A Texas Republican legislator reportedly listened to a recording of a meeting between a Texas political activist and two leaders of the House in which an alleged bribery attempt took place. The legislator said the recording confirms the allegations of wrongdoing by the speaker and the chairman of the House Republican Caucus on June 12.
Texas Scorecard’s Michael Quinn Sullivan appears to have made good on his promise to release a recording of a June 12 meeting he attended with House Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-TX) and House Republican Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), the Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday night. During the meeting, Sullivan claims that Bonnen and Burrows offered his organization press credentials for the next legislative session in exchange for Sullivan’s expenditure of PAC funds against a targeted list of Republican lawmakers.
In a blog post on Texas Scorecard, Sullivan wrote:
For a week there has been speculation about whether I or Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen lied about our meeting on June 12. This was my greatest concern when he proposed a meeting in the first place.
Which is why I recorded the entire meeting, from before I walked in until after I left.
I recorded the meeting to protect myself from legal jeopardy, and to protect my own reputation, my family, Empower Texans, and our employees from the lies and malicious attacks Dennis Bonnen has proven he will launch against others when they do not bend to his will.
The post continues:
Speaker Bonnen and Rep. Burrows must recant their false claims. All of them. Immediately.
If they do not, I believe I will be obligated to release the recording—in whole or in part, I haven’t decided yet—so as to set straight the record they have tried to contort.
In the meantime, I will do this: Republican legislators, party officials, and conservative movement leaders who may feel they are impacted by the recording are welcome to contact my office and we will make arrangements for them to listen to the audio in the presence of my lawyer.
It appears Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) took Sullivan up on his offer and listened to the recording. Stickland, who is not seeking re-election to the next term, is a long-time ally of Sullivan and has benefited from “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in campaign contributions from Empower Texans, Sullivan’s conservative organization, the Dallas Morning News stated.
The newspaper states that Stickland reports the recording confirms Sullivan’s account of the meeting and that it is “clear and easy to hear.”
“I’m shocked at the public lies and manipulation the speaker has tried to engage in,” the retiring Bedford lawmaker told the newspaper. “Texas deserves truth, honesty, and a better moral compass than Bonnen is giving us.”
Speaker Bonnen already confirmed in an official statement from the Office of the Speaker that the meeting took place in his office and that he invited the Lubbock Republican Dustin Burrows to attend the meeting “as a witness.” He also stated that he asked Burrows not to comment on the meeting or Sullivan’s allegation.
I asked Chairman Burrows to be present as a witness to our conversation. I also asked him not to comment on this matter because this was an attack by Sullivan on me as the Speaker, and I wanted the opportunity to communicate with Members directly in an email that I sent on Friday evening. I have apologized to Chairman Burrows for everything he has gone through — at no fault of his own — as a result of simply doing what I asked him to do.
It appears; however, that Burrows may be more than just a witness to the meeting.
As previously reported, Burrows read the full list of who to target—and not target—after being instructed to do so by Bonnen. However, at one point in the meeting Bonnen could not help himself; he started naming Republican names to be targeted, before catching himself and deferring to Burrows to complete the task.
Sullivan stated the list of targeted Republicans includes Steve Allison, Trent Ashby, Ernest Bailes, Travis Clardy, Drew Darby, Kyle Kacal, Stan Lambert, John Raney, and Phil Stephenson.
One of the targeted Republicans, Rep. Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches) told the Dallas newspaper he will listen to the recording Wednesday night.
We’re all withholding judgment until we have a chance to hear things,” Clardy told the reporter. “This is frankly a difficult time for all of us, but we’re all committed to doing the right thing and doing the job we got elected to do.”
He confirmed the recording is being offered unredacted and in its entirety. He also stated that other legislators are making arrangements to listen to the recording on Thursday morning.
Sullivan claimed he told Republican Party of Texas Chairman James Dickey about the recording and encouraged him to “take action cleaning up the GOP’s messy House,” the newspaper article states. A spokesman for Dickey’s office confirmed the meeting between Sullivan and Dickey took place but offered no further comment.
The meeting could place Bonnen and Burrows in more than just political hot water.
Fox 26 legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Chris Tritico said on the stations Sunday morning news show “What’s Your Point” that “If this turns out to be true, I think it does absolutely fit the Texas bribery statute which is a second-degree felony with up to 20 years in prison.”
Sullivan’s accusations layout a quid pro quo scheme where Bonnen and Burrows offered an official action from the Texas Legislature (the granting of press credentials to Sullivan’s Scorecard writers) in exchange for political expenditures. The political meeting also reportedly took place in a government office which could also be an offense.
It is not yet known what Bonnen’s next course of action might be. And, Burrows has yet to speak publically about the meeting.