There may be an elephant of another kind in the room this year as House Republicans gather for their annual caucus retreat in two days: namely, a recording that has been the talk of Texas politics over the summer.
Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan released to the general public a recording of a now-notorious conversation in June during which he, the House Speaker, and the (now-former) Texas House GOP Caucus Chairman discussed the 2020 election cycle.
Sullivan charged that the conversation involved a proposed quid pro quo arrangement where Sullivan’s organization would be granted legislative media credentials in exchange for not criticizing certain incumbents. Bonnen has denied the accusation and that it was not the intent of the conversation.
Sullivan’s organization had made the recording available to various individuals — reports of which led to an official investigation by the Texas Rangers and the Texas House, the resignation of Dustin Burrows as House GOP caucus chairman, an apology from Speaker Dennis Bonnen for things said, and plenty of clamor as how this will affect upcoming elections. Regardless of where you stand, the recording has had a significant effect.
The Hayride has refrained from seeking permission to listen to the recording. Now that it is public and it can be sourced, we will offer our analysis soon — not that we’re expecting any surprises after so many sources have reported on their listening to the recording.
For those just now learning about the situation, read below for our prior coverage:
We include below a helpful timeline, based on one posted by Empower Texans President Ross Kecseg to Facebook Monday:
- Dec. 1, 2018: Bonnen receives unanimous support of the Texas House Republican Caucus for the speakership.
- April 5: Bonnen claims his home was threatened by a Second Amendment rights activist Chris McNutt block walking in Bonnen’s neighborhood.
- April 9: Bonnen leaves a Texas GOP spring fundraiser without delivering his scheduled remarks after an alleged encounter with McNutt there.
- May 2019: The Texas House Republican Caucus adopts a rule prohibiting members from campaigning against each other.
- May 28: Bonnen says he will sanction any House incumbents for “campaigning against each other” in 2020, regardless of party.
- May 29: Sullivan and Speaker Bonnen say that they saw each other at Hobby airport; Bonnen asks Sullivan to meet with him at the Capitol.
- June 10: As requested, Sullivan texts Bonnen to set a meeting. Bonnen suggests 3 p.m. June 12.
- June 12: Meeting occurs at the Texas Capitol, with Bonnen inviting Burrows as guest. Sullivan secretly records the meeting. Immediately after, Sullivan seeks legal counsel.
- June 19: Sullivan sends letter to Bonnen and Burrows, “I unequivocally reject your offer” of an alleged quid pro quo arrangement.
- June 27: Bonnen responds to Sullivan denying events in meeting. “No offer was made to you of any kind …”
- July 25: Sullivan publishes an article about the Bonnen meeting via TexasScorecard.com.
- July 26: Bonnen emails the House Republican Caucus and claims he told Sullivan in the meeting not to target Republican members.
- July 29: Bonnen releases an official statement: “At no point in our conversation was Sullivan provided with a list of target Members….”
- July 31: Sullivan announces he recorded the meeting.
- Aug. 6: Bonnen apologizes to members.
- Aug. 12: Texas House General Investigating Committee requests the Texas Rangers investigate the Bonnen/Sullivan meeting.
- Aug. 16: Burrows resigns as GOP Caucus Chairman.
- Aug. 22: Burrows breaks silence to go on a Lubbock radio show saying “there was no physical list” of members to attack/not attack.
- Sept. 23: On the Mark Davis radio show in Dallas-Fort Worth, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says he and Gov. Greg Abbott want the audio released.
- Oct. 8: Media outlets report Texas Rangers are requesting all House members share information about their investigation regarding situation.