Since assuming political office in 2002, Ken Paton has had a peculiar penchant for violating political norms, disregarding professional ethics, engaging in a pattern of illegal conduct, and using his positions of political power to retaliate against those who tried to expose the corruption that has saturated his political career.
Paxton was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in November 2002. He immediately announced he would try to unseat the popular conservative Joe Straus as House Speaker but withdrew from that race before a vote could be taken. The silly maneuver certainly placed the upstart representative on the enemy list of influential Republican lawmakers.
Paxton was then elected to the Texas State Senate in November 2012, riding a wave of support from the state’s powerful evangelical Christian community.
During his brief tenure as State Senator, Paxton had to repeatedly amend his personal financial statements for failing to disclose the financial relationships he had with several non-profit Christian groups that subsidized his political career.
Then, in 2014, while still a member of the State Senate and simultaneously campaigning for the Texas Attorney General’s Office, Paxton admitted to illegally soliciting clients for an investment firm and agreed to pay a $1,000 civil fine.
Again, with the help of the evangelical Christian community, Paxton was elected Attorney General in 2014. Nine months later, in July 2015, he was indicted on several felony security fraud charges.
For the next four years, the State of Texas had to endure the embarrassment of having an indicted felony defendant as its chief law enforcement officer.
Paxton’s longstanding association with unlawful and unethical conduct notwithstanding, he was reelected attorney general in 2018. Once again, he enjoyed the support of the evangelical Christian community and his political alliances with the state’s former Tea Party movement.
Paxton most probably felt immune from any political accountability for his continuous corrupt political endeavors after his reelection.
But in October 2020, seven of Paxton’s assistants and aides in the Attorney General’s Office requested that federal law enforcement investigate the attorney general for bribery offenses he committed while in office.
In November 2020, five of the seven whistleblowers filed a formal legal complaint against Paxton, charging that he had created a hostile work environment because they exposed his corrupt practices.
That same month the Associated Press reported that the FBI had launched an investigation of Paxton for using his office’s power to serve a political donor’s interests corruptly.
In November of 2022, despite this long history of accused and admitted corruption, Texas voters, driven by animus against President Joe Biden, divisive national politics, and the support of the same evangelical Christian community, reelected Ken Paxton to a third term as the state’s chief law enforcement officer. This voting bloc expressed a clear desire to have a crook as its attorney general rather than a more qualified Democrat.
But by early 2023, The chamber’s House Committee on General Investigating received information that Paxton had agreed to settle the whistleblower lawsuit against him for $3.8 million, which required the House’s approval to be paid for by taxpayers. When faced with endorsing his behavior and paying for his official oppression, Paxton’s fellow Republicans in the Texas House of Representatives finally had enough of the attorney general’s corrupt shenanigans.
The committee also learned that the U.S. Justice Department in Washington, D.C., had removed the federal bribery investigation (which had been ongoing for more than two years) from the hands of the U.S. Attorneys in Texas and placed it under the control of main Justice prosecutors.
The committee also learned that Paxton had an adulterous affair with a woman who was employed by a prominent donor, who was also under investigation. Paxton confessed to the matter to his staff. It is unclear if this was before or after his wife, a State Senator, learned of the non-Christian affair.
On May 27, 2023, at the recommendation of the House Committee on General Investigating, the Texas House of Representatives voted by a margin of 121-23 to impeach Paxton on 20 Articles of Impeachment. The articles include a laundry list of abuses of office:
- Article 1, disregard of official duty: Paxton violated the duties of his office by failing to protect a charitable organization by directing employees to intervene in a lawsuit between the non-profit Mitte Foundation and Austin real estate investor Nate Paul, a Paxton friend and political donor. “Paxton harmed the Mitte Foundation in an effort to benefit Paul,” the resolution said.
- Article 2, disregard of official duty: Paxton misused his official power to issue written legal opinions to help Paul avoid foreclosure sales of properties owned by Paul and his businesses. Paxton concealed his actions by soliciting state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, to seek the attorney general’s opinion as a “straw requestor,” the resolution said, adding that Paxton also directed employees to reverse their legal conclusions in ways that helped Paul.
- Article 3, disregard of official duty: Paxton misused his official power to administer the state’s public information laws by directing employees to act contrary to the law on an open records request for Department of Public Safety documents and in another unspecified case.
- Article 4, disregard of official duty: Paxton misused his power to administer public information laws to obtain previously undisclosed information held by his office “for the purpose of providing the information to the benefit of Nate Paul,” the resolution said.
- Article 5, disregard of official duty: Paxton misused his official powers by violating the laws regarding how outside attorneys should be appointed. Paxton hired Brandon Cammack, a lawyer of five years, to investigate a “baseless complaint” made by Paul, who had accused federal and state investigators of improperly searching his home and businesses. The resolution said Cammack responded by issuing 30 grand jury subpoenas to help Paul.
- Article 6, disregard of official duty: Paxton violated his duties of office by firing or retaliating against employees in violation of the Texas Whistleblowers Act, which protects public employees who make good-faith reports of potentially illegal action to law enforcement.
- “Paxton terminated the employees without good cause or due process and in retaliation for reporting his illegal acts and improper conduct,” the resolution said. “Furthermore, Paxton engaged in a public and private campaign to impugn the employees’ professional reputations or prejudice their future employment.”
- Article 7, misapplication of public resources: Paxton misused public resources by directing employees to conduct a “sham investigation” into the whistleblowers’ complaints, leading the attorney general’s office to publish “a lengthy written report containing false or misleading statements in Paxton’s defense.” In August 2021, the attorney general’s office issued an unsigned, 374-page internal report clearing him of wrongdoing in the allegations made by the fired employees.
- Article 8, disregard of official duty: Paxton misused his official powers by “concealing his wrongful acts in connection with the whistleblower complaints.” To settle the whistleblowers’ lawsuit, Paxton agreed to pay them $3.3 million from public funds. The resolution said the agreement “conspicuously delayed the discovery of facts and testimony at trial, to Paxton’s advantage” and deprived voters of the opportunity to make an informed decision in the 2022 election for attorney general.
- Article 9, constitutional bribery: Paxton engaged in bribery in violation of Article 16 of the Texas Constitution when he benefited from Paul’s decision to employ a woman “with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair.”
- “Paul received favorable legal assistance from, or specialized access to, the office of the attorney general,” the resolution said.
- Article 10, constitutional bribery: Paxton engaged in bribery in violation of Article 16 of the Texas Constitution when Paul provided extensive renovations to Paxton’s Austin home. In return, Paul received favorable legal help from Paxton’s agency.
- Article 11, obstruction of justice: Paxton abused the judicial process to thwart justice by causing “protracted” delays after a Collin County grand jury indicted him for securities fraud for soliciting investors in Servergy Inc. without disclosing that the McKinney tech company was paying him to round up investors. Those delays “deprived the electorate of its opportunity to make an informed decision when voting for attorney general,” the resolution said.
- Article 12, obstruction of justice: Paxton abused the judicial process to thwart justice when Jeff Blackard, a donor to his campaigns, took legal action that “disrupted payment of the prosecutors” in the securities fraud case against him, causing an additional delay in the case.
- Article 13, false statements in official records: Before and after holding public office, Paxton made false statements to mislead the public and public officials by lying to the State Securities Board during its investigation of Paxton’s failure to register as an investment adviser as required by state law.
- Article 14, false statements in official records: Before and during his time in office, Paxton made false statements on personal finance statements required by Texas law by failing to “fully and accurately disclose his financial interests” on disclosure forms.
- Article 15, false statements in official records: Paxton made, or caused others to make, multiple false or misleading statements in his office’s response to the whistleblowers’ claims in an effort to mislead the public and public officials. In August 2021, the attorney general’s office issued an unsigned, 374-page internal report clearing him of wrongdoing in the allegations made by the fired employees.
- Article 16, conspiracy and attempted conspiracy: While in office, Paxton acted with others to conspire, or attempt to conspire, to commit the crimes described in the other articles.
- Article 17, misappropriation of public resources: Paxton misused his official powers by causing employees to perform services for his benefit and the benefit of others. The committee’s investigators said Paxton had diverted employees to perform work that benefited Paul, costing the state at least $72,000 in taxpayer-funded labor. He also hired Cammack for $25,000.
- Article 18, dereliction of duty: Paxton violated the Texas Constitution, his oaths of office, plus statutes and public policy against public officials acting against the public interest.
- Article 19, unfitness for office: Paxton engaged in private and public misconduct, described in the articles, that “indicate his unfitness for office,” the resolution said.
- Article 20, abuse of public trust: Paxton subverted the lawful operation of the Texas government by using, misusing, or failing to use his official powers and obstructed the fair and impartial administration of justice, bringing the attorney general’s office “into scandal and disrepute,” which harmed the public’s confidence in the state’s government
It has been reported that Paxton’s impeachment trial will begin no later than August 28, 2023, in the Texas Senate chamber. It is unclear how Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, will vote after the trial, provided she does not recuse herself from the proceedings.
The following is a brief timeline of documented legal and ethical lapses the Texas Senate will likely consider in its deliberations:
- In February 2016, the Texas Ethics Commission ruled that Paxton could not use campaign funds, either in-state or out-of-state, to pay his legal defense fees concerning a criminal investigation unrelated to his public office.
- Paxton was indicted by a Collin County grand jury on three felony counts of securities fraud—advising investors to purchase stock without informing them that he had been paid to do so.
- Paxton and Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis, a longtime business partner with Paxton, were part owners in a limited partnership that secured a favorable zoning change that allowed them to sell a $700,000 piece of property for $1 million in 2004.
- In 2016, a longtime ally of Paxton named James Webb, owner, and CEO of Webb’s Preferred Imaging, secured a favorable civil settlement with the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud Division after Webb made a $100,000 donation to Paxton’s criminal defense fund. A Texas Rangers investigation of Paxton under the state’s bribery statute did not lead to an indictment.
- In 2016, the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies raided the home of one of Paxton’s supporters, Nate Paul, the owner of an Austin business called World Class Holdings—a raid that resulted in Paul suing the FBI. Paxton then instructed his office to assist Paul, who had donated $25,000 to the Attorney General’s 2018 reelection campaign, that was followed by another $25,000 donation in 2020 by the law firm representing Paul.
- In 2020, Paul’s company defaulted on $258 million in loans from lenders. Paxton instructed his office to assist Paul by subpoenaing the lenders’ records and by issuing a special non-binding legal opinion that prevented the lenders from conducting foreclosure sales under the state’s COVID-19 order that prevented more than ten people from gathering.
- The unlawful assistance Paxton gave to Paul in the fight against his lenders was payback for Paul hiring a woman with whom Paxton, the Christian conservative, was having an extramarital affair in 2018—the woman worked as an aide to a state senator who served in the Texas Legislature with Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton.
- In the fall of 2020, eight of Paxton’s top assistants reported the attorney general to the FBI, telling the agency that Paxton had abused his office by providing illegal assistance to Paul. The FBI is still investigating those allegations.
“Legendary Texas lawyers Dick DeGuerin and Rusty Hardin will serve as lead prosecutors for the state House in the Senate impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton. These are two of the best trial lawyers in Texas history and true “lions of the State Bar.” “The people of the state of Texas are entitled to know whether their top cop is a crook,” DeGuerin said. “We know the importance of transparency in these proceedings because the people have a right to know.”
Regardless of former President Trump’s continued support and the cries of a Texas witch-hunt from far-right political hypocrites, judgment day is fast approaching for shameless Attorney General Ken Paxton. Facts, not big brother conspiracy claims, will fill the chamber when the lions of the State Bar circle their prey.