- The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Video feed here.
- 10:20 a.m.: Committee goes into executive session minutes after convening. No video or audio feed available.
- 11:15 a.m. The committee returns to open session, announces no decisions were made behind closed doors. Committee takes public vote, unanimously orders Texas Rangers public integrity unit to investigate. Chairman Morgan Meyer said any investigation should be non-political and in addition to, “not in lieu of,” any other reports the Rangers are required to produce or file.
The Texas House General Investigating Committee called a hearing for 10 a.m. today for “consideration and action on the possible investigation into the circumstances, events, and allegations in connection with a June 12, 2019 meeting between Members of the House and representatives of a Texas nonprofit corporation.”
That’s the official wording of it. Here’s what (allegedly) happened: Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, and Texas House Republican Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows met in June, allegedly discussing House media credentials, legislative districts to target in upcoming elections, among other topics. Sullivan charged that Bonnen and Burrows engaged in a quid pro quo offer to exchange media credentials for his organization only attacking approved State Representatives in upcoming elections. Bonnen, who originally denied Sullivan’s account, emphasized during the recent legislative session that incumbents should not oppose fellow incumbents in the 2020 primary or general elections.
Sullivan reported the details of this meeting in late July and Bonnen denied Sullivan’s account. Burrows remained silent. Sullivan, about three weeks ago, produced an audio recording of the meeting, which has since only been shared with certain individuals. Bonnen issued a very general apology to House members.
Meanwhile, the Texas Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against Sullivan, Bonnen, and Burrows alleging various campaign finance law violations: chiefly that the meeting comprised a de facto Political Action Committee, and that it occurred in the Texas Capitol where campaign meetings are disallowed. The lawsuit was filed in Travis County district court.
From the hip: It was speculated that the committee meeting would be short and mostly in closed-door executive session to grant immunity for the Speaker as lawsuits are filed, as well as to assert the House’s role in investigating (rather than the courts). That was exactly what happened, but with the addition of a call for the Texas Rangers to investigate and to submit a report. See our prior analysis here. Despite the simplicity of today’s meeting and the brevity of any public dialogue, several activists made their way to the committee room to observe, and with the requisite full court of media present.