AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas appeals court on Friday dismissed a billionaire’s defamation lawsuit against Democrat Beto O’Rouke that was brought after O’Rourke criticized a $1 million campaign contribution to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.
The ruling by the Third Court of Appeals in Austin comes more than a year after O’Rourke repeatedly made critical remarks about the donation during a failed run for governor, at one point saying that it “looks like a bribe to me.”
The contribution came from Kelcy Warren, chairman of pipeline company Energy Transfer, which reported about $2.4 billion in earnings related to the catastrophic February 2021 winter storm that sent natural gas prices soaring in Texas.
Warren, a major Republican donor, accused O’Rourke of trying to humiliate him and discourage other Abbott supporters from making campaign donations.
In the court’s opinion, Chief Justice Darlene Byrne wrote that a reasonable person would view O’Rourke’s statements as “the type of rhetorical hyperbole that is commonplace in political campaigns.”
Dean Pamphilis, an attorney for Warrren, said the decision would be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.
Abbott’s campaign said at the time that it was not involved in the lawsuit. The governor went on to easily beat O’Rourke and win a third term.