If you’re a CNBC viewer, the promos are inescapable. If you live in Houston, at least, you’ve probably seen the massive billboards – especially the one on the West Loop in the Galleria area.
The name of the prime time TV show is Billion Dollar Buyer. The star of the show is Galveston-born Tilman Fertitta, the sole owner of the Landry’s Restaurant Empire. Forbes has labeled him the “World’s Richest Restaurateur”.
When it comes to making purchases, Fertitta is quite imperial. Already having a portfolio of 500-plus establishments ranging from restaurants to casinos under the Landry’s banner (The Golden Nugget being the crown jewel), Fertitta added the Houston Rockets to his list of possessions when he and former owner Leslie Alexander reached agreement on a selling price of a record $2.2 billion for an NBA franchise.
In support of all those Landry’s properties, the company has to make massive supply purchases. Thus, the premise of the CNBC TV show, Billion Dollar Buyer.
Small business owners get their shot to win the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if they have what Fertitta wants to buy for his properties. Whether salt and pepper shakers, or light fixtures, if a vendor is able to close a deal with Fertitta, a seven-figure purchase order can make a little struggling company into an instant success. It’s mere pocket change for the Billion Dollar Buyer.
Anyone that follows Texas politics and recognizes the plutocratic nature of Texas government, can’t be surprised by the news that Fertitta does his share of politician purchasing, too. However, it’s where his money goes, to which politicians it goes, that will make the liberty-driven Texan shudder from the yuckiness.
In part one of what we think will be a three-part series, we first look at the personal political contributions of Tilman Fertitta – those separate from the massive Landry’s Political Action Committee.
In comparison to the pages and pages of financial contributions recorded by the Texas Ethics Commission (TEC) for Landry’s PAC, Fertitta’s name as an individual donor is a slim one page spreadsheet with only 14 entries between the years 2000-2016. Yet, it’s revealing.
Fertitta started small with a tiny $500 donation to former Democrat State Rep. Patricia Gray from Galveston County in 2000. But he hadn’t yet reached financial critical mass, professionally.
In 2001 he donated another $500 to a League City councilman, Tad Nelson. Nelson is a Galveston County DWI lawyer that was arrested in 2007 for misdemeanor assault and public intoxication, according to Chron.com, for allegedly slugging a woman in a bar parking lot.
Then in 2007, Fertitta began to up his plutocratic game. He started with a $100,000 donation to the Texans for Economic Development PAC.
His favorite pol to financially sponsor early on, personally, was former State Rep. Craig Eiland (D-Galveston). In 2010 Fertitta tossed a cool $50,000 into Eiland’s campaign. In ’08, Fertitta took care of the bill for two $600 helicopter tours for Eiland.
In ’14 and ’15, Fertitta liked State Rep. Harold “Do Nothin’” Dutton (D-Houston RER24) to the tune of two $1,000 contributions. He also gave $1,000 tip money to State Rep. Mary Ann Perez (D-Pasadena RER12).
Two Pink Dome RINOs received the favor of the Billion Dollar Buyer. Long-time State Rep. Gary Elkins (R-Houston RER72) harvested $2,500 from Fertitta between 2014 and 2016.
And, how could this NOT be a part of the report. Yes, Fertitta donated $1,000 to State Rep. Sarah “Planned Parenthood” Davis (R-West University RER36) in 2014.
Since 2000, the farthest back the TEC reports publish online financial reports, Fertitta made personal political contributions totaling $158,700. Remove the $100,000 donation to the PAC, and what remains is $54,700 went to identifiable Democrats from 2000 to 2016.
In part 2 of the Billion Dollar Buyer series, RER will take a deep dive into the massive sums of cash pumped out to officeholders through the Landry’s PAC.
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