A lawmaker rumored to be eyeing the speakership in the Texas House is employed by a bank that has connections to current House Speaker Dade Phelan and disgraced former Speaker Dennis Bonnen. 

State Rep. Cody Harris, a Republican from Palestine, was first elected to the House in 2018. At the time, he was a real estate broker for Liberty Land & Ranch LLC.

In August of 2021, however, Harris added a new item to his resumé—Vice President of Business Development for Third Coast Bank.

The career change is notable given the bank’s ties to the current and former speaker.

In late 2019, Third Coast Bank acquired Heritage Bank, where Bonnen had served as President, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer. He currently sits on Third Coast’s Board of Directors.

Phelan’s brother Lan Phelan was a director of Third Coast from 2013 until at least 2016, according to filings with the secretary of state. A 2021 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed that the bank’s Beaumont location was leased from Phelan’s family investment firm.

Additionally, the most recent personal financial statement from Dade Phelan shows that he owns shares in Third Coast. 

The connection between Harris and the current and former House leaders is especially notable in light of Phelan’s electoral performance on Tuesday. With Phelan being forced into a runoff election, talk of who the next speaker will be—regardless if Phelan survives his runoff in May—has already begun. Harris is among the short list of names currently said to be gunning for the position.

Harris did not respond to a request for insight into how he received the position, or comment on the appearance of impropriety. 

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Senior Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens