Former speaker of the Texas House Dennis Bonnen only served one term in the position before being ousted in a public abuse of office scandal.
Now he’s following a familiar path taken by ex-lawmakers: the lobby.
While Bonnen had served as a member of the Texas House since he was 24, he only served one term as speaker in 2019. Shortly after the legislative session ended, Bonnen was caught on a recording using his position as an elected official to offer press access to Texas Scorecard in exchange for targeted political spending against some of the House’s own members.
Less than a year after first taking the gavel, Bonnen eventually announced he would not run for re-election.
On Tuesday, Bonnen announced the creation of a “strategic consulting firm” called Second Floor Strategies.
“The end game of the legislative process happens on the second floor,” said Speaker Bonnen. “I understand the critical importance of an astute second-floor strategy and look forward to using my 24 years of experience to help our clients be successful where it matters most.”
Bonnen is joined in the venture by Shera Eichler, a former Bonnen staffer and current lobbyist, including several taxpayer-funded entities and the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which is working to bring casinos to Texas.
Tracy Marshall, the executive director of Transparency USA, says the revolving door of lawmakers becoming lobbyists is far from surprising.
“They trade on their government contacts, and their clients pay top dollar for the access and influence. Often it becomes a revolving door—in and out of lobbying and legislating,” said Marshall. “And the money is staggering. During the last election cycle, nearly $1 billion was spent on lobbying in Texas.”
Current state law prevents lawmakers from lobbying for two years after leaving office. Since Bonnen left office in January of 2021, he is now eligible and says he will register.