Questions began last year about whether Beto O’Rourke, then a Democratic congressman from El Paso, would run for president. No matter that he was still in the midst of challenging Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
In that race, O’Rourke started out as a long shot. But despite rejecting money from political action committees, O’Rourke nevertheless shattered U.S. Senate campaign fundraising records. He did so on the strength of contributions from small-dollar donors around the country.
And beginning today, O’Rourke will attempt a feat not accomplished since Rep. James Garfield ascended to the presidency: go from the U.S. House directly to the White House without another political stop in between.
“This is going to be a positive campaign that seeks to bring out the very best from every single one of us, that seeks to unite a very divided country,” O’Rourke said in a video announcing his presidential bid. “We can begin by fixing our democracy.”
Here’s more on O’Rourke’s political and financial history:
Between January 2017 and the end of 2018, O’Rourke’s Senate campaign committee pulled in a staggering $80.3 million. No Senate candidate has ever raised so much money during one election.
O’Rourke’s third quarter 2018 haul — $38 million — shattered records for fundraising in a single quarter by a Senate campaign. At various points, he said the average contribution to his campaign was about $47.
About $25 million — the bulk of contributions of $200 or more — to O’Rourke’s Senate committee came from Texas donors, according to the Federal Election Commission.
During the 2018 election cycle, about $45 million of the contributions to O’Rourke were processed by ActBlue, a payment platform available to Democrats. ActBlue discloses location and occupation information about all donors, including those contributing $200 or less — something the FEC itself doesn’t require. Half of the contributions via ActBlue came from Texas donors and half came from out of state, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of ActBlue data disclosed to the Federal Election Commission.
O’Rourke’s personal financial disclosures show that he and his wife, Amy, had a net worth of about $8.9 million, according to calculations by the Center for Responsive Politics, which ranked him the 52nd wealthiest member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the last Congress.
Before his election to Congress, O’Rourke founded a software and technology company called Stanton Street. In March 2017, right when O’Rourke announced his Senate bid, his wife, Amy, sold her shares in the company for an amount between $250,001 and $500,000, according to O’Rourke’s personal financial disclosure report.
In 2013, O’Rourke drew ethics scrutiny for participating in Twitter’s initial public offering, a possible violation of a law prohibiting members of Congress from participating in IPOs in a manner "other than is available to members of the public generally," according to a memo from the House Ethics Committee. After consultation with the House Ethics Committee, O’Rourke said he resolved the matter by selling his shares and sending a check for all the profits to the U.S. Treasury.
Despite O’Rourke’s opposition to PACs, some of his supporters have been forming them with the goal of drafting him into the presidential campaign. The groups, which can serve as a campaign-in-waiting, have been rallying support and hiring strategists in early states. But perhaps in deference to O’Rourke’s position on big money in politics, they have not yet formed a pro-O’Rourke super PAC, which could raise and spend unlimited amounts of money.
In 2017, O’Rourke road-tripped from Texas to D.C. with U.S. Rep. Will Hurd, a Republican member of the Texas delegation. The political odd couple livestreamed the trip, using it to promote bipartisanship. The trip drew so much attention, the pair was invited to speak at the Aspen Ideas Festival in 2017, federal travel disclosure filings show.
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