An alliance of heavy-hitting donors is closing in on a goal of raising $25 million for the 2022 election cycle, looking to build lasting infrastructure for the state’s progressives as Texas Democrats continue to fight for a way back to power.
The Texas Future Project told The Texas Tribune it has raised or gotten pledges for over $23 million, money that benefits over a dozen groups that are largely focused on organizing around certain issues or get-out-the-vote efforts for specific constituencies. The Texas Future Project started nearly a decade ago, but the $25 million would be the most funding it has raised in a single election cycle so far — and a strong sign, it says, that Democratic donors still see promise in Texas.
“The biggest thing here is when folks look at Texas, I think a lot of people understand there’s a sustained investment [from the right],” said Delilah Agho-Otoghile, executive director of Texas Future Project. “I don’t think that a lot of people understand it’s [also] on the left.”
“There are funders that are doubling down,” she added.
The list of the Texas Future Project’s beneficiaries include groups like Annie’s List and Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, which work to elect more Democratic women who support abortion rights. There’s Jolt and LUPE Votes, which are focused on building more Latino political power, especially among young people. And there are beneficiaries affiliated with the labor movement, like the Workers Defense Project and Texas Organizing Project.
Beneficiaries also include MOVE Texas, Afiya Center, OCA-Greater Houston, Battleground Texas, Texas Freedom Network, Texas Civil Rights Project, One APIA Texas, AVOW, Transgender Education Network of Texas and Radical Registrars.
The effort is coming at an unsure juncture for Texas Democrats, who had high hopes for a historic breakthrough in 2020 — and received the national funding to make it possible — but came up very short. Now, Beto O’Rourke is fueling optimism for Democrats in the governor’s race, but he remains an underdog and Republican-led redistricting has curtailed down-ballot opportunities, especially in a national environment that favors the GOP.
Agho-Otoghile, who ran O’Rourke’s 2020 presidential campaign in Texas, said Texas Future Project’s funders are undeterred by the current headwinds, noting that part of the group’s mission is understanding “the wins will not be cycle-to-cycle.” She pointed to four “pillars” that donors are focused on: voter registration, voter contact, candidate recruitment and issue advocacy.
The Texas Future Project’s membership list is anonymous, but it revealed several funders to the Tribune. Amber Mostyn, the longtime Democratic donor from Houston, is co-founder and board chair. Other individual funders include another prominent Democratic donor from Houston, David Lee, as well as a top Democratic contributor from Dallas, Naomi Aberly.
Groups funding the Texas Future Project include Way to Win, the Texas AFL-CIO, the Stardust Fund, the Movement Voter Project and the Heising-Simons Action Fund.
The group is set up as a non-tax-exempt corporation in which members are required to give a certain amount of money on a regular basis. The group then advises donors on the best way to spend their money with partner organizations.
The group sees itself as an unrivaled “convener” in the state, calling itself the “only statewide entity that holds collective space for donors and organizations to align program and strategy.” It has drawn comparisons to the Democracy Alliance, a national coalition of major progressive donors.
There is not a precise parallel to the Texas Future Project on the GOP side, but Texas Republicans have long had ample options for high-dollar fundraising. Groups like Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign, Texans for Lawsuit Reform and the Associated Republicans of Texas all draw millions of dollars for GOP causes.
In the short term, Texas Future Project believes its coordination with so many groups benefits candidates everywhere.
In an election cycle like this one, “you need a few things to go right,” Agho-Otoghile said. “Make sure folks are talking, make sure we’re not duplicating efforts [and] make sure our groups are collaborating with one another.”
Disclosure: MOVE Texas, Planned Parenthood, Texans for Lawsuit Reform, Texas Freedom Network, Afiya Center, Amber Anderson Mostyn, David Lee and the Lebowitz Aberly Family Foundation 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.