What the GOP’s secret audio shows: favors and fears about 2020

by | Oct 15, 2019 | Uncategorized

On Tuesday, the right-wing CEO of Empower Texans Michael Sullivan released the long-awaited tape of dirt on House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. 

Sullivan released the audio on Tuesday morning during a radio appearance on a conservative radio program, the Chris Salcedo Show.

Last month, Sullivan went public about the meeting he held with Bonnen and former Texas House GOP Caucus chairman Rep. Dustin Burrows. In the June 12 meeting, Sullivan claims Bonnen offered him an illegal quid pro quo deal. Sullivan said he was offered media credentials in exchange for politically attacking a list of  Republican colleagues.

One of the most important clips is one of Bonnen appearing to offer Sullivan media credentials on the House floor for his partisan advocacy organization, Empower Texans. “And let me tell what I’ll do for you– real quick, you need to hear what I want to do for you,” Bonnen says on the tape. “… We can make this work … I’ll put your guys on the floor next session.”

Empower Texans’ failure to gain media credentials in sessions past has long been a sore spot for Sullivan, who even took the issue to court.

Also in the meeting is plenty of inter-Republican politics, like a list of unfavorable Republicans.

“And let’s go after these Republicans that– and I’m not kidding– when it comes to 2020 if we’re successful and we gain maybe one or two or three Republican seats, we beat some of these liberal pieces of shit, and we maybe flip a couple of these primaries, better Rs, kick my ass if we’re not doing a better job,” Bonnen says in a clip.

The state’s Republican majority is a fragile one

It’s clear from the audio that Bonnen’s reason behind the meeting is to establish a truce of sorts between Bonnen’s lawmaking as House Speaker and Sullivan’s activist network and partisan PAC. 

“I just think we have to get through 2020 and guarantee that we try to hold this majority, and with all due respect to Trump– which I love by the way– he’s killing us in urban-suburban districts,” Bonnen says in the recording.

“I need you firing harder that way than these ways,” Bonnen continues before offering Sullivan media credentials and even going as far as saying– as part of his offer– he would remove the media credentials of Scott Braddock, a Texas reporter.

Democrats have begun weighing in, including Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Rep. Chris Turner who said, “Speaking only for myself, I personally believe these revelations are incompatible with Mr. Bonnen serving another term as Speaker.”

Bonnen is also heard calling a female House colleague “vile” and disparaging the Texas cities he, as speaker of the entire House, is supposed to represent. “My goal is for this to be the worst session in the history of the legislature for cities and counties,” he said.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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