Capitol Spec: Could Court Order For MQS Documents Turn Up Comms With West Texas Oilman?

Calls for the resignation of Speaker Dennis Bonnen are growing, now including Anderson, Lambert, Parker, Ashby, Stephenson, Raney


October 17, 2019

A state district judge has ordered Empower Texans CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan to provide state Democratic leaders with copies of a secret recording that was released this week, along with communications he had with others about a meeting with House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, which Capitol observers speculate includes the possibility of producing emails to West Texas oilman Tim Dunn.

The judge’s order was part of a lawsuit by the Texas Democratic Party claiming there were violations of Texas election laws during or because of Sullivan’s meeting with Bonnen (along with state Rep. Dustin Burrows) in June during which the two discussed election matters.

After a request from Democrats for communications, State District Judge Jan Soifer allowed court production of communications about the meeting, other than those with legal counsel, but denied Democrats’ request for Sullivan’s communications with elected officials.

Sullivan’s lawyer is asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming harassment and lack of standing by Democrats, who requested the communications as part of discovery to possibly enhance the suit.

Immediate speculation among Capitol politicians was that the producing of communications could turn up emails about the meeting between Sullivan and the chairman of Empower Texans, Tim Dunn, the Midland oilman and CEO of CrownQuest Operating, LLC who created the group in order to increase the number of conservative politicians in Austin.

Calls for Bonnen’s resignation are increasing as concern grows about his meeting with Sullivan, especially following the release this week of a tape Sullivan made — with Representatives Doc Anderson of Waco, Stan Lambert of Abilene, Tan Parker of Flower Mound, Trent Ashby of Lufkin, Phil Stephenson of Wharton and according to Quorum Report, John Raney of Bryan among those having publicly called for Bonnen to step down.

During the meeting, Bonnen offered media credentials to Sullivan — access to the Texas House floor — should Sullivan agree to help in targeting some moderate Republicans, which some Democrats have said may have constituted a bribe.

The allegations are being investigated by the Texas Rangers with findings to be reported to the state legislature and to  Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne, who will decide whether there is evidence of a crime.