Texas Tribune News
State Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Lubbock Republican who was silent for weeks amid allegations that he, along with House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, planned to politically target GOP members in 2020, finally went public Thursday — and joined the calls for a secret recording of a controversial meeting to be released.
“I think that the issue will most likely get behind us when the tapes are released,” Burrows told Lubbock radio host Chad Hasty, adding that he wanted the “full, unedited, complete, immediate release of the tapes.”
About a month ago, Michael Quinn Sullivan, a hardline conservative activist who heads Empower Texans, alleged that Burrows and Bonnen, an Angleton Republican, had offered Sullivan’s group long-denied House media credentials if its well-funded political action committee went after 10 GOP members in the 2021 primaries. Bonnen left the room, Sullivan alleged, before Burrows listed off the members. Sullivan later revealed he had secretly recorded the meeting and has since allowed a number of Republicans to listen to it privately.
Bonnen hasn’t explicitly denied Sullivan’s allegations, though he has apologized to House members for saying “terrible things” during the meeting and has asked for the entire recording to be released. Burrows had not publicly commented on the drama until Thursday, though he resigned as chair of the House GOP Caucus last week.
Burrows told Hasty that there was “no physical list” of members to target given to Sullivan during the June 12 meeting, though he did admit to suggesting that, should Empower Texans go after Republicans, the group should do it based on which members voted against a controversial taxpayer-funded lobbying bill during the 86th legislative session.
“We hope you don’t go after any Republicans,” Burrows said, paraphrasing what the emphasis of the June 12 meeting was for him. “But if you’re going to, why are you going after conservatives that actually agree with you? Why aren’t you going after ones who disagree with you?”
Burrows said he “pulled up the record vote” on the piece of legislation and went through names with Sullivan of GOP members that voted against it.
“I made some subjective calls,” he said, “It was very off the cuff.”
The allegation against Burrows targeting certain members had prompted some frustration within the GOP caucus — and the question of whether he had breached caucus bylaws by doing so. Some members said that Burrows’ resignation as chair had alleviated some of the pressure that had built up among House Republicans over the allegations.
Asked about the ongoing Texas Rangers investigation into the allegations, Burrows told Hasty that “there was nothing illegal done in that meeting.”
“I am glad they are going to take a look at this,” he said, “and they’re going to say, what I think I already know, at the end — which is that there was nothing illegal done in that meeting.”
Burrows also said he has not spoken yet with the state agency about the allegations — and noted he did not specifically offer Sullivan media credentials to the lower chamber for his organization.
After Burrows’ interview, Sullivan characterized it as “priceless.”
“Nixonian in denials,” Sullivan tweeted, “and silly in proclamations of good intent. So why did the laughable Mr. Burrows resign as chairman of the #TxLege.”
Burrows’ remarks came hours after Gov. Greg Abbott endorsed the lawmaker for re-election to the House. Abbott touted Burrows’ work as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the key role he played in passing legislation designed to slow the growth of property taxes.