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Warming Up To Anti-Establishment Message, Texas Donors Back Trump


Donald Trump heads to Cruz and Bush country next week. He's going to Texas for a series of fundraisers. Throughout the primary season, Trump boasted he was running a self-funded campaign. He talked about how much he hated super PACs. Texas donors have long had some of the deepest pockets for presidential contenders. And key players in the state, even ones who initially supported other candidates, appear to be falling in line with Trump's campaign now. Gaylord Hughey is one of them. He's an oil and gas attorney in Texas. And he is co-chairing fundraising efforts on behalf of Donald Trump. He joins us now. Welcome to our program.

GAYLORD HUGHEY: Thanks, Linda. I appreciate the opportunity to visit.

WERTHEIMER: You were on Jeb Bush's national finance committee. It's kind of a big switch to move from Jeb Bush to Donald Trump - two very different candidates.

HUGHEY: It is. I had a personal relationship with the Bush family. They called upon me to assist. But Jeb did not make the cut in terms of the Republican nomination process. And I felt like it's my - really, a duty of mine to assist the nominee. And I'm happy to do it.

WERTHEIMER: Well, now, tell me about that. What made you decide that Donald Trump was your guy? What did it for you with Donald Trump?

HUGHEY: Well, it's really a recognition that, as part of the establishment, maybe we were wrong and that there is a populist, organic movement in our country that really focuses on their dissatisfaction with the federal government. And I think that with Hillary Clinton being well-defined as business-as-usual in Washington, I don't think that's good enough. I think it's time for change.

WERTHEIMER: There are people who are suggesting that Donald Trump himself is becoming an establishment candidate, in part because he's got people like you who are raising money for him, who certainly raised money for the establishment in other campaign seasons.

HUGHEY: Be that as it may - and everybody's motivated by, you know, by - in terms of, say, reflection upon their values and what they think and how they want to spend their time and resources. As for me, it's important that I don't stand on the sidelines, that I do pick a side and help move forward the best I can the principles of the Republican Party.

WERTHEIMER: Questions have been raised about Trump's candidacy and some of the things he's said. For example, what do you think about his remarks that the judge in the Trump University case was biased against him because he is, as Mr. Trump said, Mexican? Judge Gonzalo Curiel is of Mexican ancestry. But he was born in Indiana.

HUGHEY: Yeah, I felt it was wrong. I thought it was offensive. And particularly, even from my profession as an attorney, to criticize a federal judge based on a specific case, I did feel like it was appropriate.

WERTHEIMER: Mr. Hughey, you have a lot of heavyweight donors in Texas, the Koch brothers, for example, T. Boone Pickens, who - the oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, as we say in the newspapers. And they're not jumping on board. Why do you think that is?

HUGHEY: Well, you'll have to ask them. And there'll be those that may not participate. But what I'm finding is there's a new group that is energized. It's really a different type of network that do want to contribute. Overall, I think it has a cleansing effect and broadens the perspective of the Republican Party and the donor base that supports it.

WERTHEIMER: Gaylord Hughey is a Texas attorney. measured in the Texas attorney. He is co-chair of Donald Trump's fundraising effort in that state. Thank you very much.

HUGHEY: Thank you, Linda. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.