FEC reports show overwhelming Trump support by TCU trustees
As we wonder why the TCU Board of Trustees continues to include Rep. Roger Williams — a Texas Republican who has been pushing conspiracy theories about election fraud that emboldened right-wing insurrectionists last week, and then voted twice to overturn the election hours after their siege of the Capitol building — I thought I’d do what we teach journalists to do in our college: Follow the money.
Rep. Williams is an alum who played baseball for TCU, and he is one of the wealthiest members of Congress. He’s also one of 48 members of the TCU Board of Trustees, which have long supported his political career. Looking at reports from the Federal Election Commission, at least 19 trustees have contributed to Williams’ campaigns since 2011. And, as the Fort Worth Star-Telegram noted in a recent story, our chancellor, Victor Boschini, has contributed nearly $7,000 to Rep. Williams as well over the years.
Just how much has the board supported Rep. Williams? And how much did they give to either presidential candidate or party in the past election cycle? Using the contributions database at FEC.gov, I searched each member of the TCU Board of Trustees by first and last name and the city listed on the roster on the TCU Board of Trustees web page.
Some had common names or multiple cities of residence, so I dug deeper into those, sometimes needing to use their employer or business affiliation to find them. This was the best I could do with the information I had. While I’m not 100 percent certain on a couple of names that didn’t provide much info to the FEC, those names were also only minor contributors at most, a few hundred dollars here and there.
I know the numbers aren’t perfect — for example, the searches turned up more than the max individual campaign contributions ($2,800) to Donald J. Trump for President for a couple of board members. I’m no campaign contribution expert and don’t know if that’s a loophole or a mistake of some kind. I’m just reporting what’s listed by the FEC.
Overall, here’s what I found, looking at contributions since the 2018 midterm elections:
The board actively contributes to political causes: 31 of the 48 members made a campaign donation in the current election cycle. Including hundreds of small donations, they made a combined 955 contributions for a total of $1.63 million.
The board donated about 150 times more to Republican candidates and causes than Democratic candidates and causes: Of that $1.63 million, about $1.57 million went to Republicans. Only a little more than $10,000 went to Democrats. The rest went to PACs that do not have an obvious political bent, typically affiliated with their employers or business.
The board overwhelmingly favored Donald Trump for president: Between his official campaign (Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.) and PACs named for him (Trump Victory, Trump Make American Great Again Committee), Donald Trump’s re-election effort received more than $515,000 in contributions from 11 different TCU trustees. Joe Biden (Biden for President) received only $803.90, all from one board member. The math: TCU trustees gave 635 times more money to Trump and his affiliated PACs than they did to Biden.
The board provided ample support for board member Roger Williams’ campaign: Rep. Williams raised more than $64,000 from 11 fellow trustees in this cycle through contributions to the Roger Williams for U.S. Congress Committee and the Roger for Congress Victory Fund.
The makeup of the TCU board of trustees skews very heavily Republican: This is not a huge surprise, as TCU has a reputation as a conservative university, in a conservative state, in a conservative city and county (even though Beto O’Rourke edged Ted Cruz here in 2018, and Biden received more votes than Trump here in 2020). Overall, 32 of the 48 trustees have made most or all of their campaign contributions to Republican candidates or causes over the past decade, and only 7 favored Democrats, while the remaining had no record of political contributions or only gave to PACs without a clear partisan lean.
Many in the TCU community think Rep. Williams’ behavior reflects poorly on the university since the election. He had his Twitter account suspended for questioning the validity of Joe Biden’s win in November, calling it the “most corrupt election of our lifetime.” Hours after the pro-Trump mob violently assaulted the capitol, he said “we’re actually proud of what we’re doing and what we’re saying” while casting two votes to overturn the election. While he seems to pretend his objections are about election integrity, Rep. Williams disregards the rule of law, ignoring the findings of the dozens of courts and state voting bodies that dismissed every groundless complaint, time and again, about widespread election fraud. There is a straight line between the false voter fraud rhetoric of Rep. Williams and his colleagues and the rioters who took those words to heart last week.
I’ve heard from several alumni and fellow faculty and employees who have expressed dismay at his continued association with the university. Alumni have told me they would no longer donate time or money to TCU as long as he remains on the board, and many have forwarded their concerns to the chancellor.
But it’s not up to the chancellor or academic leadership at TCU to remove Rep. Williams. Ultimately, it is up to the trustees as to who serves on the board. And those trustees have overwhelmingly supported both Rep. Williams and the president he continues to try to keep in power with their campaign contributions.
Hey, why didn’t you list the names of individual donors and their contributions here?
Because even though these are easily searchable public records, I’m not interested in drawing scrutiny to any one board member — at least, not ones who aren’t elected public officials trying to overturn a democratic election. And I don’t want to get accused of doxing them, which is what tends to happen when you tell the world that they’ve been donating to Trump.
Feel free to check my numbers — it’s not that hard to do!