Over five years ago, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was indicted by a grand jury for felony securities fraud. His case has kicked around in various courts in Texas and is now poised for a return to Collin County. But now, Paxton finds himself in an even grimmer quagmire that is threatening to topple his reign as the state’s chief law enforcement official.
Earlier this month seven members of Paxton’s top staff accused him of abuse of office and bribery. They formally asked law enforcement to look into Paxton’s alleged criminal behavior, particularly as it involves a wealthy donor in Austin named Nate Paul. The Austin-based CEO of World Class Property gave $25,000 to Paxton in October 2018.
In 2019 Paul’s business was raided by the FBI and he complained to Paxton that various state and federal investigations were illegal. Shortly after, Paxton and the AG’s office stepped in and launched its own investigation into those targeting Paul.
In an email to Paxton, several of his aides cited the AG’s, “office’s continued use of the criminal process, in a matter already determined to be without merit, to benefit the personal interests of Nate Paul [as] unconscionable.” Now two of those whistleblowers from the AG’s office have been fired and another two are on leave. Staffer Darren McCarty has also resigned from the office. The AG’s office has dropped its investigations into the matters Paul had brought to them.
When the complaints were made public, Gov. Abbott released a qualified statement. “These allegations raise serious concerns,” he said in the statement. “I will withhold further comment until the results of any investigation are complete.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced that he was donating $10,000, the amount he received from Paul in 2018, to a charity. FEC filings show that Paul has donated thousands to Republicans across Texas including John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Michael McCaul and Chip Roy.
Abbott and Patrick now have Paxton in the rearview mirror and are laser-focused on the election. They both have been campaigning for vulnerable Republican incumbents that could be in danger next week. A handful of other Republicans are starting to distance themselves from Paxton. One of those Republicans is state Rep. Jeff Leach, currently the Chairman of the House Committee of Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence, who has strong ties to Paxton.
In 2016, it was revealed that Leach and four other Collin county lawmakers (including now Congressman Van Taylor) sent text messages attempting to cajole the Collin county commissioners to stop payments for the cost of the prosecutors in Paxton’s case. A judge had previously ordered Collin County to pay the prosecution fees in Paxton’s security fraud case.
Now Leach, who is locked in a tough re-election campaign against Lorenzo Sanchez, still stopped short of calling for Paxton’s immediate resignation, but did acknowledge potential wrongdoing. In a letter, Leach said if there was “any truth whatsoever to the factual and legal claims of your own senior staff,” Paxton should voluntarily resign.
Sanchez has made Leach’s cozy relationship with Paxton an issue in the campaign and on Twitter. “Voters across the district deserve a representative who will hold elected officials accountable, who will not abuse the power of their office, and who will support the prosecution of corruption to the fullest extent of the law,” wrote Sanchez.
Rep. Chip Roy, who previously worked for Paxton, released a statement calling for his resignation. “The work of the Office of the Attorney General of Texas is too critical to the state and her people to leave in chaos and to risk the work of over 700 lawyers managing almost 30,000 legal cases at any given moment, including major cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as processing over $4 Billion in Child Support,” wrote Roy.
One of Paxton’s major lawsuits on behalf of Texas is a challenge to the Affordable Care Act that will be heard the week after the election by the Supreme Court. Over one million Texans could lose their healthcare if the ACA is dismantled according to estimates.
Paxton’s first interview about the scandal was to the “Southeast Texas Record.” That publication is part of a pay-to-play network of conservative-operated sites where Republicans can pay for favorable coverage.
Republican donors are looking to George P. Bush, Texas Land Commissioner, for a potential run in 2022 for Attorney General.
Paxton is still listed as a co-chair for Lawyers for Trump.
Photo: Office of the Texas Attorney General