Where Things Stand for Ken Paxton

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If you didn’t know any better, it would seem Ken Paxton’s life as Attorney General of Texas was churning along normally. A casual observer of the attorney general’s latest activities, which includes asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act and suing a federal judge in El Paso who called for more COVID-19 restrictions, might not even realize Paxton was mired in some deep legal trouble.

But legal trouble and Paxton go hand in hand. Five years ago, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on securities fraud. Now, despite more devastating details emerging about his shady, and likely illegal, dealings as attorney general, Texas is very likely stuck with Paxton for the next two years until he is up for re-election.

Paxton’s most recent legal woes stem from his relationship with Nate Paul, a wealthy donor in Austin and the Founder, President, and CEO of World Class Property Company. After agents with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Treasury raided Paul’s office and home in 2019, Paxton, through his office, stepped in and launched an investigation into those government agencies who targeted Paul.

Last month, seven members of Paxton’s staff then accused him of abuse of office and bribery, and they reported their concerns to federal authorities. All of those former top aides have since been fired, resigned, or placed on leave.

On Friday, four of those former aides filed a whistleblower lawsuit. In the lawsuit, the aides are asking not only for a reimbursement on lost wages and other damages, but also that Paxton pay a $15,000 fine for every violation he committed against the Texas Whistleblower Act.

Paxton participated in an exclusive interview with Austin affiliate KXAN shortly after the whistleblower lawsuit was filed. He dismissed all of the aides’ concerns and allegations. “Everything I’ve seen is untrue,” he told the reporter from KXAN.

When asked by the KXAN reporter if he would consider resigning, he was similarly dismissive, and pointed to the lawsuit against the ACA as well as a Google Antitrust case, as reasons he should keep the state’s top legal job.

“The types of things that we’re doing with Google, the types of things we’re doing with Obamacare, the types of things we’re doing with election fraud, with child support — we just collected $4.8 billion in child support, no state has ever come close to that,” Paxton said to the interviewer. “So, we’re doing some amazing things and I would just say the proof is in the pudding,” said Paxton.

There have been calls from some Republicans in the state for Paxton to resign, including from Rep. Chip Roy, who previously worked for him. The editorial board at the Dallas Morning News, which tilts conservative, also called for Paxton’s resignation.

After the first accusations from Paxton’s former staff emerged, Gov. Greg Abbott released a tentative statement noting these were serious allegations. “I will withhold further comment until the results of any investigation are complete,” he said further in the statement. 

It’s highly unlikely Paxton will face impeachment over his legal entanglements as noted by Ross Ramsey in an analysis from The Texas Tribune. Paxton himself gives no indication he has any plans to resign.

Paxton has yet to publicly comment about allegations of an extramarital affair with a former Texas senate aide, who he later recommended be hired by Paul. He allegedly did tell senior staff about the affair in 2018, and that he had “recommitted” to his wife State Senator Angela Paxton.

Photo: Office of the Texas Attorney General

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