Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is corrupt, despite the disgraceful acquittal on 16 articles of impeachment by Texas Senate Republicans this past weekend.
Let’s just do a quick background review: Paxton was indicted for felony state securities fraud back in 2015, is facing a federal corruption investigation, was impeached by an overwhelming majority of the Texas House of Representatives, and had several former staffers testify against him at his Senate trial. One aide testified that Paxton “had abandoned his obligation to work on behalf of the interests of the people of Texas to serve the interest of one person, Nate Paul,” a political donor who among numerous self-serving dealings also helped Paxton cover up an extramarital affair. Paul is dealing with his own set of troubles, charged with eight counts of felony financial crimes this past summer.
In addition to being arguably the most corrupt state attorney general in the country, Paxton’s also the leading GOP political strategist behind using the courts to further his right-wing, anti-immigrant political agenda.
That was on full display last week when one of his go-to judges, Andrew Hanen, ruled against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – again. A ruling from Hanen more than two years ago already halted all first-time applications into the program, squashing the hopes and dreams of tens of thousands of applicants who had submitted their fees and paperwork. Paxton has been abusing the judiciary through the anti-immigrant judicial pipeline, leading unfounded lawsuits challenging the authority of the federal government on federal immigration enforcement.
When Texas Republican senators voted against removing him from office on Sunday despite the overwhelming vote from the Republican-controlled Texas House, it was clear his corruption extended beyond just him. And, it was noticed by leading state outlets, lawmakers and observers.
“In acquitting Ken Paxton, Senate Republicans place party over principles,” said the San Antonio Express-News Editorial Board:
Some of the articles against Paxton were weaker than others, but what makes this outcome so absurd (albeit unsurprising) is that the Senate just acquitted Paxton of firing employees in violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act, even though it was Paxton’s agreement to pay those whistleblowers $3.3 million that led to the impeachment trial.
“Ken Paxton verdict is an injury for Texas and conservatism,” said the Dallas Morning News Editorial Board:
Let us account where we are now.
Paxton has returned to office as the attorney general of Texas.
He is under federal investigation for the alleged crimes laid out in the impeachment. He is facing a trial in state court on securities fraud charges.
He has repeatedly made statements, according to evidence, to spite federal law enforcement, the partners that the attorney general must rely upon to do his duties and the people this nation rely upon to protect rule of law.
“Texas Republicans put Ken Paxton above the law,” Texas-based journalist Andrea Grimes reported for MSNBC:
Paxton’s acquittal confirms that Republicans believe a man with the right politics cannot break the law
Paxton’s defense argued not that he didn’t do anything wrong, but that, as the man in charge, he couldn’t possibly do anything wrong, whatever he may have done. They even brought in a sitting deputy attorney general to testify that the attorney general’s office exists to serve the man himself, not the people or the state of Texas. It was breathtaking, heart-stopping testimony: No one has the right to say “boo” to Daddy.
“A sad day for Texas: Acquitting Ken Paxton condones corruption, abuse of power,” said the Fort Worth Star Telegram Editorial Board:
By voting to acquit Ken Paxton and allow him to continue as attorney general, senators sent unmistakable messages Saturday — and none of them is good for Texas. Their verdicts on 16 articles of impeachment say that a small group of hotheaded political warriors can intimidate elected officials away from doing the right thing. For lack of courage from all but a few members of the Republican majority in the Senate, we have a clear verdict that politics trumps right and wrong.
On CNN, when asked about his response to the Paxton verdict, U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro said, “I mean I wasn’t — I guess I wasn’t surprised, although it’s weird because I wasn’t surprised, but there’s still a part of me that’s just fundamentally shocked that even when presented with plain, compelling evidence, that a group of legislators, elected officials who are supposed to respect the rule of law and serve their constituents, wouldn’t be able to do the right thing and for various reasons…..And the result we have is that you have an indicted attorney general who is probably the most corrupt attorney general in the country, who will remain in office and go back to serving as attorney general.”
The Paxton verdict was no surprise, but it's fundamentally shocking that our elected officials wouldn't do the right thing after they saw plain, compelling evidence of guilt,
— Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) September 18, 2023
“A broken and corrupt system allowed Ken Paxton to abuse the powers of his office,” said State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who is running for the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat. “Hard-right Republicans decided today that it’s okay to take bribes and lie to the public, as long as you are the Republican Attorney General of Texas.”
“The evidence brought forward during Attorney General Paxton’s impeachment trial was extremely troubling and showed a pattern of brazen corruption by Texas’ top law enforcement official,” said Rep. Colin Allred, who is also running for the Democratic nomination for Senate in Texas. “Whether it’s Ted Cruz or Ken Paxton, Texans deserve leaders worthy of the offices they hold. Texans shouldn’t have to be embarrassed by our elected officials — we can, and will, elect new ones.”
“State Rep. Ann Johnson, a Democrat who served as vice chair of the House’s prosecution team, expressed concern that Ken Paxton will remain in office,” The Washington Post reported. “‘We presented overwhelming evidence that Ken Paxton is the most corrupt politician in the state of Texas at this time. And Republicans in the Texas Senate just returned him to the office of the top cop,’ Johnson said. ‘God help us.’”
Johnson’s fears are not unfounded. After he was acquitted, Paxton ranted at the Biden administration in an unhinged statement, making it clear he’s going to continue to work with hand-picked federal judges to further a political, anti-immigrant agenda. This is bad news not just for Texas, but for national policy. “Buckle up because your lawless policies will not go unchallenged,” Paxton promised. “We will not allow you to shred the constitution and infringe on the rights of Texans. You will be held accountable.”
Paxton calling anyone else “lawless” is really rich because, in addition to what was exposed at this trial, his myriad of legal troubles persist, as the Texas Tribune reported:
But Paxton’s legal troubles are not over.
He still faces state securities fraud charges, a case that has stretched out for eight years and counting, starting with an indictment just months after he took office in 2015. The case has been delayed for years by pretrial disputes — including a back-and-forth battle over the trial venue that saw it moved to Houston from Collin County, which Paxton represented as a state lawmaker.
And Paxton has been under investigation by the FBI since October 2020, although no charges have been filed.
“For those who live outside of Texas, the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton might have been cause for hope,” said America’s Voice Texas-based Campaigns Manager Mario Carillo. “It is Paxton, after all, that has led so many lawsuits for pro-immigrant policies that have caused fear and uncertainty for millions of immigrants across the country, including people in my own family.
“But for those of us who live in Texas, and understand the scope of corruption that exists within our state’s Republican Party, it’s difficult to say that we are surprised at the outcome of Paxton’s impeachment trial in the Texas Senate, which absolved him of punishment and placed him immediately back into the attorney general’s office,” he continued. “It’s not lost on me, as someone married to a DACA recipient, who has had to plan our lives in two year increments, that the decision on the future of the program came just days before Paxton’s acquittal. Republicans allowing Paxton to remain in office shows that there is no bottom for the Texas GOP, and that they’re more interested in partisanship than what is actually best for Texans.”
Any legal action already taken by Paxton or that he will take bears the taint of his corruption. Texas GOP Senators are complicit, with their votes this past weekend saying that there are no consequences for corrupt officials, as long as there’s an “R” next to their name. And, Paxton fully expects his right wing judges to be complicit, too.