Governor Greg Abbott has made school vouchers his political white whale. However, unlike Captain Ahab, Abbott is backed by some astounding amounts of money from very rich voucher advocates.
The number one individual contributor to Abbott according to the latest data from Transparency USA is also the richest man in Pennsylvania, Jeff Yass. The co-founder of Susquehanna International Group (SIG), he made headlines by giving Abbott $6 million in December, which Abbott calls the single largest donation in Texas history.
Yass is also one of the nation’s largest proponents of using taxpayer money to send students to private, mostly religious schools. He is a vocal opponent of teaching history if it includes acknowledgment of institutional white supremacy (often erroneously referred to as “critical race theory”) and has poured $15 million into pushing for vouchers in his home state.
Another big donor is William “Leslie” Doggett, who has donated over $1 million to Abbott. Doggett’s net worth is unknown, but he is the president of a billion-dollar equipment company. He is also listed as a co-chair of the Kinkaid School, a $34,000 a year private academy in Houston that would benefit a great deal from public funds being diverted to it.
Sadly, Kinkaid is a good example of many of the concerns opponents of vouchers have. The school was found to have staff that sexually abused students over a period of 30 years. Private schools often have far less oversight than public schools, with many families afraid to speak out over fear of losing their place.
Ross Perot Jr.—son of the former presidential candidate and chairman of the Perot Group—kicked in $250,000 to Abbott’s war chest in 2023. He contributed that same amount to the pro-voucher PAC Texans for Educational Freedom.
Combined, this makes up nearly $8 million directly to Abbott, about a fifth of his total cash-on-hand as of this moment. That may not sound like a lot but remember that Abbott is not running for office again until 2026 at the earliest. His funds aren’t being used for his own political future.
Instead, Abbott is tackling a campaign of political vengeance. After spending most of the year and working hard to sway rural House Republicans to his voucher dream, it died an ignoble death in the lower chamber. Stung, Abbott swore to use his clout to unseat those Republicans who defied him.
This vow came in a period of intense pressure from mega donors to push the legislature even further to the right. Despite achieving several Republican priority goals like the near-total ban on abortion, many donors felt that House Republicans had failed to completely cement a total conservative takeover of the government.
It’s likely that much of the money raised by Abbott will go into endorsing and supporting challengers to the 21 Republicans that voted against his voucher plan. He has several very wealthy patrons who are clearly willing to dump huge money into that specific goal. With the March primary looming, expect to see Abbott’s cash on full display.