Tag Archives: Michael Quinn Sullivan

Speaker Bonnen comes clean … but he’s still a goner

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen messed up royally when he agreed to meet with a far-right-wing political activist and then offered to toss 10 of his fellow legislative Republicans over the proverbial cliff.

He finally has fessed up to the mess he created. It’s just that it is way too late to do him any good. Bonnen took many hits from his Texas Legislature colleagues and then decided he wouldn’t seek re-election from his Angleton House district after serving just a single legislative term as the Man of the House.

Why speak out now? Who knows? At some level, though, I do care.

Bonnen conspired with Michael Quinn Sullivan, the head of that far-right outfit Empower Texans. He committed a terrible mistake by agreeing to meet with Sullivan in the first place. You see, Sullivan recorded the meeting secretly, then sprang the trap into which he had snared Bonnen in the summer of 2019. He revealed what Bonnen had done; Bonnen at first denied it; then Sullivan released the recording and, by golly, he was right.

Bonnen had given Sullivan the names of 10 legislators. He also offered to provide media credentials to Empower Texans, enabling the PAC direct access to House members on the House floor when the Legislature was in session. Very, very bad call, Mr. Speaker.

Bonnen spoke recently to the Dallas Morning News in which he apologized to his House colleagues and admitted to turning his career into so much road kill.

I am hoping for all I’m worth that the next speaker of the Texas House of Representatives will learn from Bonnen’s mess up … and trust Michael Quinn Sullivan only as far as he can toss him.

Hoping the Legislature wises up to Empower Texans’ trickery

Empower Texans is a political action committee that has tremendous sway in the Texas Legislature, which at the moment comprises many legislators who adhere to Empower Texans’ extreme right-wing dogma.

We’ve got 181 legislators in both chambers, many of whom think Empower Texans speak for millions of Texans and deserve a special place at the legislative table.

The cabal of zealots deserves nothing of the sort.

My hope for the 2021 Legislature, which convenes next January, is that the legislative leadership — particularly in the House of Representatives — keeps its distance from Michael Quinn Sullivan’s PAC.

It’s not as though Sullivan hasn’t earned legislators’ scorn. Witness what he did to soon-to-be former House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. He and Bonnen had a “secret” meeting. They agreed that Bonnen would provide the names of 10 Republican lawmakers that Empower Texans could work to defeat in the 2020 election. Sullivan recorded the meeting without telling Bonnen. Then he spilled the beans on the speaker, who at first denied saying the mean things he said about his GOP colleagues. The denial lasted right up until the moment Sullivan produced the audio recording.

As they say … Oops!

Sullivan is untrustworthy. So, too, is Empower Texans, which Sullivan runs. Yet the PAC continues to throw its weight around. It seeks to demand that local legislators follow Empower Texans’ agenda.

I want Empower Texans to be put in its place. I want Michael Quinn Sullivan, who has launched efforts against legislators I happen to know and respect, to cease playing an outsized role in determining the Legislature’s political course.

He won’t bow out voluntarily. It then falls on legislative leaders to exert the power they possess to keep Sullivan and Empower Texans at arm’s length.

Bonnen broke the law, but let’s not prosecute him

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This blog post was published initially on the KETR-FM website.

I guess the verdict is in on Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen’s secret meeting with a right-wing activist.

The speaker likely broke a campaign finance law when he met with Empower Texans guru Michael Quinn Sullivan, offered up the names of 10 fellow Republican legislators that Empower Texans could try to defeat in the 2020 election and then offered the right-wing PAC a media pass, giving the PAC immediate access to House members working on the floor of the chamber.

The House General Investigating Committee issued the report, then closed its investigation.

What should happen now? My hope – and it’s just me speaking for myself – is that Bonnen can retire quietly at the end of next year and disappear into the tall grass, never to be seen or heard from again in public life. There need not be a criminal investigation.

General Investigating Committee Chairman Morgan Meyer, a Dallas Republican, suggested that the report precludes any criminal investigation, even though Bonnen likely broke the law.

According to the Texas Tribune: Bonnen “likely violated” a section of the Texas Government Code, according to Meyer, who was reading from the report … — but advisers in the report said the law provided no “independent statutory consequences” for a state official who breaches it.

That section states that a state officer or employee should not “accept or solicit any gift, favor or service that might reasonably tend to influence the officer or employee in the discharge of official duties, or that the officer or employee knows or should know is being offered with the intent to influence the officer’s or employee’s official conduct.

I get all that. Here’s the deal, though: Bonnen took a lot of political heat and pushback from his fellow Republicans, about 30 of whom demanded he resign the House speakership. He at first denied the meeting with Sullivan. Then Sullivan produced a recording of the meeting. He outed Bonnen, who then announced he wouldn’t seek re-election to his House seat in Angleton in 2020.

Good riddance! That ought to be enough of a punishment for the speaker who double-crossed his supposed allies in the Texas House of Representatives.

As the saying goes: This case is closed. Let’s move on and let the next Texas House of Representatives select a speaker who will remain faithful to any pledge he or she makes to work with his colleagues and avoid stabbing them in the back.

With new speaker coming up, here’s my wish for next session

Texas is going to have a new state House of Representatives speaker when the next Legislature convenes in January 2021. The matter that got the current speaker, Republican Dennis Bonnen of Angleton, into so much trouble has been well-chronicled … mostly.

I want to focus briefly on one matter that needs a bit more exposure: the promise to grant a political action committee media passes to the floor of the Texas House.

Bonnen and Empower Texans founder Michael Quinn Sullivan had a conversation that Sullivan recorded. Bonnen gave Sullivan the names of 10 GOP lawmakers who Sullivan could target in the 2020 legislative election. He also promised to give Sullivan’s group media credentials, enabling Empower Texans to lobby legislators on the House floor.

That is a seriously bad move by the speaker, who decided against seeking re-election next year.

If Republicans keep control of the House, the next GOP speaker needs to ensure he or she does not cross that line. If Democrats take control of the House, which is a possibility, then the next Democratic speaker must avoid that line as well.

Empower Texans trumpets itself as a “news” organization, that it purports to report news on its various information platforms. It is no such thing. It is a strong advocacy group that promotes a rigid ideology. They are repugnant to me personally.

It would be equally wrong for a group such as, say, Planned Parenthood or the American Civil Liberties Union or any other progressive political activist group to be granted that kind of access to legislators.

It was bad enough that Bonnen betrayed his GOP colleagues by offering up the names of 10 of them to appear on Empower Texans’ hit list. It was equally improper for Bonnen to promise media passes to a PAC whose mission is to turn the Legislature into a mouthpiece that echoes Empower Texans’ right-wing agenda.

May the next speaker — and those who come later — learn from this sorry example of a political double-cross.

Hoping that Empower Texans has suffered a mortal wound

As I survey the lingering damage done by the downfall of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, I am left to hope that a good bit of collateral damage has been inflicted on a key principal in that fiasco.

That would be Empower Texans and the political action committee’s founder/guru/main man Michael Quinn Sullivan.

Sullivan met in June with Bonnen, who delivered him the names of 10 Republican legislators who Empower Texans could target in the 2020 election. Bonnen didn’t know it in the moment, but Sullivan plunged a knife into his back by recording the conversation.

Bonnen offered Sullivan’s right-wing lobbying group access on the House floor by issuing it “media” passes. Empower Texans is by no stretch of the imagination a media outlet. It is an advocacy group that seeks to bend the Legislature to its rigid ideology.

Bonnen denied initially the leaked reports about giving up the legislators to Sullivan, who then produced the recording of Bonnen doing precisely what Sullivan said he did.

Bonnen was toast. Many of his fellow GOP lawmakers called for his resignation. Bonnen didn’t quit, but did the next best thing: He announced he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2020 to his Angleton House seat.

My strong hope is that Empower Texas becomes a PAC non grata among Texas legislators. Democrats already detest Empower Texans and Sullivan. So do a number of moderate Texas Republicans; and, yes, there are some moderates among GOP legislators’ ranks, as I happen to know some of them.

Sullivan betrayed Bonnen, who in turn betrayed his Republican colleagues, many of whom supported his election as speaker at the start of the 2019 Texas Legislature.

Bonnen will be gone from the 2021 Legislature. Empower Texans, which has sought to meddle in local politics for too long already, needs to be gone as well.

If I were a Republican Texas legislator, I damn sure wouldn’t trust Michael Quinn Sullivan as far as I could throw him.

Bonnen won’t face prosecution; just let him go away

The Brazoria County, Texas, district attorney won’t prosecute Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen for any felony charges stemming from a rotten deal he cut with a right-wing provocateur.

That is just as well. Bonnen has announced his intention to step down after the 2020 election; he won’t seek re-election to another term in the Texas House of Representatives. I hope he just disappears from public view. He doesn’t need any jail time.

DA Jeri Yenne called Bonnen’s conduct “repugnant,” but not criminal.

What did he do? He met with Empower Texans guru Michael Quinn Sullivan this past June and gave up the names of 10 fellow Republican legislators that Sullivan’s group could target in the 2020 election. Sullivan recorded the meeting he had with Bonnen and former Texas House GOP chairman Dustin Burrows of Lubbock. Bonnen denied stabbing the lawmakers in the back, then Sullivan released the recording and, well, proved Bonnen to be a liar as well as a back-stabber.

The district attorney where Bonnen represented in the Legislature had considered prosecuting the speaker on campaign finance charges, but then decided there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a criminal investigation.

That is just as well. Bonnen disgraced himself nicely by consorting with Sullivan and Empower Texans, an outfit that many of us detest. They are a rigid, right-wing organization that seeks to undermine mainstream Republican politicians in Texas.

My hope is that Bonnen doesn’t inflict any more damage on his fellow legislators before he leaves office prior to the start of the 2021 Legislature.

I just want him to go away. Goodbye, Mr. Speaker … and don’t let the door hit you in your backside.

Just wondering: Was Bonnen set up?

I believe it is fair to wonder about a possible element in the shocking downfall of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.

The lame-duck speaker and a right-wing zealot had this conversation in June in which the zealot, Michael Quinn Sullivan, received the names of 10 Republican legislators he could target in the 2020 legislative election.

I do not know Bonnen or Sullivan. I have understood, though, that they are not considered political allies. Therefore, here’s my question:

Did Sullivan, the head of Empower Texans, lure Bonnen into a trap that he sprung when he released the recording of the conversation the men had several months ago? The recording went public, Bonnen’s words were revealed to stunned legislators, many of whom called for his resignation; Bonnen then decided he won’t seek re-election in 2020. He is done as speaker of the Texas House.

How in the world did this meeting occur? What kind of politician — other than someone who adheres to the rigid ideology espoused by Empower Texans — make such an agreement?

Bonnen’s decision to step away after the current term has brought some praise from media outlets and politicians who have talked of the speaker’s sense of principle.

Was he snookered somehow by Sullivan? For that matter, why did Sullivan feel the need to record that conversation?

My sense is that a bare-knuckled political operative records conversations surreptitiously for nefarious reasons.

I watched Sullivan’s tactics unfold during a couple of Texas Senate campaigns in the Panhandle over two election cycles. He sought to topple state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo. He failed both times by running the same TEA Party-favorite candidate — Mike Canon of Midland — against Seliger. He played rough. So did Canon. Seliger was able to use his considerable knowledge of legislative matters to maximum advantage.

He won the GOP nomination in 2018, even though he also had to run against a third archconservative, Amarillo businessman Victor Leal, in the primary.

Seliger calls himself a conservative. He is proud of his conservative voting record and his conservative political views. He just isn’t conservative enough to suit Sullivan.

I am wondering, therefore, if Dennis Bonnen falls into that category and that Sullivan wants a House speaker to emerge from the GOP ranks who follows the same extreme ideology as he does.

As the late U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen once said, “Politics in Texas is a contact sport.”

Speaker lost the trust of the entire legislative chamber

When you ascend to the role of speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, you preside over a body of disparate political views. Republicans and Democrats seek to work together — most of the time — for the common good. They need a speaker they can trust to say and do the right thing at all times, in public and in private.

Dennis Bonnen for now is the speaker of the Texas House of Representatives. He won’t be for long. He announced today he won’t seek re-election in 2020 to his House seat. Why? Because he lost the trust of the entire body over which he presided for a single term.

How did he lose that trust? By talking in nasty terms about some of his Republican colleagues in a surreptitious meeting with a right-wing zealot after expressing confidence in them publicly.

The zealot, Empower Texans boss Michael Quinn Sullivan, recorded the meeting. He released the recording the other day, revealing Bonnen to be underhanded, duplicitous and treacherous. Bonnen gave Sullivan the names of 10 GOP legislators that Sullivan’s right-wing organization could target in the next election.

About 30 GOP legislators called for Bonnen’s resignation. He delivered the next best thing: an announcement he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Bonnen needed the trust of his Republican colleagues to be an effective speaker of the House. His Democratic colleagues have remained largely silent since details of this scandal surfaced. Why should they say a word when the GOP speaker was setting himself on fire?

Trust is a requirement for effective legislative leadership. Previous speakers of both parties had it. Republicans Joe Straus and Tom Craddick had it; so did Democrats Pete Laney and Gib Lewis. They managed to run the House effectively while working with governors and lieutenant governors of opposing parties. Of the men I mentioned, I happen to know Pete Laney, a man who operated on the notion that he would “let the will of the House” determine how legislation gets enacted.

Trust is essential. Bonnen had it when his House colleagues elected him speaker. He lost it when he conspired with the Empower Texans zealot to cut the throats of his colleagues.

He had to go. I wish there was a way for the Legislature to accept his resignation now while it is in recess. The Texas Constitution doesn’t allow that. Fine. Bonnen now just needs to do as little as possible for the time he has left as speaker of the House.

Just stay out of the way, Mr. Speaker, and leave the heavy lifting to the committee chairs who I am going to presume still have their colleagues’ trust.

You are untrustworthy.

Bye, bye … Speaker Bonnen

It’s one and done for Dennis Bonnen.

As in one term as speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and now he’s gone, retiring at the end of 2020 from the Legislature.

The Angleton Republican won’t seek re-election next year to another House term. It’s is just as well, given that he squandered the trust of his fellow GOP lawmakers by engaging in a surreptitious conversation with a well-known right-wing radical political activist — in which Bonnen offered the radical the names of 10 GOP lawmakers the said radical could target in the next election.

I am referring to Empower Texans main man Michael Quinn Sullivan, who’s made a career out of targeting Republicans in Texas who don’t adhere to the same rigid ideology as he and his group. He has drawn a bead in the past, for example, on state Sen. Kel Seliger of Amarillo and state Rep. Four Price, also of Amarillo. He lost those effort to unseat two fine legislators.

There are others, too, who have been victimized by this guy.

He now has brought down Speaker Bonnen, which the more I think about it might have been his aim all along. Sullivan and Bonnen aren’t exactly allies, but Sullivan recorded that meeting he had with Bonnen and former Texas House GOP caucus chairman Dustin Burrows of Lubbock. He said he had the goods on Bonnen, who denied giving up the names of those 10 legislators. Oh, but then the recording was released and Bonnen can be heard using some pithy language to describe his fellow Republicans.

At least 30 GOP House members had declared they either would not support him for re-election as speaker or flat out asked him to resign his speakership.

Bonnen took the least painful course. He won’t run for his Gulf Coast seat in 2020.

That’s all fine with me. I don’t want the Man of the Texas House to be a tool of a right-wing outfit such as Empower Texans, or of Michael Quinn Sullivan. My hope is that the next speaker of the House will stand up to this guy, tell him to take a hike and proceed to run the legislative chamber with at least a modicum of honesty and integrity.

Dennis Bonnen has failed to do so. For that reason I am glad to see him gone.

Texas House speaker is playing a weird game with colleagues

Talk about doing an end-around …

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, who’s under fire over a weird conversation he had with a fiery right-wing activist, has squandered the trust of his Republican House colleagues. He could just resign the speakership, but no-o-o. He decided to ask his colleagues to draft a resolution calling for him to quit.

Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, made an emotional speech Friday to his colleagues, apologizing for tossing several of them under the proverbial bus. His colleagues, though, decided against the resolution because House rules — not to mention the Texas Constitution — require them to be in active legislative session to remove a speaker from office.

Good grief, man. Just quit your speakership! At the very least, just announce you won’t seek the speakership for the 2021 Legislature.

Bonnen took part in a meeting in June with Empower Texans guru Michael Quinn Sullivan, who recorded the meeting he had with Bonnen and with former Texas House GOP chair Dustin Burrows of Lubbock. Bonnen offered Sullivan the names of 10 GOP legislators that Empower Texans could target in the 2020 election. He also offered to grant Empower Texans media credentials, which means House floor access to lawmakers.

Bonnen had tried to deny what he said. Then he apologized for saying mean things about his colleagues. Now we have heard the conversation. Sullivan had it right.

The Friday meeting was a tense affair, according to the Texas Tribune. House GOP members have condemned in strong language what Bonnen told Sullivan. They also are angry with Burrows. It is becoming apparent that Bonnen wouldn’t be re-elected as speaker if he decides to seek the office again.

The speaker is seeking to play some kind of weird game of chicken, it seems to me, with his Republican colleagues, several of whom have called for his resignation. He ought to knock it off.

Just submit your resignation or tell your colleagues you won’t run for the Man of the House job next time around.