Prosecutors in Texas on Thursday said they will not pursue criminal charges against House Speaker Dennis Bonnen for allegedly offering a conservative activist media credentials in exchange for targeting members of his own party up for reelection.
In a statement, Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne called Bonnen’s action “repugnant,” but said she didn’t believe there was sufficient evidence to warrant criminal prosecution.
State police investigators began looking into Bonnen regarding a secretly recorded June 12 meeting involving him and other Republicans.
In the meeting, Bonnen offered Michael Quinn Sullivan, a conservative activist, media credentials on the condition that he target several moderate Republican incumbents in 2020 elections.
Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, right, with Gov. Greg Abbott, in May. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
He also used foul language and disparaged Democrats.
Sullivan is the CEO of Empower Texans, a conservative nonprofit focused on promoting free-market principles in the state. He claimed Bonnen offered the media credentials in exchange for attacking 10 Republican House members before the 2020 primary election.
“I was stupid to take a meeting with an individual who has worked hard to divide our House,” Bonnen said in an email addressed to House members in August. “I said terrible things that are embarrassing to the members, to the House, and to me personally.”
In her statement, Yenne called Bonnen’s behavior “offensive” and “lacking in character and integrity.” Several Republicans called for his resignation following the release of the hourlong recording.
The embattled House speaker announced on Tuesday that he would not seek reelection. The scandal comes at a time when GOP dominance in the lower chamber is slipping.
Democrats can grab a majority in the House if they flip nine seats in 2020.
Fox News’ Danielle Wallace and The Associated Press contributed to this report.