Unmasking Vouchers: Abbott’s Out-of-State Fundraising Haul 

The sources of a politician’s campaign donations say a lot about their priorities and the interests to which they are beholden. As we have covered previously, Texas is awash in outside money seeking to influence our politics, and Gov. Greg Abbott is a primary beneficiary. 

Abbott is known as one of the most prolific fundraisers in Texas politics, and his recent campaign finance reports show that his so-far fruitless campaign for private school vouchers is being powered by wealthy donors and out-of-state billionaires.  

Over the past six months, Abbott’s campaign saw an influx of $19 million in donations, according to his latest filing with the Texas Ethics Commission this month. Abbott’s fundraising haul included a $6 million donation from a pro-voucher Pennsylvania billionaire, a donation that his campaign has called “the largest in Texas history.”  

This out-of-state billionaire seeking to influence Texas politics is Jeff Yass, co-founder and managing director of the investment firm Susquehanna International Group. With an estimated net worth of nearly $29 billion, Yass has been called the wealthiest person in Pennsylvania and is a top proponent of “school choice” or private school voucher programs. Yass previously donated $250,000 to Abbott in October while the debate over vouchers was still being waged in legislative special sessions. 

The potential impact of this unprecedented donation by an out-of-state, pro-voucher billionaire is deeply concerning given the influence Abbott seeks to buy in the Texas House of Representatives this primary election cycle. 

Throughout 2023, Abbott made repeated calls for the passage of voucher legislation, and he has committed to supporting primary challengers to Republicans who did not support his pro-voucher agenda. With this infusion bringing the governor’s total cash on hand to approximately $38 million, Abbott’s campaign manager stated that he intends to back candidates who support “expanding school choice.” Of the 21 House Republicans who joined Democrats to defeat vouchers in November, Abbott has endorsed primary challengers to seven of those running for reelection thus far. 

The fact that Abbott received the largest single campaign donation in Texas history from an out-of-state billionaire and top proponent of vouchers makes it clear that money and power are playing a major role in the push for vouchers, and that the governor’s personal agenda is overshadowing what is best for our students and our public schools.  

The push for vouchers in Texas is not a grassroots movement but a well-funded astroturf campaign. It’s up to all of us to use our power to oppose the corrupting influence of this outside money and protect our Texas public schools.  

With a round of important primary elections in March, it’s vitally important  that we work to support pro-public education candidates and build pro-public education majorities in the Texas Legislature. Stay tuned for updates from Texas AFT about the candidates our union is endorsing in the March primary elections and opportunities for you to make a difference.