Tag Archives: Empower Texans

Two GOP ‘allies’ now at each other’s throats

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and right-wing activist Michael Quinn Sullivan are having a major spat these days.

They’re blaming each other for “destroying” the Republican Party.

Hmm. Which one is guilty as charged? Well, I’ll and cast my lot with the lieutenant governor, who has taken on the National Rifle Association in seeking increased background checks on firearm purchases. Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans, opposes Patrick’s position on gun control.

Thus, I am siding with Patrick.

The gun argument is just part of it. Patrick is angry with Sullivan’s role in the matter involving Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and former Texas House Republican Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows of Lubbock.

Sullivan says he has recordings of Bonnen offering him the names of 10 House Republicans that Empower Texans could target in the 2020 election in exchange for press credentials on the House floor. Bonnen denies it all. Sullivan isn’t releasing the full recorded conversation.

Patrick is siding with Bonnen.

The fight is on.

Both men say the other guy is hurting the Republican Party. Frankly, I don’t care much about the future of GOP, although I would prefer to see a more reasonable party than the one that has emerged in Texas. Patrick is part of the right-wing emergence of the GOP.

As for Sullivan, he and Patrick have been allies in the past.

Now, though, they are fighting over gun control and that weird conversation that allegedly occurred between Sullivan and Bonnen.

The two men have been sparring via Twitter. I would prefer they speak to each other face to face, man to man, fruitcake to fruitcake. Instead, they choose the social medium to fire insults at each other. Childish? Yes! Effective? Not really.

I detest both men. Of the two, though, I detest Sullivan more. Empower Texans has gotten involved too deeply in local politics, seeking to influence local political races, seeking to seat men and women who ascribe to the political action committee’s far-right-wing agenda. They went after two friends of mine in the Texas Panhandle in 2018: state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Rep. Four Price of Amarillo, two mainstream Republicans and two damn fine legislators who represent the Texas Panhandle with honor and distinction.

They seek to handpick local representatives who put Empower Texans’ needs above those of their constituents back home. That entire strategy is offensive to the max.

But … keep fighting Lt. Gov. Patrick and Michael Quinn Sullivan.

Texas intra-GOP fight mirrors national struggle

I might be alone in thinking this, but my sense is that Texas’s Republican Party squabbles involving the speaker of the House and a right-wing political activist is mirroring part of the national struggle that is engulfing the GOP.

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has been caught giving up the names of 10 GOP House members to a right-wing nut-job, Michael Quinn Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans.

Many within the Republican Party want Sullivan to release the contents of the recorded meeting he had with Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, the former head of the Texas House GOP caucus.

What’s curious here is that Sullivan wants to torpedo “establishment” Republicans, replacing them with ideologues such as himself. He’s tried this for some time. Indeed, he and Bonnen and aren’t exactly BFFs.

Why might this mirror what is occurring nationally?

The nation’s Republican Party has been hijacked, tied up and held hostage by Donald Trump and his cabal of supporters. The parallel with Texas isn’t exactly precise, given that most establishment national Republican officeholders so far have been reticent about speaking against the president. Trump has bullied them into silence.

He’s even persuaded former harsh critics — such as U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — to performing as lap dogs who lick the president’s fingers whenever possible.

However, there remains a stable of actual Republicans — the men and women who continue to stand on principle — who gnash their teeth, grumble ever more loudly and actually speak out critically against the president.

Trump now has a potential field of three GOP challengers who will run against him for the 2020 party presidential nomination.

Neither struggle — whether in Texas or on the national stage — is easy to handicap. I don’t know whether Speaker Bonnen will survive the embarrassment of his offering the names of 10 of his colleagues as targets for the Empower Texans guru; I have moved from supporting Bonnen as the Man of the House to no longer giving a crap about his political future.

As for the national struggle, I want it to accelerate. I want the establishment Republicans to rise up and to do whatever they can to get rid of a president who disgraces his office every day he awakens in the White House.

Release the recording, Empower Texans guru … now!

Ross Ramsey, one of the top guns at the Texas Tribune, has it exactly right. Empower Texans main man, Michael Quinn Sullivan, needs to release the full recording of a meeting he allegedly had with two key Texas legislative Republicans.

Do it now, Sullivan!

Ramsey has noted the “drip, drip, drip” nature of Sullivan’s assertion that Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen offered him the names of 10 House Republicans in exchange for media credentials for Empower Texans to the floor of the House. The names would be used by Empower Texans as targets for the far-right political action committee that Sullivan heads.

He’s had it in for establishment Republicans for about a decade, Ramsey writes in the Tribune. He and Bonnen aren’t exactly pals. Neither is he cozy with state Rep. Dustin Burrows, the recently resigned chairman of the Texas House GOP caucus; Burrows remains chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

The three of them took part in some mysterious meeting. All we know is what Sullivan has said about it. Bonnen has been all over the pea patch, at first denying it happened and then apologizing for the remarks he made about his fellow House Republicans.

I am as curious as others are about that meeting. I don’t trust Michael Quinn Sullivan as far as I can toss my fifth wheel, given what I know about his rigid right-wing philosophy and his penchant for targeting “mainstream” Republican legislators, which is what he sought to do in the 2018 GOP primary in the Texas Panhandle.

He ought to release the recording for the public to hear and for the public to determine who’s telling the truth.

So what if the truth is as Sullivan has stated?

Read Ross Ramsey’s analysis here.

Inquiring minds want to know who said what to whom.

Have the stakes risen as Texas prepares to vote in 2020?

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen appears to have made a big mistake. Whether he has inflicted a mortal wound on the Texas Republican Party remains to be seen.

The Texas Tribune reports that the stakes for the 2020 election in Texas might have risen exponentially as Bonnen tries to repair the damage done by a reportedly secret meeting with a high-powered, ultra-conservative political activist. In that meeting, Bonnen — an Angleton Republican — allegedly offered up the names of 10 GOP lawmakers that the activist, Michael Quinn Sullivan, could defeat in exchange for press credentials inside the House chamber.

Sullivan runs that far-right outfit called Empower Texans. I detest Empower Texans. So do many other Texans, even many Republicans.

Bonnen became speaker at the start of the 2019 Legislature with a reputation as something of a GOP moderate. I guess he can be had, right? Yep. Apparently so.

So now it becomes questionable whether the Texas House might flip from Republican to Democratic control after the 2020 election. Democrats need to flip nine House seats next year to win control of the lower legislative chamber.

I am one Texan who isn’t of the Republican ilk, although I have a few GOP lawmakers I count as friends; they are people I respect and for whom I have personal affection. I doubt strongly any of them would be in danger of losing their seats in 2020.

That all said, Bonnen’s reported deal to provide the names of 10 fellow Republicans to Hatchetman Sullivan isn’t playing well among Republican circles. It’s also giving Democrats ammo to use against their GOP foes as they seek to campaign for control of the Texas House of Representatives.

This tumult also might put Bonnen’s speakership in jeopardy. He took the gavel from former Republican Speaker Joe Straus, who didn’t seek re-election in 2018. I admired Straus’s leadership of the House and his commitment to stand firm against the likes of Empower Texans and Michael Quinn Sullivan. I just wish Bonnen had shown the same courage as Straus.

Texas is now seen as a potential battleground state on the presidential election level. Democrats might have actual, tangible and demonstrable reason for optimism that they can control at least one legislative chamber as they prepare for the 2020 election.

Texas House tumult claims a victim

The tumult surrounding Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s recorded conversation with a right-wing rabble rouser has claimed its first victim.

Texas House Republican Caucus Chairman Lance Burrows of Lubbock has resigned his leadership post. He was allegedly caught taking part in some secret conversations involving Burrows and Empower Texans guru Michael Quinn Sullivan, who reportedly were targeting some House Republicans for defeat in the next election cycle.

What’s more, the Texas Rangers are now involved, investigating whether there might be some campaign law violations associated with this apparently growing mess.

Bonnen at first denied taking part in the conversation with Sullivan, with whom he has had a testy relationship. He has since apologized to his fellow legislative Republicans for the things he said about them. Bonnen wants Sullivan to release the entire conversation, apparently thinking its full context might explain what the men were discussing. Good luck with that, Mr. Speaker.

I am glad the Rangers are involved. We need to find out what happened, who said what to whom and what precisely this clown, Sullivan, was intending to do with the information being pledged to him by Bonnen … allegedly.

I had some hopes that the new speaker would continue the kind of leadership demonstrated by Joe Straus of San Antonio, who left the Legislature at the end of 2018. Silly me. It appears my hopes have been dashed, if what we hear turns out to be correct.

The idea that the speaker, reportedly a moderate-to-conservative politician would hold hands with a far-right ideologue such as Sullivan, for whom many mainstream Texas Republicans have considerable loathing, is repugnant on its face.

Bonnen’s role in this once-secret conversation has angered a lot of GOP House members. To which I say: Perhaps a change in the House speakership well might be in order.

If anyone is interested in some names to replace Bonnen, I can think of a couple of fellows from up yonder in the Panhandle who I believe would work out just fine.

Four Price or John Smithee, are you available?

Empower Texans zealot really makes me angry

I am going to admit something about which I am not very proud.

Whenever I see the name of Michael Quinn Sullivan, my hair tends to stand straight up. Why this guy? He runs an outfit called Empower Texans, a far-right political action committee that tends to interfere in Republican Party primary contests; Empower Texans prefers GOP candidates to adhere to rigid ideology, no matter how effective certain Republican incumbents have been in service to their constituents.

He is now linked to Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. Sullivan reportedly recorded a conversation he had with Bonnen in which the speaker allegedly offered to give Sullivan the names of 10 Texas House GOP incumbents who might be ripe for targeting in the 2020 GOP primary election.

Texas Democrats have sued Sullivan and Bonnen, alleging campaign finance law violations connected to that conversation. Democrats also want Sullivan to reveal the full content of what he and Bonnen discussed.

Bring it on

Bonnen is embarrassed. He has apologized to his Republican House colleagues for things he allegedly said to Sullivan about them. He has reached out to House Democrats as well in an effort to rebuild his reputation. Bonnen assumed the speakership at the start of the 2019 Legislature after Joe Straus gave up the speaker’s office at the end of the 2018 election.

But … back to Sullivan.

I haven’t met this man. I know him only by what I’ve seen him and Empower Texans try to do in legislative districts in the Texas Panhandle, where I lived for 23 years while writing about politics and policy as editorial page editor of the Amarillo Globe-News.

Empower Texans has tried twice to defeat Republican state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo. They ran a TEA Party candidate against Seliger in 2014. Seliger defeated former Midland Mayor Mike Canon five years ago. Canon ran against Seliger again in 2018, along with a third candidate, Amarillo restaurant owner Victor Leal. Seliger managed to defeat both challengers in the GOP primary, avoiding a runoff.

I’ve stipulated already that I have strong professional and personal affection for Sen. Seliger. It pi**** me off royally to see Seliger get a primary challenge from the far right wing of his party.

Indeed, Seliger has made no secret that he detests Sullivan. The feeling is quite mutual. Never mind that Seliger is a solid and dependable mainstream conservative Republican lawmaker who talks candidly and fluently about issues throughout the vast Senate district he has represented since 2004.

Sullivan also drew a political bead in 2018 on state Rep. Four Price, another mainstream Amarillo Republican. The Fritch city manager ran against Price in the GOP primary, but got thumped in the process. Price, though, has been much quieter about his feelings about Sullivan. My hunch is that Four Price shares Kel Seliger’s view about the Empower Texans political mogul.

Accordingly, I am hopeful that Texas Democrats can prevail in their lawsuit against Sullivan and against Speaker Bonnen.

Sullivan plays a relentless game of political hardball. This guy needs to get beaned.

Speaker Bonnen, you might have blown it royally!

I was willing to give Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen the benefit of the doubt when he sought the office after Joe Straus left the Legislature at the beginning of the year.

Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, was thought by many to be a politician who is able to work with pols from both sides of the aisle in Austin.

But now … it turns out he might have double-crossed members of his own GOP caucus, if we are to believe ultra right-winger Michael Quinn Sullivan, the godfather of Empower Texans, the political action committee he founded. Sullivan reportedly has revealed that Bonnen agreed to offer Empower Texans the names of 10 GOP lawmakers the right wingers could target in the 2020 election.

Would Speaker Straus have done such a thing? Or Speaker Tom Craddick? Or Speaker Pete Laney? Or Speaker Gib Lewis?

I doubt it strongly! Yet we now have evidence, apparently, of collusion (there’s that word again) between Speaker Bonnen and a right-wing outfit that has sought to yank the Legislature even farther to the right than it already stands.

Betrayal anyone?

This is a disgraceful betrayal if it turns out to be true. There’s something credible-sounding about what has been revealed so far.

Sullivan has talked about a meeting he had with Bonnen in which the speaker made the offer to hand over the names of legislators that would show up on Empower Texans’ hit list. Bonnen has said publicly he wanted to work for the re-election of all GOP lawmakers. The Sullivan account contradicts Bonnen and many of Bonnen’s legislative colleagues are buying into what Sullivan is saying.

This looks for all the world like dirty pool. It looks also to me that Speaker Bonnen’s time with his hands on the House gavel might come to an end when the next Legislature convenes in January 2021.

This is particularly troubling for me on a personal level, given my own intense distrust of Empower Texans and of Michael Quinn Sullivan. Empower Texans has sought to unseat at least two Republican legislators with whom I have a high personal and professional regard. I refer to two men from Amarillo, state Sen. Kel Seliger and state Rep. Four Price.

They both got “primaried” in 2018, only to beat back those challenges with relative ease. Both men’s GOP primary opponents were recruited and funded by Empower Texans, which seeks to push an ultra-conservative legislative agenda throughout Texas.

So, for Speaker Dennis Bonnen to crawl into the political sack with these clowns — allegedly! — is distasteful on its face.

Empower Texans is going after state Sen. Seliger … who knew?

I see political ads on my Facebook news feed from time to time. They are paid for my Empower Texans, my least-favorite far-right political action organization.

Empower Texans apparently has a serious bur under its saddle that bears the name “Kel Seliger.” An ad appeared this morning with a picture of a church, containing this text:

A bill aimed at protecting individuals against losing their occupational license for practicing their faith passed through the Texas Senate. State Sen. Kel Seliger was the lone Republican vote against the bill.

This is the latest in a string of such statements from Empower Texans. They all end with the same notation about Seliger, an Amarillo Republican lawmaker, being the “lone Republican” to vote against a certain bill.

I’ve known Seliger for nearly a quarter century. He was mayor of Amarillo when I arrived in the Panhandle in 1995. He stepped off the public stage for a time and then ran for the Texas Senate in 2004 after the late Sen. Teel Bivins accepted President Bush’s appointment to become U.S. ambassador to Sweden.

Seliger has made no secret of his dislike of Michael Quinn Sullivan, the ideologue who runs Empower Texans. Sullivan has sought twice to defeat Seliger, only to fall flat on his face while the candidates he backed have lost at the ballot box.

Now he seems intent on badgering the lifelong West Texan who in my view has done a fine job representing his sprawling Texas Senate District.

I no longer can vote for Kel each time he runs for re-election to the Senate. I’ve moved away. However, I can keep offering moral support through this blog. And when given the chance to extol his virtues as a legislator who works hard for the entire state, I do not hesitate to do so.

As for Michael Quinn Sullivan and Empower Texans, suffice to say they will not earn my support. They constitute a significant reason for what has gone wrong with Texas politics in the past decade or two. Such far-right rigidity is anathema to my sensibilities.

If only the rest of the state would realize it, too.

Keep the faith and stay strong, Sen. Seliger.

Empower Texans endorses Trump, but am wondering why

At one level, this is no surprise. Empower Texans, the far-right political action group that often targets “establishment Republicans” for defeat in favor of far-righties, has endorsed Donald J. Trump for re-election as president of the United States.

I want to share the endorsement here. 

It is authored by Michael Quinn Sullivan, the CEO of the outfit. He calls the 2020 election a watershed event for Texans and it is utterly critical, he said, for Texans to join the rest of the country in sending Trump back into office for four more years.

It amazes me. I am stunned. Astonished. Perplexed. Baffled. Bumfuzzled.

I always thought of Empower Texans as a rigid ideological organization. It adheres to a doctrine that calls for extreme fiscal restraint. Empower Texans was born out of the TEA Party movement and I figure it has morphed into an ally of the Texas Freedom Caucus, which is part of the larger conservative movement that has taken control of the Republican Party.

Trump, though, doesn’t have an ideology. He tilts at whatever forces are pushing him.

But he kowtows to tyrants. He denigrates our intelligence agencies. He actually invited the Russians to attack our electoral system in 2020 the way they did in 2016. He ridiculous our allies in Europe, Australia, Asia and Latin America.

Trump, moreover, has talked about spending a trillion or so dollars to rebuild our nation’s transportation infrastructure, which by itself isn’t a bad thing. The problem, though, is that he cannot work with Democrats to come up with a plan on how to do it, or certainly how to pay for it.

Trump promised to “drain the swamp.” It only has gotten even swampier since he took office. Oh, yeah … let’s not forget those key aides who have been indicted, pleaded guilty or are actually serving time in the slammer.

Empower Texans has managed to stick its collective political nose into local races around the state, seeking to elect legislators who cotton to its rigid ideology. It has failed even in the most conservative regions of Texas, such as the Panhandle, to elect legislative candidates to its liking. Why? Because local folks don’t like being dictated to by ideologues of any stripe, even far-right-wingers such as Empower Texans.

This group never is going to win me over. Its endorsement of Donald John Trump is no surprise to me, even though I still cannot comprehend why, given the president’s utter lack of moral/political/ideological base.

Nor should it surprise readers of this blog that I believe Empower Texans has made a patently foolish decision to stand with a president who is completely unfit for the office he occupies.

Is this senator in the wrong party?

Kel Seliger likely would disagree vehemently if — and quite probably when — he reads this blog post, but I am going to ask once again a question I posed in a blog entry published some years ago.

Is the West Texas state senator, from Amarillo, in the wrong political party? He ran for election the first time in 2004 as a Republican and has been re-elected every time since then touting his strong “conservative” credentials while a member of the GOP.

But it appears he isn’t conservative enough to suit the arch-conservative Empower Texans, a political action committee that works to elect and re-elect legislators who suit the group’s rigid ideology.

Empower Texans keeps posting these social media items proclaiming how Seliger is the “only” Senate Republican to vote against one of ET’s preferred issues. They blast Seliger because he has the gall to side with Democrats.

To be sure, Seliger is no fan of Empower Texans. He speaks ill of ET’s guru, Michael Quinn Sullivan. Seliger incurred the wrath of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick early in this legislative session and Patrick then stripped Seliger of key committee chairmanships and membership on other key committees.

Seliger’s GOP credentials really aren’t at issue. He stands for public education, local control, private property ownership, low taxes, business enhancement.

He just isn’t a GOP ideologue. The way I see it — and once again, Seliger is likely to disagree with me — he would fit just fine as a Democrat in the mold of, say, Bill Hobby or Bob Bullock or perhaps even Jack Hightower.

Problem is, though, he wouldn’t win re-election running as a Democrat in the Texas Panhandle. To be a Democrat is to be considered the virtual spawn of Satan in the cradle of Texas arch-conservatism.