He graduated in 1988 from Sherman High School in Sherman, Texas, and thereafter from Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University in College Station.
Sullivan has been called the most powerful nonelected political figure in Texas. In college, he was in the TAMU Corps of Cadets, the College Republicans, and wrote for The Battalion. He was commissioned as an officer in the Texas State Guard.
Sullivan began his career as a reporter for two daily Texas newspapers, the Denison Herald in Denison (now known as The Herald Democrat) and the Brazosport Facts.
At both papers he covered local government issues and wrote a weekly commentary. During this time he also wrote for a magazine, Texas Republic.
In 1995, he left print journalism to serve as press secretary for Republican congressional candidate Ron Paul. After Paul"s successful election in 1996, Sullivan moved to Washington, District of Columbia, to work in Paul"s Capitol office.
Sullivan left Paul"s office in 1999 to join the staff of the Media Research Center.
There, he developed and refined communications training programs while he oversaw the organization"s Conservative Communications Center public relations activities. In 2001, Sullivan joined the staff of the Texas Public Policy Foundation in Austin. There he handled media and government affairs
He also served as the organization"s vice president
In 2006, Sullivan became the founding president of Empower Texans and Texans for Fiscal Responsibility. As president of the organization, Sullivan has endorsed primarily in Republican races and has gained notoriety for supporting conservative challengers over the "Grand Old Party establishment." In a Dallas Morning News profile, editorial writer Mike Hashimoto wrote that "Sullivan has gone from Texas Agricultural and Mechanical’s Corps of Cadets to regular choice on in-the-know "most influential" lists.
His groups’ endorsements tend to steer directly to the political right of the establishment norm."
He was a founding contributor to Breitbart Texas, a part of Breitbart.com News. He also maintains a diary on the conservative blog RedState.
A 2012 poll of Republican primary voters commissioned by the liberal Burnt Orange Report found that 83% consider the endorsement of Sullivan"s group "Very Important" or "Quite Important."
A Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist described Sullivan as someone who "slays taxpayer dragons in Austin..When the heat is on in Austin, Michael Quinn Sullivan knows how to make it even hotter.”
In 2010, Campaigns and Elections magazine listed Sullivan as one of the "Fifty Most Influential Republicans in Texas".
Texas Monthly"s February 2011 cover story, Power Company, listed Sullivan as among the 25 most powerful people working in state politics, styling him as "the enforcer."
In 2014, Sullivan was a finalist for "Texan of the Year", as determined by the Dallas Morning News.
Though a member of the TAMU Corps of Cadets, Sullivan did not take a military commission after graduation.