Texas Democrats who fled the state in order to block a GOP voting bill may have already raised more than enough funds to cover their expenses.
The political action committee Powered By People, founded by former presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, raised over $526,000 from over 14,000 individual donors to cover the representatives’ expenses, representatives told the Wall Street Journal.
Powered By People was originally founded in 2020 to support Texas Democrats after O’Rourke dropped out of the race. The PAC was repurposed after Texas Democrats fled the state on Monday to deny the GOP a quorum and traveled to Washington to rally support for federal voting rights legislation. The PAC’s website now calls on donors to “pitch in” so Democrats “have the resources” to “take the fight to the U.S. Senate.”
The $526,000 alone could fund the Democrats’ stay in Washington until the end of Texas’s special legislative session. A rough estimate of the expenses to be incurred by the stay can be found from one Democrat’s plea for donations.
“Every day we are away costs $10,000 for hotel and meals,” State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer wrote in a post pinned to the top of his Twitter feed. “Can you chip in $10 or more to support our fight against voter suppression?”
Assuming they stay in the capital for the remainder of the special legislative session that began on July 8, and Governor Abbott does not cancel the session, the Democrats will need to cover 26 days of expenses. If Martinez Fischer’s estimate for daily expenses is accurate, Democrats will incur roughly $260,000 in hotel and meal expenses if they remain for 26 days. (In a story for the Washington Post, the caucus asked not to identify the hotel they were using for security reasons.)
The Texas House Democratic Caucus also chartered two private flights from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to Washington. The cost of each of the flights could be between $35,000-$50,000, Doug Gollan, founder of charter plane blue book Private Jet Card Comparisons, told National Review.
Coupled with the cost of the flights, the entire trip could end up costing between $330,000 and $360,000.
While Governor Greg Abbott accused the lawmakers of using taxpayer funds, Martinez Fischer said the flights were paid for with private funds.
“We raised this money privately. This was a House Democratic Caucus privately fund raised and private expenditures [sic],” Martinez Fischer said on CNN on Tuesday. “The hotels we’re staying in tonight—I’m paying for, for the entire group out of my campaign account, so this is not a government junket.”
While the lawmakers are unlikely to permanently prevent passage of the GOP’s election integrity bill, the trip may end up paying off in the form of publicity and donations. The Texas House Democratic Caucus will gain national exposure and some individual members, like Martinez Fischer, will get their time in the spotlight.