While most lawmakers, political groups, and even private citizens are distancing themselves from disgraced and retiring Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, one group is asking citizens to thank him.
After audio was released last month of Bonnen making a quid pro quo offer to Empower Texans CEO of media credentials in exchange for the political targeting of 10 House Republicans, Bonnen was forced to announce he would not seek re-election to the legislature after spending months lying to the public and his fellow legislators.
Now Americans for Prosperity, a self-described “grassroots” organization, is sending mailers to Texans, urging them to thank Bonnen for “defending the American dream through property tax reform.”
The puzzling and troubling campaign raises many questions.
First, the mailer is factually deficient. It claims school districts will now be subject to an automatic election trigger at 2.5 percent growth, when in fact, school districts are subject to a hard cap. This was possible from the passage of two separate bills—Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 3—and not one bill, as the mailer claims.
Second, are these reforms really worthy of such heavy thanks? AFP claims to have been advocating for this kind of property tax reform for 15 years—meaning that for 14 years, Dennis Bonnen and other lawmakers told them no. And even after the reforms passed, Texans’ property taxes will continue to go up.
But back to the mailer itself: It’s not immediately clear to whom the mailer is targeted. The copy provided to Texas Scorecard was delivered to a household nearly 300 miles outside Bonnen’s district, to Texans who had never financially supported his campaigns.
That begs another set of questions. Why is AFP interested in having Texans who live outside of Bonnen’s district call his office to thank him? What about the lawmaker in their district?
And what about Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, for that matter?
Though they are all mentioned as having contributed to passing “sweeping property tax reform” during the legislative session, citizens are only urged to call Bonnen’s office. If AFP is interested in praising Texas’ statewide leaders, why not give contact information for all of them?
Instead, the mailer appears to present Bonnen as the sole reason property tax reform was accomplished. It leaves the impression that the Republican legislators of the districts that received the mailer—and the legions of grassroots activists working the issue—had little to do with the policy victory.
The biggest question, however, is why AFP would send a congratulatory mailer about Bonnen at all, given his fall from grace and subsequent retirement? The mailer, which appears to have landed in mailboxes last week, would certainly have been printed and mailed out after his announcement.
So what was this mailer intended to accomplish?
Texas Scorecard reached out to AFP for comment; they did not respond as of publication.