Texas Republican politics ‘is a Russian-style oligarchy, pure and simple’

Texas Republican politics ‘is a Russian-style oligarchy, pure and simple’

July 26, 2022 0 By Ellen Novack

Campaign Action

A Republican state legislator who hasn’t fallen in line with Dunn and Wilks put it in stark terms. “It is a Russian-style oligarchy, pure and simple,” state Sen. Kel Seliger said. “Really, really wealthy people who are willing to spend a lot of money to get policy made the way they want it—and they get it.” Seliger took money from Dunn in 2004, but since split with the Dunn/Wilks line over education: Seliger continues to support the existence of public education, while Dunn and Wilks want to essentially dismantle public education and replace it with vouchers—vouchers that can be spent at private religious schools. 

A Republican activist who couldn’t go along with that extreme agenda on education said of Wilks, “The goal is to tear up, tear down public education to nothing and rebuild it.” And, lest it is unclear, the plan is not just to rebuild it: “And rebuild it the way God intended education to be.”

A state senator primaried out of office by a Dunn- and Wilks-backed candidate said the billionaires “want to destroy the public school system as we know it and, in its place, see more homeschooling and more private Christian schools.”

But while public education exists in Texas, Dunn and Wilks are working to make it as exclusionary as possible, and to traumatize kids who don’t fit what they want to see. Their fingerprints are all over many of the worst stories coming out of Texas schools.

The Black high school principal who was fired for opposing systemic racism was first targeted by a former school board candidate who had gotten his largest campaign contributions from Dunn and some of his organizations. 

The author of the bill blocking trans students from playing sports? That was state Rep. Valoree Swanson, who successfully primaried a 14-year incumbent Republican in 2016, in large part powered by money from a political action committee founded by Dunn and also funded by Wilks.

Even where candidates backed by Dunn and Wilks lose, the billionaires often effectively win, with the incumbents they’re primarying moving to the right to survive. Exactly that happened in the gubernatorial race, with already far-right Gov. Greg Abbott embracing even more extreme positions as he faced an ultimately unsuccessful challenger bankrolled to the tune of millions of dollars by Defend Texas Liberty, a PAC funded by Dunn and Wilks.

Texas Republicans were bad enough already. But their sharp move to ever-greater cruelty and opposition to basic human rights has a source, and unfathomable amounts of money propelling it.

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