Texas GOP donor Tim Dunn told former House speaker only Christians should be in leadership

San Antonio Republican Joe Straus, who's Jewish, said Dunn told him only Christians should serve in House leadership posts.

click to enlarge Joe Straus appears at an early voting place during his time as speaker of the Texas House. - Wikimedia Commons / David Martin Davies
Wikimedia Commons / David Martin Davies
Joe Straus appears at an early voting place during his time as speaker of the Texas House.
San Antonio politico Joe Straus, a former Republican speaker of the Texas House, told the Texas Tribune that oil billionaire Tim Dunn — one of the state's most powerful Republican donors — once advised him that only Christians should hold leadership positions in the legislature's lower chamber.

Straus, who's Jewish, told Tribune CEO Evan Smith about the encounter Thursday, appearing to publicly confirm for the first time an anecdote Texas Monthly reported in 2018, according to the Tribune. The Texas Monthly article attributed its reporting on the alleged encounter to "insiders" in Straus' office.

Straus' confirmation comes as Dunn-affiliated political groups face heat for reported coziness with white supremacists. The Texas Tribune reported in October that Jonathan Stickland, who headed Dunn's Defend Texas Liberty PAC, held a seven-hour meeting with high-profile white supremacist Nick Fuentes.

In the wake of the Fuentes scandal, Dunn and Farris Wilks, another West Texas oilman, launched Texans United for a Conservative Majority, a new PAC targeting state Republican lawmakers they deem insufficiently conservative.

Dunn didn't respond to the Tribune's request for comment on Straus' statement.

Dunn made the alleged remark during a November 2010 meeting that Straus,  then in his first term as Texas' house speaker, held to find common ground with the billionaire donor on fiscal issues, the Trib reports. Dunn had used his political empire to target Democrats and moderate GOP lawmakers who helped the San Antonio politician ascend to that role, according to the news site.

At the meeting, Dunn, asked that Straus to boot then-current committee chairs and replace them with hard-right lawmakers whose elections he'd backed, according to the Tribune. After Straus threw water on the idea, Dunn reportedly said he thought only Christians should be in leadership posts, the nonprofit news site also reports.

“It was a pretty unsatisfactory meeting,” Straus told the Tribune. “We never met again.”

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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