Energy Transfer co-founder Kelcy Warren claims that Beto O’Rourke erroneously and illegally suggested that he tried to “influence” Texas Gov. Abbott’s energy policy.
Conservative oil tycoon Kelcy Warren has filed a lawsuit against Beto O’Rourke, claiming the Texas gubernatorial candidate defamed him when he claimed that Warren profited from a deadly winter storm.
According to The Texas Tribune, O’Rourke responded to the complaint by saying that Warren is trying to “use his billions of dollars to try to shut me down and shut us up from telling the story of what happened to the people of Texas.”
“We are not backing down,” O’Rourke said, adding that the lawsuit is “frivolous” and without merit.
The Tribune notes that Warren filed his complaint in a San Saba County court last month.
In his lawsuit, Warren accused O’Rourke of leading a “relentless and malicious attack.”
Warren is asking the court to award him more than $1 million in damages for defamation, slander, and libel.
As the Texas Tribune reports, O’Rourke—the presumptive Democratic candidate for Texas governor—has made the February 2021 winter storm a focus of his campaign.
While the storm left millions of Texans without electricity for days, Warren’s Energy Transfer utility reportedly repeated more than $2.4 billion in profits as local demand for oil and gas surged.
Several months later, Warren wrote a $1 million check to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s re-election campaign.
Warren has since defended his actions: in his lawsuit, the Energy Transfer co-founder and chairman said that he has a right to make political contributions to the candidate of his choice, just like other Texas residents.
“Like millions of Americans around the country, Warren exercises his right to make political contributions to the campaigns of candidates whose policies he supports, including incumbent Texas Governor Greg Abbott, to whose campaigns for Governor and Attorney General, Warren has donated in every year since 2010, except 2016,” Warren’s lawsuit states.
According to Warren’s complaint, O’Rourke “slandered him” by suggesting that the $1 million donation was intended to influence Gov. Abbott and prevent an infrastructure overhaul that could jeopardize Energy Transfer’s future profits.
“Defendant O’Rourke intentionally, repeatedly, and widely disseminated his deliberate and defamatory falsehoods through publicly released messages on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites and during speaking engagements and interviews,” the lawsuit says.
Representatives for Warren have said O’Rourke’s comments on the campaign trail show that he does not understand the lawsuit’s allegations.
Energy Transfer spokesperson Vicki Granado, for instance, said Warren is not trying to prevent O’Rourke from speaking about the winter storm.
“[O’Rourke] clearly hasn’t read or doesn’t understand the lawsuit filed personally by Kelcy Warren,” Granado said, adding that Warren only wants to curtail O’Rourke’s “irresponsible, defamatory, and highly offensive statements” from being circulated online and in news media.
“Mr. O’Rourke’s statements are flat-out false, and they appear to have been made for political gain in a desperate attempt to overcome what appears to be a weakening campaign to unseat Governor Abbott,” Granado added.