AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas appeals court on Friday dismissed a billionaire libel lawsuit against Democrat Beto O’Rouke that was brought after O’Rourke criticized a campaign contribution from a million dollars to Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
The decision by Austin’s Third Court of Appeals comes more than a year after O’Rourke repeatedly made critical remarks about the donation during a failed gubernatorial run, at one point claiming that it “looked like a bribe to me”.
The contribution came from Kelcy Warren, president of pipeline company Energy Transfer, who reported about $2.4 billion in revenue related to February 2021’s catastrophic winter storm that pushed up natural gas prices 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 view, Chief Justice Darlene Byrne wrote that a reasonable person would view O’Rourke’s statements as “the type of rhetorical hyperbole that is common in political campaigns.”
Abbott’s campaign said at the time that it was not involved in the lawsuit. The governor easily defeated O’Rourke and won a third term.