When we cornered Republican state Rep. Kyle Kacal Thursday night, the lawmaker expressed surprise that, rather than implementation of massive education reforms in his Central Texas school districts or the prospect of a controversial city of Waco landfill near the rural community of Axtell, also in his district, he instead was ensnared in skullduggery over an alleged quid-pro-quo arrangement between House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, House GOP Caucus Leader Dustin Burrows and right-wing activist and all-around troublemaker Michael Quinn Sullivan. Believe us, we’re surprised, too, including the fact Kacal landed on Burrows’ supposed list of 10 legislators who by someone’s reckoning deserve to be “primaried” with Sullivan’s help in exchange for Sullivan’s at long last receiving much-coveted news-media access to the floor of the Texas House.
Kacal insists he knows nothing about how he might have made such a list, assuming it even exists (as Sullivan loudly claims). “I feel like I have a lot of friends in the House,” Kacal told a Tribune-Herald editorial board member at Axtell High School. “Apparently I was targeted for some reason I don’t understand yet.” Kacal added that he has yet to hear a recording of the meeting Sullivan clandestinely made — and that he prefers to withhold judgment till more details surface about who’s telling the truth, who’s not. Probably wise.
Less than 24 hours after our speaking with Kacal, one suspicion he shared came true: Burrows resigned as head of the House Republican Caucus — something one might suspect Burrows would refuse to do if Sullivan were spinning lies. This left Sullivan, who heads Empower Texans, free to gloat on Twitter, noting Speaker Bonnen’s “very public pronouncements [earlier] that he would punish any lawmaker who works against any incumbent House member. Hypocrisy, unethical offers, denials, lies and now a resignation. Only thing left in this saga is a coverup.”
We used to say Democrats could mess up a sure thing, but Texas Republicans now prove they’re just as incompetent when it comes to cannibalizing one another. All things considered, the House General Investigating Committee was right last week to hand off this hot potato to the Texas Rangers for what we’re assured will be a prompt investigation. Meanwhile, we’re left to marvel how the speaker could have ever considered meeting with Sullivan — something Joe Straus, for all his critics, was smart enough to avoid through several successful sessions as House speaker, even as Sullivan continually maligned him and worked to undermine him.
By the way, is the restricting of press credentials to legitimate news media so undervalued by Republican leadership it is to be bartered away for political ends? And if Sullivan is really a journalist, how come he hasn’t released this recording? Investigating Committee Chairman Morgan Meyer vows any inquiries will “follow the facts and the evidence without regard to political considerations.” But, of course, that’s absurd. Like so much else these days, this imbroglio boils down to power, politics and pettiness.