One might have hoped, with the Texas House's powerful General Investigating Committee getting in on the action Monday, that a little light would have been shed on what exactly transpired between Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen and Empower Texans gadfly Michael Q. Sullivan on June 12. The committee, led by Park Cities Republican Morgan Meyer, did no such thing, but there's hope that the dumb answers to the questions provoked by one of Texas' all-time dumb political scandals are on the way.
The Texas Rangers — the law enforcement ones, not the Elvis Andrus-led ones — are the latest player in Bonnen-gate after being asked by the committee to get to the bottom of the meeting between Bonnen and Sullivan and its aftermath.
Two minutes after Monday's hearing began, Meyer and the committee went into executive session for almost an hour. When they came out, they voted unanimously to ask state law enforcement to look into Sullivan's claims that Bonnen attempted to get him to target certain Texas House members during the state's March 2020 primary in exchange for being granted press credentials for the House floor in 2021.
"The chair and the members of this committee agree that ... any investigation should follow the facts and the evidence without regard to political considerations," Meyer said.
As the Rangers pick up the investigation, the stalemate between one of the Texas GOP's most important elected officials and one of its tea party rainmakers persists.
Bonnen denies having given Sullivan a list of names to target. Sullivan says he's got a recording of Bonnen doing just that. Bonnen wants Sullivan to release the complete recording of their meeting, during which Bonnen has already admitted making inappropriate comments about members.
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Carrollton Democrat Michelle Beckley, one House member said to be disparaged by Bonnen on the recording, according to those who've heard the tape, said Monday that she supported the investigation but chastised the committee for its lack of transparency.
"It was initially disappointing to see the committee go into executive session. The Texas public needs full transparency in this investigation. There are possible ethics violations made that need to be investigated to maintain the integrity of the House," Beckley said.
Like Bonnen, Texas House Democrats and the Texas Democratic Party have called on Sullivan to release an unedited copy of his recording. So far, he's resisted, playing the tape only for Republican lawmakers and conservative activists. Those who've heard it say it jibes with Sullivan's account of the meeting.
"While I am disappointed Speaker Dennis Bonnen and State Rep. Dustin Burrows chose the course they did to deceive the public about our June 12 meeting, I’m glad the Texas House General Investigating Committee appears to be searching for the truth," Sullivan tweeted Monday. "I recorded the meeting to protect myself from Speaker Bonnen’s proven practice of using lies to attack his adversaries. It is abundantly obvious my decision to record our meeting was the correct one."