With State Democrats Suing, The Dennis Bonnen Quid Pro Quo Controversy Lives On

A secret recording of a conversation between a conservative activist and the Texas House Speaker has sparked an investigation and lawsuit.

By Jill Ament & Rhonda FanningAugust 9, 2019 2:27 pm, , ,

A private meeting between conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has come under scrutiny after Sullivan claimed to have a recording of Bonnen. Sullivan says Bonnen offered him press credentials for his activist group, Empower Texans, in exchange for Sullivan working to defeat 10 Republican House members. 

This week, the Texas House announced it will begin investigating Bonnen over the meeting. Following the announcement, the Texas Democratic Party along with a Democratic state representative, filed a lawsuit against Bonnen and Empower Texas. 

Ben Philpott  is senior editor for Texas Standard’s home station, KUT in Austin. Philpott says Sullivan has allowed a few Republican members to listen to the tape. 

“They are saying that Bonnen made very disparaging remarks about different members of the House, including Republicans and Democrats,” Philpott says. 

Empower Texans gained Senate press credentials in the last legislative session, but was denied House credentials. The House approached Empower Texas as a political organization. “You can’t be a political activist or a political funder in the press box on the floor of the house,” Philpott says.

The lawsuit filed by the Texas Democratic Party claims both Sullivan and Bonnen were working to interfere with elections. 

“They are saying that because Michael Quinn Sullivan and  Dennis Bonnen got together and drew up a plan to elect or not elect certain candidates makes them a political action committee,” Philpott says. “That makes them an organization trying to influence an election and they did it without registering as a political action committee.”

While there haven’t been any criminal accusations, Philpott says the investigation against Bonnen could potentially affect his leadership role.“Democrats are in the minority but are in shot of possibly flipping or tying in the house,” Philpott says.


Written by Chloe Bennett.