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Secret Dennis Bonnen recording of alleged quid pro quo coming out next week, activist says

Allegations against the Texas House speaker by hardline conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan have thrown the chamber into turmoil for the past couple of months.

From left: House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, at a bill signing ceremony for Senate Bill …

Hardline conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan said Thursday he will release a secret recording of his controversial meeting with House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and another top GOP member next week.

"I have been given the green light to do so by my legal team," Sullivan wrote in his morning "Texas Minute" email to subscribers. "Later today I will announce that the audio will be released next week."

Sullivan could share the recording ahead of an already-scheduled House GOP caucus meeting on Oct. 18, which will mark the first official Republican gathering since the head of Empower Texans accused the speaker of planning to politically target members from his own party. That allegation has, for the past couple of months, thrown the 150-member House into turmoil.

In late July, Sullivan accused Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, and state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, of offering Sullivan House media credentials to Empower Texans if its well-funded political action committee went after 10 GOP members in the 2020 primary elections. Sullivan said Bonnen made the offer during a June 12 meeting at the Texas Capitol, and that Burrows listed the House members to target after the speaker left the room.

Bonnen and Burrows, who was publicly silent on the matter for weeks, have forcefully pushed back against the allegations — though the speaker has apologized to colleagues for saying "terrible things that are embarrassing to the members, to the House, and to me personally" at the meeting. Burrows, for his part, has since resigned as chair of the House GOP caucus.

Both have also joined calls by GOP leaders and both Republican and Democratic lawmakers for Sullivan to release his secret recording of the meeting, which he has so far only played for certain GOP lawmakers, consultants and activists. Some who have listened to it said the recording largely confirms Sullivan's allegations.

In August, at the request of a House committee, the Texas Rangers Public Integrity Unit launched an investigation to look into the allegations surrounding that June 12 meeting. It's been unclear when that investigation could wrap up. Earlier this week, the Rangers were hand-delivering letters to House offices at the Capitol requesting members to provide "any testimony, recordings, documents, records, or other information relevant" to the investigation by Oct. 17.

Before then, on Oct. 15, Sullivan is scheduled to appear in a Travis County court as part of a lawsuit spearheaded by the Texas Democratic Party, which has sued over the recording. A lawyer representing the party said in a statement that they're moving forward with their hearing since "the release of the tape has supposedly been imminent a few times."

A couple of days later, from Oct. 17-18, the House Republican Caucus will be in Austin for its annual retreat, which was on the books before Sullivan's allegations first surfaced.

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