A Terrible, No Good Week for Michael Quinn Sullivan

Note: This column originally appeared on The Quorum Report. Join us there daily for coverage of Texas politics and government.


Michael Quinn Sullivan was found guilty of lobbying without registering. He plans an appeal.

It would be difficult enough to cover something as complex as a matter before the Texas Ethics Commission if all sides were honest brokers about the proceedings. The fact that they are not makes cutting through the noise that much more of a challenge. Thankfully for those who tell the truth for a living, sorting out fact from fiction becomes easier as more evidence becomes part of the public record.

Steve Bresnen, a longtime lobbyist and former aide to Lt Gov. Bob Bullock, on Monday sent to lawmakers a detailed update on the case of Midland oilman Tim Dunn’s spokesman Michael Quinn Sullivan and his organization Empower Texans.

“My greatest fear—as a citizen and professional advocate—is that lying threatens to replace honesty as the currency of public discourse,” Bresnen said of the way Sullivan has conducted himself throughout the proceedings before the TEC. “That’s why it’s been a good week for Texas,” Bresnen said, pointing to the commission’s ruling last week that Sullivan is indeed a professional lobbyist who has failed to register. The commission fined Sullivan the maximum amount they were able to in the case: $10,000.

Sullivan denies the charge and an appeal in court has been promised by his legal team, which includes an impressive number of attorneys for a citizen activist.

Among other things in his update to lawmakers, Bresnen notes that when Sullivan appeared on NBC 5’s Lone Star Politics in Dallas/Fort Worth on July 20, he said he was not asked by the TEC about whether he had destroyed email evidence. When asked specifically if he had trashed emails that showed his alleged lobbying, he told Dallas Morning News reporter Gromer Jeffers “No.”

One might safely assume that if Jeffers had lawful subpoena power – the way the Texas Ethics Commission does – Sullivan’s response would have been “On the advice of counsel, I’m not going to be testifying today.” You can see his appearance on TV here. The questions about the case start at about 8:50 in the video.

Sullivan said the commission “never actually asked us about the emails. They never asked us about policies. If they had, they would have found that we, like most businesses, have an email retention program.” Sullivan added that in a “real court,” the emails would have been the subject of a line of questioning. Turns out, however, that attorneys for the TEC did directly ask Sullivan about emails to lawmakers during the formal hearing weeks before his television appearance.

Simply put: What Sullivan said on TV does not comport with reality.

The transcript of the TEC’s hearing on June 25 shows that commission staff attorney Ian Steusloff asked: “Mr. Sullivan, during the years of 2010 and 2011, did you not routinely send letters, memos and E-mails to members and employees of the Texas Legislature?” To that, Sullivan answered “On the advice of counsel, I’m not going to be testifying today.” Then Steusloff asked “How many E-mails and letters did you send to Legislators and their staff in 2010 and 2011?” Again, Sullivan responded “On the advice of counsel, I’m not going to be testifying today.”

Then there is the fact that, as Harvey Kronberg reported over the weekend, a group affiliated with Sullivan and Dunn lost the latest round in a libel suit filed against them by a businessman in the Panhandle.

Salem Abraham filed suited against AgendaWise and the Seventh Appeals Court in Amarillo found that the way AgendaWise had portrayed him in a blog post was false.

“Credibility is about as foreign to AgendaWise as feathers are to a javelina,” Bresnen said. “The case goes back to the trial court, which has already found the statements by AgendaWise to be a lie. That should make the remaining proceedings rather more, uh, efficient. It may also make Mike (Sullivan) subject to subpoenaed testimony in that litigation.”

 Copyright July 28, 2014, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com, All rights are reserved. Reprinted with permission. 

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