Whatever Happened To The Dennis Bonnen Scandal?

The Texas House speaker was accused of making a deal arranging a quid pro quo with a conservative activist group. But little has come of the accusation.

By Alexandra HartOctober 8, 2019 7:10 am,

Not long after the end of this year’s “Kumbaya” legislative session, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen was accused of trading press access to the House floor for the targeting of potential political adversaries. But some two months later, Bonnen is still in power, and little has come of the scandal. 

According to the leader of Empower Texans, Michael Quinn Sullivan, Bonnen offered him press credentials if Empower Texans would target 10 mostly moderate Republicans during 2020 primary races.

The alleged scandal had it all: an allegation of quid pro quo, supposed secretly recorded conversations and signs of simmering intraparty political tension. But it seems to be, at least so far, that the accusations against Bonnen haven’t led to any legal consequences or loss of power for the speaker.

Andrea Zelinski is state bureau reporter for the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News. She says the Texas Rangers have investigated the allegations, but the results of their investigation are not yet known. And a secretly made audio recording of the meeting, made by Sullivan, does exist, Zelinski says.

“We don’t know for certain what was said,” Zelinski says. “There have been some conflicting reports on how specific Speaker Bonnen and his chief lieutenant, Rep. Dustin Burrows – how specific they were in this possible quid pro quo.”

Bonnen confirmed that the meeting with Empower Texans leader, Michael Quinn Sullivan, did occur. And he has apologized for negative comments he had made about some House members.

“He’s admitted to saying some pretty foul things during this meeting,” Zelinski says.

But the scandal may not ultimately result in negative consequences for Bonnen, Zelinski says. It’s tough to find a “smoking gun” that provides enough proof of wrongdoing to cause a prosecutor to bring a case against a politician in this sort of situation, she says.


Written by Shelly Brisbin.