In October 2019, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen was forced to announce that he would not seek reelection. Right-wing political activist Michael Quinn Sullivan of Empower Texans released a recording of Speaker Bonnen providing Sullivan with a hit list of 10 fellow Republicans that Empower Texans should go after. In exchange, according to the Texas Tribune, the House Speaker assured Sullivan that his group would have “media access to the lower chamber in 2021.”
The scandal, of course, sent Republican lawmakers, who control the state’s legislative body, into a whirlwind of denunciations against the House Speaker, as well as demands that he step down from his leadership post. Bonnen got the message. He announced last year that he would not seek reelection.
Republican lawmakers hoped that would put the nasty political scandal to bed. They were already living with an Attorney General, Ken Paxton, who has been under a criminal indictment for securities fraud for the past five years.
But peace in the Republican law-and-order party was not to be.
Voter Suppression by Gov Upheld By Appellate Court
Gregg Abbott decided he would make a blatant attempt in the final weeks of a presidential election year to suppress non-white voter participation with an executive order limiting mail ballot drop off locations to one per county. This shameful executive action gave the 152 people in Loving County the same number of drop off sites as the 4.7 million people living in Harris County.
The unabashedly partisan governor suddenly found himself the target of a barrage of lawsuits and national criticism for both him and the Lone Star State. Although a Republican three-judge panel (with two Trump appointees) on October 12, 2020, upheld Abbott’s order, the governor had subjected the state and its Republican Party to intense national criticism and embarrassment with his voter suppression order.
Indicted AG Under New Allegations of Corruption
While Abbott tried to control the “abuse of power” political implications of his actions—actions defended by Attorney General Paxton—the attorney general suddenly found himself under intense scrutiny by his own staff for what the Texas Tribune reported as “improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential crimes.”
Citing two media outlets in Austin, the Tribune said six current and one former employee in the Attorney General’s Office had leveled the criminal and unethical misconduct charges against Paxton. These seven individuals have called for a “federal investigation” into the Paxton’s alleged criminal wrongdoing.
Whistle-Blowers Call for Federal Investigation
The Tribune pointed out that the Attorney General has been deeply involved in the Republican Party’s efforts to suppress non-white voter turnout in the upcoming election. He has also led the legal effort before the U.S. Supreme Court to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional.
In the wake of these latest revelations about the Attorney General continuing penchant for criminal wrongdoing, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilbert Hinojosa issued a statement demanding Paxton’s resignation:
“Indicted Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton is the top law enforcement official in the state. Yet, he has proven for years that he cannot follow the law himself. Ken Paxton is an admitted lawbreaker. He’s been investigated by the Texas Rangers, and currently on trial for criminal securities fraud. Now, he faces bribery and illegal conduct allegations from his own top aides.”
We agree with Democratic Chair Hinojosa.
Attorney General Ken Paxton is not morally, ethically, or legally fit to hold public office in the Lone Star State. He is a criminal wrongdoer whose own staff is horrified at having to serve both with and under him.
Time for Top Law Enforcement Official to Resign
Paxton’s resignation is the only viable answer to the criminal scandals rocking the attorney general’s office.
If Paxton cannot find it within himself to obey the laws of this state, perhaps he will spare the rest of us the embarrassment of his service as the state’s chief law enforcement officer.