Washington, D.C. – Two low-profile Texas brothers have donated $15 million to support Sen. Ted Cruz, a record-setting contribution that amounts to the largest known donation so far in the 2016 presidential campaign. Farris and Dan Wilks, billionaires who made their fortunes in the West Texas fracking boom, have given $15 million of the $38 million that the pro-Cruz super PAC, Keep the Promise, will disclose in the election fillings next week, according to sources outside the super PAC with knowledge of the giving.
The siblings earned their riches with the sale of their company Frac Tech for $3.5 billion in 2011, and since then have shuffled large contributions to the leading social conservative nonprofit groups that aren’t required to reveal their donors. But they will no longer be able to avoid detection after giving a historically large and early donation that will now make the brothers two of America’s most prominent political donors.
“Our country was founded on the idea that our rights come from the Creator, not the government. I’m afraid we’re losing that,” Farris Wilks, a 63-year-old pastor in the small town of Cisco, said in a statement to CNN. “Unless we elect a principled conservative leader ready to stand up for our values, we’ll look back on what was once the land of opportunity and pass on a less prosperous nation to our children and grandchildren. That’s why we need Ted Cruz.”
Friends and associates of the Wilks brothers say they are unaffected and unassuming, depicting them as hometown-loving Texans who morphed into billionaires over the course of a decade. Intensely private, those close to the pair say they are nervous about the spotlight that will shine on their church and their family thanks to the donations.
Driven mostly by their opposition to abortion and their fear that their religious sect – which interprets every word of the Bible literally – is under attack, Dan and Farris Wilks have slowly become more accustomed to funding campaigns. As recent billionaires, however, they haven’t yet risen to the profile of the other conservative siblings that have revolutionized outside spending: the Koch Brothers.
Born to a poor family that once lived in a former goat shed, Farris and Dan Wilks spent their careers as brick-builders with their own masonry business. In 2002, they founded Frac Tech, which became one of the best positioned companies to capitalize on the growth of fracking, a controversial practice that involves the removal of natural gas or oil from rock formations.