This story was co-published with the Daily Beast and the Houston Chronicle.
Throughout the booms and busts of his Fort Worth oil empire and during his brother’s notorious murder trial, Kenneth W. Davis Jr. largely kept to himself. At 89, he still does. He puts in full workdays at his small downtown office, with drapes drawn against the North Texas sun. He usually dines at an exclusive club across the street, often alone, using distinctive silverware set aside just for him.
Davis has long shut out politics, too. He remembers voting only three times – for Eisenhower, Goldwater and Reagan. Yet last year he thrust himself into the public eye by starting his own super PAC.
His group, Vote2ReduceDebt, aimed to move the needle in eight key U.S. Senate races by energizing disengaged conservative voters. It spent almost $3 million to boost Republican candidates in the 2014 midterm election – ranking it among the top right-leaning groups of its kind.
But now it’s dead in the water, with its main operatives expelled amid questions about where the money went.
Even within the free-wheeling world of U.S. campaign finance, Vote2ReduceDebt stands out as a cautionary tale for donors, activists and voters.
Since the Supreme Court helped open the gates with the Citizens United ruling, unprecedented millions have flowed into super PACs, groups that can accept political donations of unlimited dollar amounts.