Fredericksburg, Arlington, and Austin, October 17 – Two additional Republican members of the Texas House of Representatives have called upon Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen to resign after Empower Texans Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Quinn Sullivan released the full tape recording of the June 12, 2019, meeting during which Bonnen offered a “quid pro quo” to Sullivan in return for only targeting certain Republican members of the House for re-election and not others in the 2020 Republican Primary Election.
State Representative Kyle Biedermann, Republican of Fredericksburg, issued a statement on Tuesday, October 15, 2019:
“We had the best of hopes for this new Speaker and a shared Conservative agenda. Today is a sad day for Texas. It was with a heavy heart that I called on the Speaker to resign months ago. All Texans now know that Dennis Bonnen created a double standard for all of his colleagues, and lied repeatedly to each of us when he was caught. This has proven the worst about Texas politics in a time when we sorely need more from our elected officials. We must take swift action to replace the current leadership and restore the public trust in the Texas House and in the Republican caucus.”
Yesterday, Wednesday, October 16, 2019, State Representative Tony Tinderholt, Republican of Arlington, said in a press release, “The Texas House cannot tolerate deception from our leaders. While difficult to hear every part of the discussion, I listened to the recording but did not get the full effect until actually reading it today. The written transcript reveals that our Speaker deliberately lied on repeated occasions to members of the Texas House, the media, and every Texan.”
Tinderholt continued, “While an investigation is currently underway, it is not up to the Texas Rangers to decide whether [House Speaker] Dennis Bonnen is fit to remain Speaker of the House. Regardless of their findings, I (along with many constituents in House District 94) feel he should resign.”
Tinherholt accused Bonnen specifically of a “cover up.” He said, “The cover up designed by him and his team has done significant damage to the House GOP Caucus, the Republican Party, and internal House member relationships. In order to restore significant trust and confidence in the people’s Legislature, we must move forward with a change in House leadership.”
State Representative Steve Toth, Republican of Conroe, commented, “Speaker Bonnen needs to resign as Speaker immediately. Based on the recording alone, it’s clear Speaker Bonnen has not been truthful about his meeting with Mr. Sullivan. Speaker Bonnen not only provided a list but he made an offer by stating, ‘And let me tell you what I’ll do for you — real quick, you need to hear what I want to do for you.’
Even after Michael Quinn Sullivan said he didn’t need anything, Speaker Bonnen doubled down, “Well, no, you do. You do. If we can make this work. I’ll put your guys on the floor next session.” Bonnen referred to giving press credentials to the press correspondents of the “Texas Scorecard,” the Empower Texans blog.
Speaker Bonnen used the word “list” and referred to it multiple times; something he has denied on several occasions. “He (referring to Dustin Burrows) has some folks — because the Speaker of the House shouldn’t tell you some folks to go pop, but he has some folks,” Toth explained.
The June 12, 2019, meeting between Dennis Bonnen, the Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, and Empower Texans Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Quinn Sullivan in Bonnen’s office in the Texas State Capitol involved a discussion in which Bonnen offered to allow Empower Texans’ online blog correspondents to obtain press credentials to the Texas Legislature in return for Sullivan’s promise to “lay off our criticism of the legislative session, not spend money from our affiliated PACs against certain Republicans, and—most shockingly—go after a list of other Republicans in the 2020 primary elections,” as Sullivan described it. State Representative Dustin Burrows, Republican of Lubbock, who was the House GOP Caucus Chairman and a close political ally of Bonnen, but has since resigned as Caucus Chairman, attended the June 12 meeting with Bonnen and Sullivan.
State Representative Steve Toth, Republican of Conroe said, “The tape recording, which Michael [Quinn Sullivan] played was vile and incredibly damaging. The rhetoric Speaker Bonnen used during the meeting was terrible about both sides.” Toth continued, “Speaker Bonnen said some terrible things about democrats and Republicans in the House.”
At the end of the June 12 meeting Bonnen left his office in the Texas State Capitol where they met and Burrows read a list of ten (10) Republican State Representatives whom Bonnen wanted Empower Texans and its political action committees to target in return for press credentials for the “Texas Scorecard” blog reporters. The list, according to Sullivan, was 10 Republican Representatives – Steve Allison, Trent Ashby, Ernest Bailes, Travis Clardy, Drew Darby, Kyle Kacal, Stan Lambert, John Caney, and Phil Stephenson.
On June 27, 2019, Bonnen issued a letter to Sullivan, which such letter Bonnen released publicly, in which the Speaker denied Sullivan’s version of the meeting. Speaker Bonnen’s letter follows.
Sullivan had tape-recorded the entire meeting, however.
Bonnen’s conduct may have skirted very close to violating Texas Penal Code Section 36.02, the Texas Bribery Statute, which provides, “A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly offers, confers, or agrees to confer on another, or solicits, accepts, or agrees to accept from another: (1) any benefit as consideration for the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote, or other exercise of discretion as a public servant, party official, or voter.”
According to a blog post on July 31, 2019, in the Texas Scorecard, Sullivan announced, “I recorded the meeting with Speaker Bonnen because of his history.” Subsequent events certainly have borne that out.
Sullivan released the June 12 meeting recording yesterday.