Michael Quinn Sullivan is using his Empower Texans influence machine to push the Senate’s property tax cut plan over the House sales tax plan, but there also is a connect the dots exercise involving Sullivan that Speaker Joe Straus’ Republicans might want to play before a new state ethics bill comes up next week.

Sullivan’s influence in House politics is indisputable. He has networked various tea party groups to defeat some entrenched Republicans, especially those who support Straus, in primary elections. During the 2013 session, a so-called dark money bill to dampen Sullivan’s financial influence was vetoed by then-Governor Rick Perry, and Sullivan has had an on-going fight with the Texas Ethics Commission over whether he should register as a lobbyist a fight prompted by House Republicans.

So it should come as no surprise that Sullivan has cranked up his network on behalf of Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick’s property tax cuts. Sullivan gives some faint praise to the House plan, but he’s really pushing the Senate approach. 

With the Senate having already passed out a tax relief package, one is left to wonder why the Republican-controlled House didn’t take up that measure – even as a base from which to swap out property tax relief for sales tax relief. It would have sped up the process to ensure the legislative clock doesn’t run out on tax relief.

On the Empower Texans web site, Sullivan posted the transcript of a telephone call that obviously is targeting voters in Republican districts where the House member voted in favor of electing Straus as speaker.

This is [[xxx]] with Empower Texans with an important call to action for taxpayers. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and the conservative Senate have so far passed a bold agenda, including spending limits, tax relief and gun rights. But liberal Republican House Speaker Joe Straus refuses to do his constitutional duty and refer these hundreds of bills to House committees. Press 1 to be connected with your state representative – who voted to put Straus in office. It’s time for Straus to stop obstructing the conservative agenda of Texas taxpayers. So press 1 to tell [[NAME]] to demand that Joe Straus immediately refer the hundreds of bills passed by the Senate. 

Now, for the connect-the-dots exercise to the proposed ethics bill. The House is preparing to vote on a bill to remove ethics investigations of legislators and statewide elected officials from the Travis County public integrity unit and give the duty to the Texas Rangers. Similar legislation already has passed the Senate. 

The House bill had been scheduled for debate Thursday, but got temporarily derailed on a point of order. But hours before the debate, Texas Department of Public Safety Deputy Director Robert J. “Duke” Bodisch Sr. sent House members a copy of a letter that DPS Director Steve McCraw sent to Travis County prosecutors critical of them for not completing an criminal investigation of a DPS no-bid contract from 2006. 

Aside from being one of two deputy directors at DPS under McCraw, Bodisch also is the No. 2 man in charge of the Texas State Guard, an unarmed official state militia that does search and rescue and is activated in disasters.  From March 2010 until September 2013 Major Michael Quinn Sullivan was a public affairs officer for the Texas State Guard, and his duties included giving some internal affairs coverage to Bodisch.

If you take a look at the command-and-control structure of the Texas Department of Public Safety, you’ll see Bodisch does not have direct control of the Texas Rangers, but is on an equal footing with deputy director in charge of law enforcement operations. Bodisch in the past was a political operative, working in the 1990s doing opposition research for several statewide Republican candidates. He also worked in the administrations of former governors George W. Bush and Perry.

All of this probably is no more than coincidence and is just proof that Austin is one very large small town. But with a Texas State Guard connection between Major Sullivan and DPS Deputy Director and Major General Bodisch, Straus’ Republicans might want to think twice about whether the Texas Rangers will be less political than the Travis County district attorney.