*This article, originally published November 13, was updated on November 16, 2018, to correct a mistake about presumptive Speaker Bonnen’s expenditures.
Yesterday afternoon, State Representative Dennis Bonnen strode to a microphone in the Texas Capitol to announce, “The Speaker’s race is over.” Bonnen had collected 109 pledges of support — far more than needed — to practically guarantee he will be the new Speaker of the House when lawmakers convene in January. But what kind of Speaker will he be? His voting record and his political alliances send a mixed signal.
Bonnen’s voting record suggests he is among the more conservative lawmakers. Dr. Mark Jones of Rice University ranks all members of the Texas House and Senate from most liberal to most conservative. According to Jones, Bonnen ranks as the 24th most conservative member of the House (out of 150), and the most conservative member of the eight representatives who had thrown their hat into the ring to be Speaker. This ideological position likely explains how Bonnen was able to secure the support of all but one of the members of the Texas Freedom Caucus, a coalition of the most conservative members of the House.
His political alliances, on the other hand, suggest Bonnen may govern the House as a moderate-liberal. Bonnen was seen as an ally of former liberal Republican Speaker Joe Straus, who came to power and maintained control by governing with a coalition of liberal Republicans and Democrats. Bonnen even served as Speaker Pro-Tempore when Straus was absent. The association with Straus likely explains how Bonnen was able to secure the support of many of the most liberal Republicans as well as a number of Democrats.
This unique mixture of ideology and positioning allowed Bonnen to gain support from every corner of the political spectrum, but it also raises questions about how he will lead and which positions he will champion.
At Transparency Texas we believe, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The best way to predict how Bonnen will govern the House is to follow his money.
Notable Contributions to Bonnen’s Campaign:
Notable Expenditures by Bonnen’s Campaign:
What to Watch Going Forward:
Now that Bonnen is slated to become the third most powerful politician in Texas, behind only Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, it will be interesting to watch which lobbyists and donors chip in to his account between now and January 8, the start of the next legislative session. (In order to avoid the appearance, or reality, of being bribed, lawmakers are not allowed to accept donations during the session.)
You can count on Transparency Texas to keep you informed about what’s going on with presumptive Speaker Bonnen and all the money in Texas politics.
Our Capitol Crowd series investigates the money behind the politicians, advocacy groups, and donors who have the biggest impact in Austin.