'Bonnenghazi' Explained in 3 Charts

Alleged Bribe Offered by House Speaker Bonnen to Empower Texans

If you follow Texas politics at all, you’re aware of ‘Bonnenghazi.” If not, here’s a summary by the New York Times:

The political imbroglio started last month, when Michael Quinn Sullivan, a conservative pit bull who routinely antagonizes establishment politicians, accused the Republican House speaker, Dennis Bonnen, of offering his organization coveted House media credentials if it would work to defeat 10 incumbent House members from Mr. Bonnen’s own party.

Here’s the controversy explained in three charts designed by Influence Texas designer Virgil Almeda:

Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, former GOP Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows (who recently resigned), and Empower Texans’ Director MQS had a meeting. Allegedly, Burrows gave MQS a hit list of 10 Republicans at Bonnen’s behest, and Bonnen talked trash about four lawmakers.

MQS won’t publicly release his tape, but will let select lawmakers listen to it privately. The first two lawmakers Rep. Jonathan Stickland and Rep. Kyle Biedermann, who both listened to MQS’ tape and confirmed his story, have received significant financial support from MQS’s organization, Empower Texans, and its funder, wealthy oil man Tim Dunn. *

Reactions from 31 lawmakers’ who have spoken out regarding the scandal: The majority want to forgive Bonnen and move on, many want to investigate, and three (including Stickland and Bierdermann) want Bonnen to resign.

This week the House General Investigating Committee voted unanimously to order a Texas Rangers investigation into the alleged quid pro quo.

Why it matters:

Bonnen could lose his position as House Speaker, which could pave the way for Democrats to gain seats in the state Legislature.

Also, the scandal has ended the cooperative atmosphere that characterized the recently ended legislative session—unlike the previous session, which was dominated by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s bathroom bill and other divisive issues.

Why it’s perplexing:

NYT: “To observers, one of the most baffling aspects of the meeting was Mr. Bonnen’s willingness to approach a political firebrand who has had a perpetually contentious, if not outright hostile, relationship with the House leadership. Mr. Bonnen told members in his apology that he was ‘stupid to take a meeting with an individual who has worked hard to divide our House.’”

* Data is from the most recent election cycle (2017-2018) leading up to the 86th Legislative session, which ended in May 2019. About Influence Texas data. About Influence Texas.