At this point, it seems like everyone's going to be disappointed either way. If Empower Texans activist Michael Q. Sullivan's tape of his June meeting with Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen never gets released, we'll always wonder what might have been, given the gnashing of teeth over the recording's alleged contents. If the Texas GOP's dirty laundry does get aired, it might be disappointing, too, if only because clothes aren't as filthy as we've imagined. After the latest twist in Texas Republicans' most recent quest to destroy themselves, the second scenario seems more likely than the first.
Thursday, Dallas County state Rep. Ana-Marie Ramos, a Democrat reportedly mentioned on the tape, filed a lawsuit against Sullivan and an "unknown named political committee" asserting that the meeting between Sullivan and Bonnen violated state law, and demanding that the tape be released.
According to Sullivan, Bonnen offered him Texas House press credentials — something Sullivan has wanted for years — in exchange for targeting 10 specific members of the House Republican caucus during the 2020 Texas primary. This discussion, Ramos alleges in her suit, amounted to Sullivan and Bonnen forming an illegal political action committee.
“Texans deserve to know exactly what happened on June 12, 2019, and they deserve accountability from their elected officials. As a member of the Texas House of Representatives, entrusted by the people of the 102nd district, it is my duty to fight in the best interest of everyday Texans, not the powerful, wealthy or well-connected," Ramos said in a statement. "There needs to be accountability for any violations of ethics or the law that occurred during a meeting between a Republican activist and the Speaker of the House.”
Sullivan accused Bonnen — who's apologized for comments he made during the meeting, but insisted that he did not give Sullivan a list of targets — and Ramos of trying to victimize him.
"Let me see if I follow. #TxLege Speaker @RepDennisBonnen tried to make me a victim of an unethical quid pro quo scheme. I blew the whistle on it. Now the @texasdemocrats are trying to victimize me with a frivolous lawsuit. Look forward to kicking Donkey butt in court," Sullivan tweeted.
Bonnen, Ramos, the Texas Democratic Party and the Texas Democratic House Caucus have all called for the release of an unedited recording of the meeting. To this point, Sullivan has refused, but Republican elected officials and conservative activists who have heard the tape have largely backed up Sullivan's case for what's on it.
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Feeling left out, Democrats are doing everything they can to get the tape.
"Texans deserve to know what happens in their government on their dime, and that elected officials are getting their job done, not scheming to abuse power," Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said. "These accounts of Speaker Bonnen and Republican Chair (Dustin) Burrows’ comments show they don’t give a damn about the needs of Texans or the respect due to their fellow members elected by the people."
The Texas House General Investigation Committee also has plans to look into the meeting. Wednesday, committee chair Morgan Meyer sent a letter to members scheduling a public hearing for Monday.