Guns Dominate Political Conversation, Rangers Investigate Secret Meeting, Another Dem in Senate Race

Good morning!Here are the top political headlines from Austin, Washington, the campaign trail and Dallas. 🔎 Prefer the online view? It's here.Points from Austin1. House Speaker Dennis Bonnen continues to dominate headlines in Austin. A panel of state lawmakers on Monday asked the Texas Rangers to investigate allegations of impropriety during a June 12 meeting between Bonnen, Republican Caucus Chairman Dustin Burrows and conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan. James Barragán reports that meeting has mired Bonnen, Burrows and the entire Republican Party in controversy after Sullivan alleged he was offered a quid pro quo during the rendezvous. In late July, Sullivan wrote in a blog post that Bonnen offered writers for his website, Texas Scorecard, media credentials in the next legislative session. The credentials would be awarded if his affiliated political action committee, Empower Texans, refrained from criticizing the session, did not spend money on some Republican incumbents and went after a group of 10 GOP incumbents, Sullivan wrote.2. The controversy has caused Bonnen to tumble from a rarely seen level of near-supreme power in the Texas House. Though the speaker won accolades as the MVP of this year's legislative session. Austin Bureau Chief Robert T. Garrett writes that Bonnen's reputation as a deal-maker, strategist and unifier of Republicans has unraveled just as quickly as his rise to power.3. Meanwhile, Texas Democratic Party is suing Bonnen and Sullivan, alleging the meeting and any agreements reached in it show a coordinated effort "between political actors intended to influence the election or defeat of specific candidates" and amounts to an unregistered political committee, a violation of state law.Bob's BreakdownBob Garrett is the Austin bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News. A fifth-generation Texan, he has covered state government and politics for decades. Here, Bob offers his take from the Capitol.· In the annals of ethical lapses by Texas House speakers, Dennis Bonnen has a lot less to worry about than Gus Mutscher, Billy Clayton and Gib Lewis. For one thing, the public integrity unit at the Travis County district attorney's office was gutted four years ago by the Legislature. Under long-serving Democrat Ronnie Earle, the Travis DA's office sought indictments that plagued such political bigwigs as Lewis, Jim Mattox, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Tom DeLay.· On Monday, a House panel used the new template of the 2015 law, referring activist Michael Quinn Sullivan's accusations of wrongdoing by Bonnen to the Texas Rangers for investigation. The Rangers could send their findings to Bonnen's local DA. Bonnen backers have stressed that there's no bribery case to be made from Sullivan's claims he was offered a media credential in return for going easy next year on the speaker and his friends - and hard on his enemies.· The real sticky wicket in the Texas penal code, though, is not the bribery section but the one about abuse of official capacity. The monetary value of a press pass is probably not enough to place Bonnen potentially at risk of serving much time. On June 27, Bonnen wrote Sullivan not only to deny that any "offer" was made but to stress that House business manager Steve Adrian and Administration Committee czar Charlie Geren control media credentials, not he. Everyone knows, however, that a speaker has the clout to influence that process. Still, Bonnen's biggest exposure is probably political, not legal.Points on Guns and Politics  Continue reading...

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