AUSTIN (KXAN) — Former political allies are breaking apart over guns and a secretly recorded meeting in the Texas Capitol.
Leader of the conservative Texas Senate, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and prominent conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan have both accused each other online of destroying the Texas Republican Party.
Sullivan’s non-profit group Empower Texans has donated more than $800,000 to Lt. Governor Patrick over his career. An Empower Texans affiliate, Texas Scorecard, received media credentials to cover the Texas Senate on the chamber floor.
The fissure began to show as Patrick helped push through historic school finance and property tax legislation in the 2019 legislative session. Sullivan accused Patrick of neglecting more conservative priorities.
Then came the El Paso terrorist attack where the shooter failed a background check from a licensed dealer but was able to buy a gun through a private sale. Patrick came out forcefully in requiring background checks for private sales between strangers. Sullivan took to Twitter to express his outrage about his former ally.
“Whether it is @BetoORourke wanting to outright seize your firearms, or @DanPatrick trying to manage what you do with them, it is sadly evident too many politicians are all too willing to betray our Consitution in the name of their own political power,” wrote Sullivan.
“You know my plan exempts family and friends, so apparently you are fine with selling your guns to total strangers who can’t pass a background check because they could be a violent felon or someone bent on mass violence,” wrote Patrick in response via Twitter.
Then Patrick added, “BTW, release the tape. You are destroying our party.”
The last phrase was regarding a controversial meeting between Sullivan and Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton. Sullivan secretly recorded the meeting and has accused Bonnen of asking him to dedicate resources to ousting Bonnen’s Republican rivals in the Texas House.
Bonnen has rejected those allegations.
The Texas Rangers are now investigating the incident, which happened inside the capitol after the 2019 legislative session.
Many — including Patrick — have asked Sullivan to release the audio. So far, only select lawmakers and conservative political operatives have heard it. No professional journalists have heard the audio for their reporting, including KXAN.
The incident has roiled the Texas GOP at a time when Democrats are riding high, hoping to benefit from Republican discord. Earlier this month, the Texas Democratic Party released a plan that will cost many millions of dollars, hiring 1,000 campaign workers and registering 2.6 million new voters.
On Tuesday, the fissure between Sullivan and Patrick only seemed to widen as the day went on.
“You haven’t bothered to listen to the audio. Why not? Too scared to make a moral judgment without a poll?” Sullivan wrote on Twitter in response to Patrick. “Your unwillingness to defend the rights of law-abiding citizens to appease Democrats is what’s destroying the GOP.”