The Bonnen tape is out

It’s a doozy.

During a June conversation at the Texas Capitol, Republican House Speaker Dennis Bonnen urged hardline conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan to target members of their own party in the 2020 primaries and suggested he could get Sullivan’s group media access to the House floor, according to a secret recording of the conversation released Tuesday.

Bonnen could also be heard speaking disparagingly about multiple Democrats, calling one House member “vile” and suggesting that another’s “wife’s gonna be really pissed when she learns he’s gay.”

The 64-minute recording of Sullivan’s June meeting with Bonnen and another top House Republican, then-GOP caucus chair Dustin Burrows, was posted on Sullivan’s website and the website of WBAP, a talk radio station in Dallas on which Sullivan appeared Tuesday morning. The recording largely aligned with Sullivan’s initial description of that June 12 meeting — and with what certain Republicans who listened to the audio before it was public had described.

While its release prompted immediate outcry from Democrats and silence from Republicans, Bonnen said in a statement that the audio makes clear he did nothing criminally wrong in the conversation, adding that the “House can finally move on.”

Roughly nine minutes into the recording, after discussing Sullivan’s recent trip to Europe, Bonnen tells Sullivan he’s “trying to win in 2020 in November.”

“Is there any way that for 2020 we sort of say … let’s not spend millions of dollars fighting in primaries when we need to spend millions of dollars trying to win in November,” Bonnen says. “I wanted to see if we could try and figure that out. … If you need some primaries to fight in — I will leave and Dustin will tell you some we’d love if you fought in. Not that you need our permission.”

Roughly five minutes later, the speaker said, “Let me tell you what I can do for you. Real quick, you need to hear what I want to do for you.”

“I don’t need anything,” Sullivan responded.


Before Bonnen made his offer, he also disparaged a number of House Democrats. The speaker said state Rep. Jon Rosenthal, a Houston Democrat, “makes my skin crawl” and is “a piece of shit.” Bonnen, after saying he’s”begging this is all confidential,” then recounted a meeting with the freshman, after which he asked his chief of staff, Gavin Massingill, what he thought about the new House member.

“Massingill said it best,” Bonnen recalled. “Well, his wife’s gonna be really pissed when she learns he’s gay.”

The room dissolved in laughter before Bonnen turned to discuss other members of the lower chamber’s minority party.

“We’ve got Michelle Beckley, who’s vile,” he said, referring to the freshman Democrat from Carrollton who unseated a Republican in 2018. He exhorted Sullivan to help target these Democrats in competitive districts.

See here for the previous update. I kind of don’t think there’s going to be any “moving on”, except in the sense that no Democrat has any reason to support Bonnen’s re-election as Speaker now. All well and good if Dems take the House in 2020, and still theoretically possible even if they come up a member or two short. Remember, Bonnen was also targeting ten of his fellow Republicans, who may well want to keep their own options open. It’s hard to imagine a Republican in a Republican-majority House backing a Democrat for Speaker, but at this point I think we can all agree that crazier things have happened.

By the way, in regard to those ten targeted Republicans, the Rick Casey theory that they were in Bonnen’s crosshairs because they opposed a bill to ban local government entities from hiring lobbyists sure looks on the money given this quote from the tape: “My goal is for this to be the worst session in the history of the legislature for cities and counties.” Quite the sentiment, no?

Anyway, there’s plenty more out there. The Signal has some clips, the Trib – which is all over this – has choice excerpts, and other outlets like the Chron, the Observer, Texas Monthly, and the Dallas Observer are going to town. If that’s still not enough, go search the #txlege hashtag on Twitter. On a side note, the TDP claimed victory in their lawsuit now that the tape has been released, but there was still a court hearing about it. All that’s left – before the next election, anyway – is for the DPS to finish their investigation. Hope this helps with evidence collection, guys.

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5 Responses to The Bonnen tape is out

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Meh. The article reads like it would if any private conversation was being recorded. Woah….we find out Bonnen doesn’t care for some Dems and thinks at least one of them is a closeted gay? Shocker. Never would have seen that coming. Bonnen doesn’t like R’s that aren’t willing to be team players? Color me surprised!

    Seems like this was much ado about nothing. Frankly, if we had undercover tapes of politicians not being catty like this, it would tell me they knew they were being recorded and not going to participate in a set up.

    This is like the CNN tapes now coming out from Veritas. Oh, shocker….CNN hates Trump. There’s something I didn’t know already.

    Yawn. This didn’t live up to the hype. Is there not even any pussy tape style stuff we can get outraged about?

    About the only thing I can see that should come out of this is, the guy who made the tape needs to be excommunicated from R politics going forward. He’s a snake who cannot be trusted. I didn’t hear anything illegal, and frankly, the embarrassment is all on MQS for being a leaker.

  2. Mainstream says:

    I entirely agree with Bill. Prior to the release of the tape I was warned by conservative activists that there was an explosive, damaging statement by Bonnen being disloyal to President Trump. Instead, all he said was that in a Dallas area suburban district that Trump is unpopular and polling 15 points behind the Republican state rep. That is hardly news.

  3. Joel` says:

    before even clicking on the comments, i thought to myself, “gee, i wonder what hand-wavey thing bill daniels will have posted here to try and make this seem like it is OK.”

    note that bill is both claiming that this is “much ado about nothing” AND that the person who leaked it should be “excommunicated.” hmm.

  4. C.L. says:

    Blaming the leaker sounds like something that’d come out of Pennsylvania Avenue… Bill.

  5. Pingback: So are there any legal consequences to the Bonnen tape? – Off the Kuff

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