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Texas Delegation Spends Campaign Cash on White House Hopefuls

Members of Texas' congressional delegation are making their support for presidential candidates known — in thousand-dollar increments from their own campaign accounts.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, speaks to a group of Hillary Clinton supporters at a campaign event held at the hom…

WASHINGTON — Members of Texas' congressional delegation are making their support for presidential candidates known — in thousand-dollar increments from their own campaign accounts

On the Democratic side, U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar of Laredo, Al Green and Gene Green of Houston, and Ruben Hinojosa of Edinburg each contributed $2,000 to Hillary Clinton from their campaign accounts, according to a Texas Tribune review. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, whose twin brother is widely believed to be a vice presidential contender, gave $4,500 in April. 

Among Republicans in the delegation, U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio made a $5,000 donation in May to Ted Cruz's campaign. He also donated $2,000 to Scott Walker's campaign in late August, mere weeks before the GOP Wisconsin governor withdrew from the race. 

U.S. Rep. Joe Barton of Ennis, gave $1,000 to then-candidate Rick Perry in June; Barton, an Aggie friend of Perry's, was the lone member to formally endorse the former Texas governor. 

And U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess of Lewisville donated $2,500 to Cruz's campaign in late September. Burgess endorsed Cruz earlier this year; Smith has not. 

Nothing prevents members of Congress from spending personal cash on candidates. But they can also dip into their campaign and congressional accounts — money they raised to help get re-elected or stay in power — to finance other candidates, including those running for president. 

Members may donate up to $2,000 from their campaign accounts to any given candidate in the primary election and again in the general election. They can donate up to $10,000 from their so-called "leadership PACs" — political action committees created to raise and share money between campaigns. Not all members have leadership PACs. 

In aggregate, these presidential donations from lawmaker campaign accounts currently amount to less than $30,000. But they carry political heft. 

"Getting a contribution from a member of Congress is a show of competitive strength in a competitive primary," Texas Democratic consultant Jason Stanford said.  

This is especially true on the Democratic side, where all members also serve as "super delegates," meaning they have an outsized vote in the presidential nominating process. Having financial skin in the game is a sign of loyalty beyond merely an endorsement; it makes it even more awkward to switch allegiances down the road. 

That said, campaign funds aren't the only way members of Congress have expressed their support for presidential contenders — and endorsements still matter. Democratic Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas and Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, Marc Veasey of Fort Worth and Filemon Vela of Brownsville have endorsed Clinton. Republican U.S. Reps. Brian Babin of Woodville, John Culberson of Houston Louie Gohmert of Tyler, John Ratcliffe of Heath and Randy Weber of Friendswood have all endorsed Cruz. 

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