Texas GOP civil war set to intensify as secret recording is released

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The News

On Thursday, far right-wing activist announced he is releasing the now infamous secret recording he made of a meeting with Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen earlier this year.

“I have been given the green-light by my legal team…to release the audio next week,” Michael Quinn Sullivan wrote on Twitter. “[S]pecific statements by Speaker @RepDennisBonnen in the recording could be used by Democrats to undermine the #GOP.”

The messy scandal dates back to July when Sullivan, the CEO of Empower Texans, went public about a meeting with Bonnen and former Texas House GOP Caucus chairman Rep. Dustin Burrows. Sullivan claims that during the June 12 meeting, Bonnen offered him an quid pro quo deal: media credentials in exchange for Sullivan politically attacking their own Republican colleagues. Bonnen denies any quid pro quo.

In August, the Texas Democratic Party filed a lawsuit against Bonnen for violating state election laws based on the allegations around the secret meeting.

“The meeting between political actors intended to influence the election or defeat of specific candidates,” noted the party’s brief. “This meeting, and any agreements reached, resulted in the formation of a political committee, as defined by state law. Such political committee is required to be registered with an appointed treasurer and, upon information and belief, it is not.”

Why It Matters 

The tape’s release, if all the public angst from Republicans who have heard the audio holds up, could darken the clouds already hovering over the Texas GOP. Beyond losing a Speaker, who may be forced to resign, the collateral damage could be palpable. Democrats, who won 12 state House seats last year and have a fighting chance to win in 2020, could have another hammer to hit Republicans with politically.

At least two Republican lawmakers who have heard the tape believe the recording does not bode well for Bonnen. “I was shocked,” Rep. Steve Toth, a Republican from The Woodlands told Texas Tribune after listening to the audio. “I am discouraged to see the light it put him in and the light it put on the Republican Party.”

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