In a newly released recording of a secret meeting, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen tells a conservative activist that “we’d love it if you fought” to defeat certain Republicans in the 2020 primaries.
He also offers the activist media access to the Texas House in exchange for his services.
Michael Quinn Sullivan released the approximately hourlong recording of him, Bonnen and Rep. Dustin Burrows of Lubbock on Tuesday morning after months of controversy following Sullivan’s allegations that the lawmakers offered him a quid pro quo at the Capitol in June.
Sullivan alleges that Bonnen and Burrows offered writers for his website media credentials for the next legislative session if he and his affiliated political action group, Empower Texans, refrained from criticizing this year’s legislative session and opposed 10 Republican incumbents in next year’s primary elections. Sullivan’s website, Texas Scorecard, has filed a federal lawsuit over being denied credentials in previous sessions.
“You need to hear what I want to do,” Bonnen said on the recording. “We can make this work. I’ll put your guys on the floor next session.”
The recording reveals that Bonnen and Burrows were interested in meeting with Sullivan to protect favored members, while offering sacrificial lambs from their party.
“I’m trying to win in 2020,” Bonnen told Sullivan at the beginning of the conversation. “Let’s not spend millions of dollars fighting the primaries, when we need to spend millions of dollars trying to win November.”
Wow! How disappointing to see what GOP leadership is doing in Austin. Conservatives have been double crossed by their own elected officials.
Offering A Deal And A List
Bonnen was insistent about making a deal; it was apparently the sole purpose of our meeting; everything else served that purpose. It has left me wondering how many other crooked deals he has made in his 25-year legislative career.
You will recall that Bonnen told legislators and the public he did not have a list of GOP targets. In fact, he was emphatic on this point in a personal letter to every member of his caucus – a statement issued before he was aware the meeting had been recorded.
Dennis Bonnen clearly expected to lie and get away with it.
At numerous points in the meeting Bonnen mentioned specific legislators to target as well as a “list” — that’s the exact word he used — of Republicans to take on. At one point, Bonnen started naming individuals from his list before stopping himself and remembering he had delegated that task to State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock) whom he had invited to the meeting. At the time Burrows was the GOP Caucus Chairman, a position from which he resigned in mid-August.
Because Bonnen apparently hopes House members who have not listened to the recording will believe that no such list was discussed, here’s Bonnen setting the stage for discussion of that list: