Everyone in the Texas Capitol started the week whispering that a HillCo Partners lobbyist had put a “date-rape” drug in the drink of a legislative staffer with the intent of sexually assaulting her. From receptionists to powerful committee chairmen, the story was the only topic of conversation.
Lawmakers went into over-drive, tweeting about the lobby firm not being welcome in their offices. House Speaker Dade Phelan spoke emotionally to the issue from the floor of the chamber. Lawmakers wore pink in solidarity with victims of sexual assault. Legislation was rushed in both chambers requiring sexual harassment training for lobbyists.
Now, a new set of allegations is swirling around the Capitol—which might point to something equally sinister.
Yesterday, I spoke with defense lawyer Perry Minton, who is representing the alleged would-be assailant, Rick Dennis. One won’t be surprised to learn that Mr. Minton advanced the notion that his client was innocent; that is what one expects a defense lawyer to do.
However, Mr. Minton hinted that additional information exists pointing to his client not just being innocent, but having been framed—and not just framed, but set up. He said information would be released within two days showing that the investigation has shifted from Mr. Dennis to others. Minton stated that he had been told by DPS that Dennis was specifically not a target of their investigations.
Meanwhile, sources tell us that the lobby firm’s senior staff are saying evidence exists to show that lawmakers and others conspired to frame Mr. Dennis specifically to harm the business operations of HillCo.
At the center of this new allegation is that those close to former House Speaker Dennis Bonnen orchestrated the set-up. The former speaker and HillCo Partners have a long-running feud. Allegedly, Bonnen blames HillCo for assisting his critics in the lead-up to his ouster from the speaker’s office amid scandal in 2019.
So, were the loudly whispered rumors about Mr. Dennis fueled by his actual guilt … or by a carefully orchestrated set-up?
None of this speaks well about the culture in the Texas Capitol. Whether it is a lobbyist spiking the drink of legislative staff … or politicians so depraved they would frame a man in the name of settling a political score.