Dade Phelan’s presumptive speakership of the Texas House has already raised eyebrows, given his support for left-wing social causes and questionable commitment to law enforcement. But an upcoming fundraiser for Phelan is sure to raise eyebrows further.
According to an event invitation seen by Texas Scorecard, Houston Rockets owner Tilmann Fertitta will host a fundraiser for Phelan on November 30 at the former’s Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston. According to its website, the Post Oak is Houston’s only five-star hotel, where rooms start at $467 per night. Tickets to Fertitta’s event with Phelan range from $1,000 for an individual to $25,000 for so-called “platinum” hosts.
Fertitta, a billionaire business tycoon and the grandson of organized crime figures from Galveston, has a history of controversy—namely, his suspiciously favorable business deals in the 1980s that elevated him to prominence, and his role as the University of Houston’s Regent chairman during the school’s 2018 decision to hire football coaches linked to the Baylor University sexual assault scandal.
Fertitta, who owns numerous casinos, has also lobbied for the state legislature to legalize gambling, and he is currently a member of Gov. Greg Abbott’s task force on reopening Texas after the coronavirus.
More notably, Fertitta attracted national attention during the 2019 controversy over the NBA’s relationship with the Chinese dictatorship. Then-Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey made a seemingly innocuous tweet of support for pro-constitutional liberties protests in Hong Kong, but following economic threats from the Chinese dictatorship, Fertitta publicly threw Morey under the bus:
Listen….@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization. @espn https://t.co/yNyQFtwTTi
— Tilman Fertitta (@TilmanJFertitta) October 5, 2019
Lest there be any doubt about where Fertitta stands on China, he doubled down on his position at a White House meeting in May:
The interaction between Tilman Fertitta and President Donald Trump about #Rockets GM Daryl Morey
Fertitta: “You know, it’s funny you brought up about China. I should have realized it was gonna be a bad year for China when my general manager tweeted out “Freedom for Hong Kong.” pic.twitter.com/oywIGoDgsW
— Alykhan Bijani (@Rockets_Insider) May 18, 2020
In addition, Fertitta’s support for Phelan is noteworthy, given the NBA’s recent infatuation with anti-law enforcement activism.
Members of the Texas House of Representatives will officially vote for their next speaker on January 12, 2021.