Sign up for The Brief, our daily newsletter that keeps readers up to speed on the most essential Texas news.
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.”
What you can expect from our elections coverage
How we explain voting
We explain the voting process with election-specific voter guides to help Texans learn what is on the ballot and how to vote. We interview voters, election administrators and election law experts so that we can explain the process, barriers to participation and what happens after the vote is over and the counting begins. Read more here.
How readers inform our work
Instead of letting only politicians set the agenda, we talk to voters and scrutinize polling data to understand ordinary Texans’ top concerns. Our readers’ questions and needs help inform our priorities. We want to hear from readers: What do you better want to understand about the election process in Texas? If local, state or congressional elected officials were to successfully address one issue right now, what would you want it to be? What’s at stake for you this election cycle? If we’re missing something, this is your chance to tell us.
How we hold officials accountable
We do not merely recount what politicians say, but focus on what they do (or fail to do) for the Texans they represent. We aim to provide historical, legal and other kinds of context so readers can understand and engage with an issue. Reporting on efforts that make voting and engaging in our democracy harder is a pillar of our accountability work. Read more here.
How we choose what races to cover
We aren’t able to closely cover all 150 races in the Texas House, 31 in the Texas Senate or 38 for the Texas delegation in the next U.S. House. We need to choose what races we cover closely by using our best judgment of what’s most noteworthy. We take into account factors like power, equity, interest and competitiveness in order to determine what warrants more resources and attention. Read more here.
How we cover misinformation
In reporting on falsehoods and exaggerations, we clearly explain why it is untrue and how it may harm Texans. Sometimes, we choose to not write about misinformation because that can help amplify it. We’re more likely to debunk falsehoods when they are spread by elected officials or used as a justification for policy decisions. Read more here.
“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.
The full program is now LIVE for the 2022 Texas Tribune Festival, happening Sept. 22-24 in Austin. Explore the schedule of 100+ mind-expanding conversations coming to TribFest, including the inside track on the 2022 elections and the 2023 legislative session, the state of public and higher ed at this stage in the pandemic, why Texas suburbs are booming, why broadband access matters, the legacy of slavery, what really happened in Uvalde and so much more. See the program.