Vegas Sands, gave $100,000 to the inauguration. It has been leading the charge to legalize casinos in Texas, a proposal that made it to the House floor this spring but could not muster enough support to pass.

As for Energy Transfer LP, its executive chair, Kelcy Warren, has long been a top donor to Texas Republicans. He drew more attention than ever during the 2022 election because he filed a defamation lawsuit against Abbott’s Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke. Earlier this month, a state appeals court dismissed the lawsuit.

Other corporate names that gave big to the inauguration included AT&T, Cintra, Devon Energy and the Williams Brothers Construction Co. They were among 13 inaugural donors that each gave $100,000.

Disclosure: AT&T, Energy Transfer, H-E-B and Las Vegas Sands Corp. have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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