Texas oil billionaire and GOP donor sues Beto O’Rourke for defamation

Texas oil billionaire and GOP donor sues Beto O’Rourke for defamation

Beto O’Rourke criticized the $1 million donation made to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign after last year’s deadly winter blackout by a Texas oil pipeline billionaire.

That billionaire is now suing O’Rourke, who won the Democratic nomination for governor last week, for defamation, a suit which O’Rourke called “frivolous” during a news conference on Monday.

Court records show that the suit was filed in February in rural West Texas by the donor, Kelcy Warren, who serves as the chairman of Energy Transfer.

The pipeline company last year reported $6.7 billion in net income, which included roughly $2.4 billion in earnings having to do with the catastrophic February 2021 winter storm that swept the state and drove up natural gas prices.

Just four months later, Warren donated $1 million to the Abbot campaign, which was his largest single political contribution in 10 years of donating to GOP candidates in the state.

O’Rourke has used the failure of Texas’ power grid as well as Abbott’s handling of the situation, as a cornerstone for his campaign. He accused the two-term governor of letting energy corporations off the hook by refusing to mandate additional significant industry oversight or weatherization.

He went on to say in a tweet that energy executives “bought off” Abbott, and at times he has singled out Warren, saying during a campaign stop that the donation “looks like a bribe to me.”

The suit filed in San Saba County seeks an unspecified compensation, but it reads, “O’Rourke intended that his malicious and baseless defamatory statements publicly humiliate Warren and discourage others from contributing to Governor Abbott’s campaign.”

A statement by Energy Transfer said the comments by O’Rourke are “flat-out false,” as Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze said their campaign “is no way involved in this lawsuit.”

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