Normally, the Tribune-Herald would step wide of the ongoing dustup between Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, House Republican Caucus chairman Dustin Burrows and provocative lobbyist-turned-journalist (well, sorta) Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans, one of the most divisive forces in Texas politics, a catalyst that disdains compromise in the Legislature and beyond. However, state Rep. Kyle Kacal’s landing in the crossfire in all this demands our interest. Kacal represents a large stretch of McLennan County.
Short version: Speaker Bonnen and Burrows supposedly meet with Sullivan on June 12 to discuss providing Sullivan’s lobbying entity with credentials ordinarily reserved for legitimate news media outlets. (Yeah, that’s right — further clouding what is and is not legitimate news media, but that’s another editorial.) At some point, Sullivan claims, Bonnen and Burrows press him to harness his far-right organization to help defeat 10 Republican legislators in 2020 primary elections, including genial Kyle Kacal of Brazos County. Huh?
Rational individuals might defer to Bonnen over Sullivan, but, surprise, Sullivan claims to have a secret recording of this Republican-versus-Republican scheming. Yet more problems arise: While the handful of Republican lawmakers who have heard the recording say it bolsters Sullivan’s account, some of these lawmakers also tend to be beholden to Sullivan in campaign support. (Anyone beginning to understand why deep-pocketed lobbyists masquerading as journalists on the floor of the House and Senate is a problem? Anyone beginning to understand how certain campaign donations can and do corrupt?)
The Dallas Morning News, Austin American-Statesman and Texas Tribune have done credible reporting of this imbroglio in recent days, though as of Thursday afternoon no one without an axe to grind has heard the Sullivan recording and can speak objectively about it.
Beyond the likelihood that this farce has Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s fingerprints all over it, several factors trouble us: First, given the technology available today, we would sure want a third party to inspect and analyze the Sullivan recording to see if it’s authentic rather than magically cobbled together from various speeches and other recordings to suggest something it isn’t. Second, why has Rep. Burrows remained silent when a few words from him might sufficiently vouch for Bonnen and resolve the matter? Third, while we found much to recommend in Speaker Bonnen’s oversight of the Texas House this past legislative session, one must wonder why on earth Bonnen would allow himself to personally engage Sullivan in private conversation, let alone possible skullduggery, given Sullivan’s obvious hostility for the speaker. But then we also wonder why Kacal would land on any Bonnen list of lawmakers worthy of jettisoning. We can see why Sullivan might wish for some rhetorical firebrand to vanquish Rep. Kacal, but not Speaker Bonnen. In the end, someone is lying hugely — and whoever it turns out to be deserves no trust by anyone, whatever the political stripe.