Secretly-recorded audio reveals Speaker Dennis Bonnen trying to exchange press access for political favors

State of Texas

AUSTIN (Nexstar) – People who say they don’t like politics often complain about politicians making backroom deals and trading public access for political favors. Secretly-recorded audio released earlier this week now shows Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen doing all of those things.

Conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan from Empower Texans met with Bonnen and Dustin Burrows, then chair of the Republican Caucus, in June. Sullivan secretly recorded the meeting and captured Bonnen and Burrows offering him press access in exchange for campaign work against Bonnen’s rivals.

The recording shows Bonnen asking Sullivan for help targeting 10 moderate republicans in the primaries.

Bonnen released a statement Wednesday saying the meeting was a political discussion and nothing illegal. There is an ongoing Texas Ranger investigation looking into if Bonnen really broke the law.

Sullivan said he’s known Bonnen for 25 years, and said he believes Bonnen has not always been truthful in the past. Sullivan said he wanted to make sure he had the recording of the meeting.

“I heard rumors of similar instances and decided I didn’t want to be the next victim,” Sullivan said. “I said I needed to have proof of what was said in this kind of a meeting.”

Sullivan called his lawyer as soon as he finished the meeting because he said he was disturbed by the Speaker’s offer.

“When someone who is the third-ranking constitutional officer in the state says let me tell you what I can do for you, that was kind of a warning flag for me,” Sullivan said.

Now, Sullivan hopes the released audio will start a civic dialogue among citizens about what should be expected from elected officials.

“Do we want someone who will be scratching backs and getting his own back scratched,” Sullivan said. “Or do we want someone who will bring honor and integrity to the legislative process, regardless of the ideology?”

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