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Texas Supreme Court declines to revive billionaire’s defamation lawsuit against Beto O’Rourke

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

Texas Supreme Court declines to revive billionaire’s defamation lawsuit against Beto O’Rourke” 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 Texas Supreme Court said Friday it would not consider Republican megadonor Kelcy Warren’s defamation lawsuit against former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke after a state appeals court dismissed it earlier this year.

The all-GOP court denied Warren’s petition for review without comment, bringing an end to the nearly two-year legal saga.

Warren, a Dallas pipeline billionaire, sued O’Rourke in early 2022, saying O’Rourke defamed him with his critical comments about his company’s windfall profits after the Texas energy-grid collapse in February 2021. Warren’s Energy Transfer reportedly made $2.4 billion in profits as demand for gas skyrocketed during the freeze. Warren later gave a $1 million campaign contribution to Abbott, which O’Rourke used to argue Warren was bribing the governor to go easy on the energy industry as lawmakers were considering power-grid reforms.

The case made its way to the all-Democratic 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin, which dismissed it in June, saying O’Rourke’s comments “fell within the bounds of protected speech.”

The next month, Warren’s lawyer asked the state Supreme Court to review the ruling, saying the ruling from the Austin court gave politicians “carte blanche to defame anyone — rich or poor, strong or meek — without recourse.”

The case has long outlived O’Rourke’s campaign for governor, which ended in defeat against GOP Gov. Greg Abbott in November 2022. Abbott’s campaign has said it was not involved in Warren’s lawsuit.

Disclosure: Energy Transfer has been a financial supporter 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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