I wrote a variant of this on this blog before, but I have never put the formulation that I posted on the Boot Bonnen group in Facebook. Given that content on Facebook may go away someday, figured I would capture it here.
I am a Texas Aggie, a descendant of Scottish cattle drivers, and I know history, so I get how revealing Dennis Bonnen’s caveman slam is about who he is. Let me explain.
There is a common refrain throughout history whereby some individuals seek to gain self esteem by lording it over others because they think themselves smarter, more sophisticated, or otherwise superior to others.
One of the dimensions the social divide takes place in is between urban “sophisticates” and rural “hicks.” It takes place between New York / Massachusetts, etc. and Texas. It takes place between D.C. and the rest of the country.
The snobbery takes place between progressives and liberty lovers. It takes place between the media and conservatives. It takes place between the young and older generations. And all of that is exploited for sales in marketing campaigns and by the entertainment industry.
Even the term Whigs and Tories in the founding days of the Republic show this divide. Whigs were what the founding fathers who fought the American Revolution considered themselves to be. About a century before the American Revolution, the liberty activists in London called themselves the Green Ribbon Club. Algernon Sidney, John Locke and his patron, Anthony Ashley Cooper (the First Earl of Shaftesbury) were part of the Green Ribbon Club, so named in the Interregnum because those who fought for liberty and to get rid of Charles I and then Cromwell, wore green ribbons on their arms to show their devotion to liberty.
The enemies of the liberty champions were devotees and sycophants to the King. Those who got access to the King, of course, were sophisticated and in the know. They, of course, were superior to and deserving of ruling over other men. It was the King’s men, the Tories, who came up with a pejorative nickname for the liberty-loving Green Ribbon Club.
The name was whigamore. A whigamore was a Scottish cattle driver. In other words to the anointed King’s sophisticates, liberty devotees were hicks, rubes, unsophisticates, Aggies.
In the vernacular of the Dennis Bonnen, liberty advocates are cavemen. To Hillary -- deplorables. And Obama – bitter clingers.
In the last few days, I have seen two references to the Texas Constitution’s provisions on bribery. The context, of course, was the discussion about the legal characterization of the offer made by Dennis Bonnen to Michael Quinn Sullivan in the infamous June, 2019 meeting that has been in the news as of late.
The first mention of the constitutional bribery provision was by former State Rep. Matt Rinaldi on Facebook. The second was in an article by Texas Scorecard. The gist of the posts was that the bribery clause in the Texas Constitution is different from the bribery statute in at least four respects:
- The constitution’s definition is broader (and better fits the facts of the offer made by Dennis Bonnen to Michael Sullivan)
- The constitution has a different remedy – removal from office – as opposed to the criminal penalties in the statute
- The remedy is a civil action defined in law in “Quo Warranto” Chapter 66 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, thereby making the standard of proof for the decision the lower preponderance of evidence standard instead of beyond a reasonable doubt
- The quo warranto procedure can be initiated by the Attorney General or the District Attorney in any appropriate venue whereas the bribery statute criminal indictment can only be initiated by the District Attorney in the home county of the defendant.
This whole line of reasoning and possible avenue of approach to Dennis Bonnen got me to wondering about the history of constitutional thinking in Texas about bribery. Here is what I found.
First, I had not realized it, but the constitutionally required oath of office in Texas found in the General Provisions Art. 16, Sec. 1 not only requires an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the Unite States and of this State” but it also requires an oath that one is free from bribery/influence when taking office. That part of the oath says:
I . . . do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I have not directly or indirectly paid, offered, promised to pay, contributed, or promised to contribute any money or thing of value, or promised any public office or employment for the giving or withholding of a vote at the election at which I was elected or as a reward to secure my appointment or confirmation, whichever the case may be, so help me God.
Second, Art. 16, Sec. 5 prohibits anyone previously been convicted of offering or receiving a bribe is ineligible from “holding any office of profit, or trust, in this State.”
Finally, there is the provision discussed above and by Rinaldi and Texas ScoreCard -- Art. 16, Sec. 41 which is entitled “BRIBERY AND SOLICITATION OR ACCEPTANCE OF BRIBES.” I include the text of that provision which leaves out the inapplicable provisions and focuses on the fact situation with Bonnen/Burrows and Sullivan:
[A]ny member of the Legislature . . . who shall solicit, demand or receive, or consent to receive, directly or indirectly, for himself, or for another . . . from any . . . person, any . . . testimonial, reward, thing of value or employment, or of personal advantage or promise thereof, for his . . . official influence, or for withholding the same, or with any understanding, expressed or implied, that his . . . official action shall be in any way influenced thereby, or who shall solicit, demand and receive any . . . other advantage matter or thing aforesaid for another, as the consideration of his vote or official influence, in consideration of the payment or promise of such . . . advantage, matter or thing to another, shall be held guilty of bribery, within the meaning of the Constitution, and shall incur the disabilities provided for said offenses, with a forfeiture of the office they may hold, and such other additional punishment as is or shall be provided by law.
I think it an easy case to be made that Dennis Bonnen meets this constitutional provision and is therefore subject to removal from office. Here is how I think the facts match the provision:
Dennis Bonnen solicited for himself from Michael Quinn Sullivan and his organization a thing of value – to NOT donate to his primary campaign opponent, Rhonda Seth (aka "the nurse"), in 2020. Given that Empower Texans had donated $100,000 to Bonnen’s primary opponent in 2018. That is a thing of substantial value.
What did Dennis Bonnen offer to Sullivan and his organizations in exchange for such an advantage or thing of value? Answer: Bonnen’s official influence over the press pass to the House floor for Texas Scorecard.
Because I am a fan of Texas history and legal history, I decided to see how Art. 16, Section 41 got into the Texas Constitution. By reading the journal of the proceedings of the Texas Constitutional Convention of 1875, I found that on September 13, 1875, an F.M. Martin of Navarro County introduced a resolution to add the provision to the Constitution. As far as I can tell, it was accepted and incorporated into the General Provisions article of the Constitution unamended, and has stayed intact ever since.
I went to the Texas State Historical Association Online to find out more about F.M. Martin. His full name is Francis Marion Martin, obviously being named after the South Carolina American Revolution hero also called the Swamp Fox. He was born in Kentucky in 1830, and arrived in Texas at the age of 23 in 1853. He was elected to the Texas Senate in 1859 as a supporter of Sam Houston.
Marion Martin, as we find he called himself, followed Sam Houston on another issue, opposing secession, but after he lost that issue, did his duty and served as a Captain in the Twentieth Texas Cavalry for the Confederate States of America.
He returned to public service in 1875 by becoming a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1875. After that, he re-entered the Texas Senate in 1878 and 1880 and in 1882 was elected Lieutenant Governor. (I obtained the attached picture of Marion Martin from the State Preservation Board. It was taken from the composite picture of the 1883 (18th) Texas Senate that hangs on the wall in the Capitol.) He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1886.
Marion opposed monopolies and was an alcohol prohibitionist. He was the unsuccessful Lieutenant Governor nominee for the Populist Party in 1892 and 1894.
The people of Texas owe Francis Marion Martin a debt of gratitude for his contribution to our Texas Constitution. I hope we can make use of his contribution to insure a corruption free and free future for Texas.
In my youth, I made a mistake. I thought it was cool to say that all politicians are corrupt. But then, I encountered Bill and Hillary Clinton, and I changed my mind and don’t say that anymore. Rather, I state my requirement that politicians NOT be corrupt.
I realized that corruption is a major cause of the loss of liberty and that if we are to stay free, eternal vigilance and intolerance against the natural tendency toward corruption by those attracted to government is an urgent necessity. I know that to a large degree, American and Texan success is due to that we have historically been better at rooting out corruption than other countries.
I was persuaded of the urgent necessity to fight corruption by this article written by Michael Ledeen and published in the National Review during the height of the 1998 Clinton impeachment. If you love Texas and liberty, I urge you to read it. I am going to quote its highlights here and apply it to the current bribery scandal we are facing in Texas with the Dennis Bonnen and Dustin Burrows.
“The punishment of [Dennis Bonnen and Dusin Burrows] is desperately necessary, because if we fail to root out corruption, our freedom is placed at risk.”
“Once the rot sets in, even the finest institutions are useless. “Neither laws nor constitutional systems are sufficient to rein in a general corruption.” [Machiavelli] warns us, adding that once corruption has taken hold of a free nation, it is headed toward tyranny. Nations wishing to remain free must therefore relentlessly fight corruption. When improper actions are found, the malefactors must be quickly and publicly punished, no matter how great their past contributions.”
No well-ordered republic ever canceled its citizens’ demerits with their merits . . . . Having rewarded a citizen for performing well, if the selfsame man does evil he must be punished without any regard for his good works. And when these fundamental principles are well enforced, a [nation] lives free for a long time: otherwise it is quickly ruined.”
In the case of Bonnen, I am not sure that you can say he has performed well, or has done good works. In fact Boot Bonnen was created before this latest corruption scandal because he had ALREADY betrayed the voters of HD 25 and Texas. But you get the point.
“The general principle is that a dramatic action is needed to reassert the state’s first principles, taking a powerful figure and subjecting him to merciless punishment or destruction.”
“The public is far more concerned about corruption than the elites are, and more resistant to its temptations . . . But if the people are corrupted, democracy is doomed. Alexis de Tocqueville knew that. He wrote:
What is to be feared is not so much the immorality of the great as the fact that immorality may lead to greatness.”
“If the people believe their leaders achieve power because they are corrupt, the entire enterprise is discredited. Corruption spreads like wildfire, virtuous laws and institutions are overwhelmed, and the common good is smothered.”
I would add that if the young and ambitious think that they gain wealth and power through deception and bribery and theft instead of producing goods and services for others, the wealth of the society rapidly declines because the brightest do not produce.
And once the habits of the people are to cut corners and generally not to behave in a principled way, the military gets hollowed out and ineffective, and the country is ripe to be toppled from without. If the man on the front line facing the enemy is habituated to NOT doing the right thing and cutting corners, how will he have the courage to fight effectively? If the soldier on the front line thinks that his sacrifice will just be given to keep the corrupt in power, why should he fight?
“[T]hat is why the punishment of our corrupt leaders is such an urgent task. Corrupt men and women indeed came to power in the United States, and we must demonstrate that we will not tolerate the corruption of our free society. The only way to demonstrate this is to bring them down and subject them to public humiliation. To do otherwise would confirm that the rot has spread from our leaders to the people.”
Rooting out corruption within the Republican leadership is also vital to the survival and health of the Republican Party. There can be no greater damage to the brand than the leadership of the Party to allow corruption within the leadership ranks of the Party to go unpunished.
I started the Boot Bonnen group and PAC to tell the establishment that the voters are tired of Austin serving the cronies and betraying the principles and priorities of the Party which elected them. My hope was that other members of the Texas House would choose more wisely when they choose their next speaker after Bonnen does not return to Austin in 2021.
The voters of HD 25 may still have to do the cleanup. But for the good of Texas liberty, let us hope that other leaders in our state grasp what Machiavelli and de Tocqueville were trying to teach us, and take swift, public, and dramatic action to let everyone know that corruption will not be tolerated.
Your future liberty and the fate of Texas depends on how we handle the Bonnen and Burrows corruption. One way or another, this cannot stand.
One of the most insightful columns during this Bonnen-Sullivan meeting debacle is the identification and naming of the bargain that has existed for a good while in the Texas House between the speaker of the House and those who elect him. The person who identified the bargain (in this article) was Ross Ramsey, Executive Editor and senior political analyst at the Texas Tribune.
Here is what he said:
The compact between a speaker and the members of the Texas House who elect him goes like this: Protect the members from the outside world (and from fratricidal colleagues), and in return, you get the title, the fancy corner office, the apartment in the state Capitol, and the gavel and the dais when the Legislature is in session.
Protection for power. It’s not a complicated transaction.
One gets the impression from reading this and other articles by Ramsey that he approves of this realpolitik.
The question we want to ask the voters of HD 25 is whether they do.
I think that what voters, the grassroots, and the GOP primary voter want in a speaker is VERY different! They do NOT want the Power for Protection bargain delivered by both Bonnen and Straus.
What we want is a speaker who will work to implement the principles and legislative priorities of the Party that elected him. We want to be listened to, not disparaged, lied about, disdained, and ignored.
The establishment will want to spin Bonnen’s demise as due to his betrayal of the Protection for Power bargain with fellow House members and the establishment. I think the voters of HD 25 will boot Bonnen because he made the Protection for Power bargain, thereby betraying them.
We learned on Tuesday, August 6 in this article by a conservative leader who has listened to the tape of the Bonnen-Sullivan meeting, Daniel Greer, that Dennis Bonnen included in his requests to Empower Texans that they not fund his 2020 primary opponent’s campaign, Rhonda Seth. Given that Empower Texans funded Bonnen’s 2018 primary opponent with over $100,000, this is not an insignificant request.
To our knowledge, this is the first time we have heard about this from the infamous Bonnen-Sullivan meeting.
Here is the quote from the article:
What’s arguably as interesting was the specific ask of Sullivan by the Speaker, don’t give money to my primary opponent.
Bonnen at multiple points asks Sullivan not to spend against him in a primary ending with, “I would prefer you to not hammer me every chance you get. But as long as you don’t spend against me” I’m good.
So, in addition to the other items asked for, more important in our view, is the report that the Speaker offered press credentials in exchange for Empower Texans not funding his primary challenger.
The headline of this article should have been: "Dennis Bonnen offered press credentials in exchange for not funding Rhonda Seth, his primary challenger."
Talk about corrupt bargains! THIS part of the deal is more damning and more of interest to the voters of HD 25 than any other of the requests.
Dennis Bonnen does not want the voters of Brazoria and Matagorda Counties to know what he has been up to. And he is willing to bribe people with government favors to keep the voters from being informed about his record.
It’s enough to make you want to check out the campaign of Rhonda Seth, now isn’t it?
Dennis Bonnen keeps delivering evidence of his lack of fitness to be a representative of the people of HD 25 and the Speaker of the Texas House. The latest news is his meeting with the leader of Empower Texans, Michael Quinn Sullivan and what he has been reported to have said and what Bonnen has said about the meeting.
This story has many back and forths between Sullivan and Bonnen. There is some he said and he said aspect to the story. But one thing there is no dispute about – Bonnen’s wrong-headed strategic vision for the Texas House. This story gives us more evidence of why Bonnen’s leadership is bad for liberty, bad for the implementation of the conservative platform and priorities of the Republican Party of Texas, and bad for Republican control of the Texas House.
You can find linked below the numerous articles that make up this story. But the main story is this. Dennis Bonnen thinks that there should be NO primary challenges to Republican incumbents in 2020. And his stated justification is the big lie of this campaign season.
The big lie of the 2020 campaign season is that conservative challenges to incumbent Republicans in the primaries will make Republicans lose their 9 seat advantage in Texas House in the general election, thereby causing the Democrats to win the Texas House in 2020. That notion is simply false. Politics does not work that way.
First, here is the proof of Bonnen’s false notion. In his letter to House Republicans about the meeting with Sullivan, he said the following:
[W]e attempted to explain how important it is for [Empower Texans] to not engage against House Republicans in the upcoming March primaries because of the importance of the November general election cycle.
I was continually frustrated by [Sullivan’s] lack of understanding of the points which we were trying to make to him about the importance of the upcoming general election cycle. I did tell him that if he had a problem with a vote taken by a member then fine - advocate your policy position. That was my sentiment, because it was exactly what I told him in January related to my own record. “If you disagree with my position on an issue, fine, attack me on that. But don’t take down the entire institution and hurt the Republican party in the process.”
I was very frustrated and agitated that he refused to understand that what he’s been doing in previous elections and throughout session puts our majority in jeopardy.
This is but another chapter in MQS’s ongoing effort to divide and ultimately destroy the Republican majority in the Texas House.
Here’s the deal. Most House districts in Texas that are currently occupied by Republicans (including Bonnen’s own) are in no danger whatsoever of flipping from Republican to Democrat. And in those safe GOP districts, whether there has been a replacement of a RINO House member who has not voted for the legislative priorities and platform of the Republican Party of Texas or not will have no impact whatsoever.
The blanket defense of incumbents, regardless of whether those incumbents are in swing districts is proof of the lie. If Bonnen really cared about the Republicans keeping the majority against a determined Democrat push, he would focus on the swing districts, not a blanket defense of all incumbents in the primary. His push for defense of all incumbents is proof of his real goal – a defense of his power, the power of the special interests, and the status quo.
Low information voters in swing districts have no clue about what occurs in Republican primaries Stated differently, a stated concern over internal struggles in the primaries as a threat to swing district races in the general election is a red herring.
The bottom line of this story is that it provides more proof that Dennis Bonnen is completely out of touch and out of synch with the priorities of the Republican primary voters of his district, and out of touch with the rank and file Republicans who attend the conventions of the party Bonnen falsely claims he cares about.
The story also raises further doubts about the truthfulness and loyalty of Dennis Bonnen. Bonnen had infamously warned all incumbents in the House (of both parties) that campaigning in other districts against other incumbents would be punished by Bonnen. That includes Republicans seeking to assist fellow Republicans in retaking the 12 seats lost to Democrats in 2018. Yet, if Sullivan is to be believed in this story, Bonnen was hypocritically, deceptively, and disloyally seeking to turn Sullivan and Empower Texans against a number of selected House Republicans.
Note that for typical plausible deniability reasons, Bonnen was out of the room when Republican Caucus leader and Ways & Means Chair Dustin Burrows is alleged to have urged Sullivan to take on selected House members. Note that Bonnen said nothing about that bombshell accusation in his letter to House Republicans about the meeting. And note that the names on the list were most likely people that Empower Texans were likely to target, anyway. This begs the question about the seriousness of the offer by Burrows and Bonnen.
Bonnen’s corrupt quid pro quo offer of giving press credentials to Empower Texans’ Texas Scorecard in exchange for essentially ending the mission of Empower Texans of opposing Republicans who are not conservative, shows Bonnen’s arrogance and lack of understanding of people who act on principle. It shows that Bonnen is fundamentally at odds with conservatives. It shows that Bonnen is purely about power and backroom deals to obtain it.
This story shows in myriads of ways that Dennis Bonnen needs the boot in HD 25.
Here are the links to the articles about this story:
Dennis Bonnen has a completely wrongheaded strategic vision for the Texas House and how it should do its business.
Dennis Bonnen has made clear that he does not much care whether the Democrats or Republicans control the Texas House, claiming that “Texans would be very blessed” to have anti-gun Democrat Joe Moody as Speaker of the Texas House.
The core of Bonnen’s vision, like that of Joe Straus, is that there should be harmony between Democrats and Republicans in the Texas House. Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune and an admirer of Straus and Bonnen, said recently, “If you scratch out the names and look at the results, Bonnen’s House worked a lot like Straus’ did, and for some of the same reasons.”
Bonnen was asked whether his push for harmony between Democrats and Republicans was about the Texas GOP keeping a majority in the Texas House. "Well, let me answer it this way, I hope so, but that wasn't why we did what we did," Bonnen said. "I think you saw an extraordinary commitment from Republicans and Democrats working in such a harmonious respectful way on these big issues. I think what it really does though is it helps every member of Texas House get re-elected."
Toward that end, Bonnen told the Austin American Statesman that he had talked to a major donor to GOP conservative challengers in recent past GOP primaries. How did Bonnen describe the main topic he wanted to discuss: “Not wasting any money in primaries.”
See, what Dennis Bonnen is really about is maintaining the status quo. He has made it very clear that his goal is NOT to implement the policy vision of the rank and file of the Republican Party as expressed in the party’s platform and legislative priorities.
In fact he is hostile to those who ask him to use his Speaker’s power to advance the policy agenda of the people and party who elected him. At the end of his session as speaker, he was asked what he thought about the groups that pushed him to implement the Texas GOP legislative priorities:
“They aren’t worth responding to,” Bonnen told reporters Monday. “If we passed every pro-life bill filed in the history of the state, they would say we had not done enough. You will never please or appease those folks and I’m sure as hell not going to waste my time trying.”
In the same interview with the Houston Chronicle where he bashed conservatives, he also gave his spin about why he would not push the conservative agenda: “And then people turn into Washington and you’re simply here to legislate on politics, not on policy and not on accomplishment of success.” As if a platform plank or priority of the Republican Party of Texas is not “policy,” but “politics.” As if passing the legislative priorities of the RPT would NOT be an “accomplishment of success.”
Dennis Bonnen claims he is a conservative, but bashes conservatives when they urge him to implement conservative policy.
The Travis County Republican Party Chair, Matt Mackowiak recently said.
Now it appears it doesn’t matter to Bonnen if the Republicans gain seats in the House, and that’s a stunning position for the Republican speaker of the House to be in. That’s catastrophic. I think he fully understands and appreciates his responsibilities of being the leader of the House. It’s not clear to me that he has fully embraced the responsibility of being one of the leaders of the Republican Party of Texas.
Allen West, the former GOP Congressman who has fought the internal wars between moderates and conservatives in the U.S. House and who has recently moved to Texas said this about Bonnen:
I sincerely ask: why do Republicans get all weak in the knees and drop down begging these socialists to like them? Why do we heap praise upon the very people who are seeking to undermine our Constitutional Republic? Texas is pivotal in making that happen.
One has to ask a simple question: whose side is Texas Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen on?
What is outrageous about Bonnen’s vision is that he is not on board with saving the Texas GOP or seeing its goals implemented. He does not even try to justify his actions based on the desires and policy goals of Texas Republicans and liberty lovers. Given the barrage of comments to the press, you would think that no one who cares about limited government would believe that Bonnen’s philosophy and tactics and vision are aligned with them – because in reality they are not.
But sadly, some, including a number of Texas GOP legislators exhibiting Stockholm syndrome and a number of moderates in Texas are trying to make the case that Bonnen’s vision is what is needed to not lose the Texas House in 2020. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The arguments being made are that because of the results of the 2018 election in which the Texas House lost 12 Republicans and the Texas Senate lost two, that the only way for the Republican Party to maintain power is for it to abandon its principles and be more like Democrats. Vague comments are made that somehow passage of the “social agenda” of the Republican Party would cause the Party to not only not win back the 12 seats lost in 2018, but actually lose the additional 8 plus seats needed to put the Democrats in power.
That is not how politics works. That is not how any of this works. Rush Limbaugh has been telling us for years that Republicans win general elections when the elected officials of the party actually deliver conservative policy results. They lose when they act like Democrats-lite.
See, I think the strategic goal of the Republican convention goers and activists in the party is to see their policy vision put into practice. I think that is the goal of the majority of GOP primary voters in HD 25, as well. It is NOT, as Bonnen and other establishment status quo supporters have claimed, to raise money for conservative organizations or the party.
The establishment wants Republicans to think that any dissension in the GOP primaries will create the loss of seats in the general election. That is also dead wrong.
The sad reality is that most general election voters (and even primary voters) know nothing about who their state rep or senator is or his or her position on the issues. Over the last decade or more, elections have been nationalized. Whether it is a presidential year or a gubernatorial year, both mainstream and conservative national media focus nonstop on the president.
For more than a decade, Republican nominees in Texas in the state legislature have relied upon straight ticket voting and safe districts to win their elections. In 2020, with one-punch straight ticket voting gone, the Republican nominees who want to win contested races will have to vigorously campaign on their own (with rank and file help) for the win. The swing voters in the general election for swing State House races will know nothing of what happened in the GOP primary.
Do not let anyone persuade you that you have to compromise in the primary to save the GOP control of the House. That is simply not how it works.
And do not let anyone persuade you that you will be in worse shape with a Democrat majority in the Texas House if you work to replace RINOs in the House with more conservative champions. Essentially the proponents of this way of thinking are telling you to abandon your desire for conservative policy solutions. They are telling you that resistance is futile and assimilation is inevitable.
The campaign to boot Bonnen is based on the understanding that we CAN achieve our liberty goals if we choose people to represent us that actually are one of us. And it is based on the notion that if the GOP voters in HD 25 understand what is stake, they will vote Dennis Bonnen out.
Dennis Bonnen has betrayed liberty in many ways. One is his violation of the right to petition for redress of grievances.
It took me a long time to understand what this right was all about and its importance to liberty. This is to talk about the right, its importance, its history, and how Dennis Bonnen has violated it.
First, let’s define the right to petition for redress of grievances. The Texas Bill of Rights, which is the one that is most applicable in this situation, has this to say:
Article 1, Sec. 27. RIGHT OF ASSEMBLY; PETITION FOR REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES. The citizens shall have the right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for their common good; and apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances or other purposes, by petition, address or remonstrance.
The U.S. Constitution also includes a protection of the right from the federal government in the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law . . . abridging . . . the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The essence of the right is that you should not be punished when you ask a government official for what you want. If you are punished merely for asking for what you want, or for asking for it in the wrong way, the punisher is violating the right to petition for redress of grievances. Even when a person who is not arrested for asking for what they want, public condemnation, mischaracterization, and demonization of a person doing so is a violation of the spirit of the right.
Antonin Scalia said that when you are trying to understand the meaning of the Constitution, you should look to the history known and understood by the framers that motivated them to add a provision to the Constitution.
When it comes to the petitioning the government for the redress of grievances, there is no more concrete example of its violation than the Trial of the Seven Bishops. This story was solidly in the framer’s minds when they set up the original states and federal government.
This trial that concluded on June 30, 1688 with a jury delivering an acquittal of seven bishops of the Church of England was the crystallizing event leading to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 against King James II.
The story started with King James decreeing that all churches read a statement of religious tolerance to their members. The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote a letter to the king urging him to change his mind because they believed the king was not constitutionally permitted to interfere in religious matters. Six other bishops signed the letter and the seven bishops personally presented it to the king. For respectfully asking for what they wanted, the bishops were arrested, refused a grand jury review, and tried for seditious libel.
King James was really seeking to punish the bishops for asking for what they wanted. In doing so, he violated the bishops’ right to petition for redress of grievances.
The jury was stacked by the king, and three of the four judges that oversaw the trial told the jury that all the prosecution had to do was prove that the “seditious” letter had been written and therefore the jury had to convict. One judge told the jury that the ultimate decision was left “to God and your consciences.” The jury listened to the one judge and their consciences.
The trial and the resistance to the king by the seven bishops was the biggest news of the day, and throngs were gathered around the courthouse to hear the verdict. When the “not guilty” verdict came back, there was widespread rejoicing in the streets, and King James II soon left the throne.
When Dennis Bonnen launched his Alinsky attack on Chris McNutt for leafleting his neighborhood and when he complained about “insane, continuous, vicious attack from these people that live out in the woods in a cave somewhere on an issue that is simply about letting a felon carry a gun,” he was punishing them for daring to ask for what they wanted.
In other words, Dennis Bonnen was abusing his power invested in him as an elected official to squelch redress of grievances by the people of Texas.
There are many reasons why Dennis Bonnen is not fit to be a representative of the people of HD 25, much less the Speaker of the Texas House, any one of which is enough to disqualify him. But this lack of respect for the people of Texas and his violation of the Texas Bill of Rights on this issue is in my opinion one of the most egregious of his many failings.
Intellectually, I can easily list the rational reasons why any conservative has to work to remove Dennis Bonnen from office. But, I have realized that I have an intense emotional desire to see him gone, as well. And I started wondering where that intensity came from.
I have realized that it is because Dennis Bonnen has an utter disdain for someone like me and most of the voters in the GOP primary in his district. And I am offended to the core by that.
If you listen to a politician long enough, he or she will tell you what he or she thinks of you. Obama described me as bitterly clinging to my God and my guns. Hillary put me in a basket of deplorables. And Dennis Bonnen has described me as "Someone living in the woods in a cave somewhere."
What is even worse, is that at least Obama and Hillary were describing those who opposed them politically. With Bonnen, the ultimate irony and outrage is that this guy is insulting the people on whose side he is supposed to be. He clearly has disdain for and is insulting his OWN voters and his OWN party!
For me, the, "Oh, HELL no!" moment was Bonnen's interview to an television reporter complaining about people asking him to push through the GOP's top legislative priority, describing those who did so as "living in the woods in a cave somewhere."
He has doubled, tripled, and quadrupled down since, insulting life proponents, praising anti-gun Democrats, and threatened House members not to engage in their right to campaign for who they support.
Simply put, Dennis Bonnen has made it clear that the good opinion he seeks is that of liberal reporters and the Democrats in the House. And that he despises constitutionalists, members of his own party, and his own constituents.
I am offended. And I am triggered. And rather than scream helplessly about that, I intend to do something effective about it - removing Dennis Bonnen from any position of power over the good people of Texas.
On April 9, 2019, Dennis Bonnen disrupted a Republican fundraiser by deliberately and angrily approaching Texas Gun Rights Executive Director, Chris McNutt, grabbing him and berating him.
The most complete account from multiple witnesses of the event can be found here.
Here are some excerpts of the article:
Tuesday night in downtown Austin at the J.W. Marriott, multiple conservative activists were seated at the front of the room at the RPT spring dinner, when, according to multiple sources, House Speaker stormed to the front of the room just before dinner. “It was as if he were on a mission,” one source said.
Speaker Bonnen then grabbed Texas Gun Rights director Chris McNutt, according to Mr. Rinaldi and Wylie. Bonnen then proceeded to accost McNutt about some blockwalking McNutt had recently completed in his district.
Bonnen continued to accost McNutt for some time, and refused to quit, despite being asked to leave by a staffer. Bonnen even accused the TXGR director of threatening him, one source said. David Wylie confirmed this account, but differed slightly, saying Bonnen went so far as to accuse McNutt of assault.
All witnesses relayed a scenario in which McNutt remained calm throughout Bonnen’s attack, and that he even tried to engage with the Speaker in civil discussion. All sources indicated that Speaker Bonnen refused to have a polite discussion. McNutt attempted to let Bonnen know that he was engaged in constitutionally protected speech, reportedly saying, “I was just walking neighborhoods, getting public support for a cause.”
Dennis Bonnen then rejected McNutt’s claim to be able to engage in political speech protected by the first amendment, yelling angrily at McNutt, “You can’t do that!” McNutt disagreed with Bonnen, and asserted that he is allowed to canvass neighborhoods.
David Wylie told Big League Politics that he was concerned for his safety and the safety of others as a result of Speaker Bonnen’s rage-filled episode, and so he stood up and began to try to diffuse Bonnen’s anger-driven rant.
“I stood up and stood between McNutt and the Speaker and told him, ‘We’re just going to have a nice event tonight, have a nice dinner.”
“I’ll never eat with you people,” Wylie says Bonnen replied.
Wylie replied, “If you’re not going to eat and have a nice evening, you need to leave,” and he pointed to the rear of the room, to which Bonnen responded, “You can’t tell me what to do.”
Wylie retorted, “Actually, you work for me.” Speaker Bonnen replied: “No I don’t [work for you].”
Wylie told BLP as soon as he pointed to the rear of the room and told Bonnen he needed to leave, the Speaker’s people came and corralled him and said they needed to leave, which they did.
“Dennis Bonnen is well known to occasionally have some anger management issues,” said Mike Openshaw, a longtime conservative activist and manager of Texas Legislative Watch. He further commented on both Bonnen’s and McNutt’s temperaments saying, “All my dealings with Chris McNutt have been honest and positive, and he’s always had a calm, respectful demeanor. I cannot say that about Dennis Bonnen.”