Indicted Texas AG Ken Paxton
Indicted Texas AG Ken Paxton

Attor­ney Gen­er­al Ken Pax­ton of Texas was indict­ed for secu­ri­ties fraud in 2015, and in 2020 saw four top aides call him a crook and quit on him.

But it took until May 27th, 2023, for the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Lone Star state to impeach the shady Attor­ney Gen­er­al on mul­ti­ple charges of cor­rup­tion and per­form­ing favors for a wealthy contributor.

The saga of Pax­ton, now sus­pend­ed from office pend­ing a Sen­ate tri­al, car­ries nation­al lessons in the lengths to which the polit­i­cal right shows loy­al­ty, and meet out pun­ish­ment to those who dare to ques­tion even con­duct that is outrageous.

Pax­ton filed a law­suit, after the 2020 elec­tion, seek­ing to block the count­ing of elec­toral votes from Michi­gan, Penn­syl­va­nia, Geor­gia and Ari­zona. The Supreme Court refused to hear it. Pax­ton has also waged war against DACA, the Deferred Action for Child­hood Arrivals ini­tia­tive, which allows migrants who arrived as very young chil­dren to con­tin­ue liv­ing in the Unit­ed States.

The state’s Repub­li­can pri­ma­ry vot­ers love him for it. Pax­ton faced George P. Bush, son of a Flori­da gov­er­nor, nephew and grand­son of pres­i­dents, in a 2022 pri­ma­ry runoff and licked Bush by a mar­gin of bet­ter than two-to-one.

The fall of Pax­ton was pre­cip­i­tat­ed not by tak­ing bribes or obstruct­ing jus­tice, or per­suad­ing devel­op­er-cam­paign donor Nate Paul to find a job for a woman with whom the AG was hav­ing an extra­mar­i­tal affair. It came when he tried to sad­dle the state of Texas with a $3.3 mil­lion set­tle­ment with the four fired aides.

Even after a Repub­li­can-run com­mit­tee drew up a bill of par­tic­u­lars, Pax­ton still had an amen cor­ner. “Ken Pax­ton is the best attor­ney gen­er­al in the entire coun­try… this witch hunt is a dis­grace,” tweet­ed U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ron­ny Jack­son, R‑Texas, adding in ref­er­ence to House Speak­er Dade Phe­lan: “Dude Phalen ought to be ashamed of himself.”

Phe­lan is “bare­ly a Repub­li­can at all,” grum­bled Don­ald Trump, who rant­ed: “Hope­ful­ly, Repub­li­cans in the Texas House will agree that this is a very unfair process that should not be allowed to hap­pen or pro­ceed – I will fight you if it does. It is the rad­i­cal left Democ­rats, RINOS and Crim­i­nals that nev­er stop. Elec­tion inter­fer­ence.”

Defend­ing Pax­ton, Sen­a­tor Ted Cruz, R‑Texas, declared: “No attor­ney gen­er­al has bat­tled the abus­es of the Biden Admin­is­tra­tion more fero­cious­ly – and more effec­tive­ly – than has Paxton.”

As for Pax­ton, he has described the “ille­gal impeach­ment scheme” as the work of “the abor­tion indus­try and anti-gun zealots.”

But the House vote wasn’t even close. Impeach­ment car­ried by a 121–23 mar­gin, includ­ing a major­i­ty of Repub­li­cans. It was a vic­to­ry for Texas’ tra­di­tion­al ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive rulers over the far-right, ultra MAGA fringe of the party.

Said State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive David Spiller, a pro-impeach­ment Repub­li­can: “Attor­ney Gen­er­al Pax­ton con­tin­u­ous­ly and bla­tant­ly vio­lat­ed laws, rules, poli­cies and pro­ce­dures. As a body we should not be com­plic­it… Texas is bet­ter than that.”

Is it? The Lone Star state’s tra­di­tion­al rulers are quite will­ing to out­law abor­tion, short­change spe­cial needs kids in the state’s edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem, make the poor breathe pol­lut­ed air and deny cli­mate change. They deploy numer­ous gam­bits to make it dif­fi­cult for dis­cour­age col­lege stu­dents and work­ing poor peo­ple to vote. They looked the oth­er way for more than sev­en years and act­ed only when Pax­ton tried to rip off the state trea­sury to set­tle with his for­mer deputies.

In a wider sense, the “wacko birds” – I love John McCain’s phrase for them – will over­look just about any­thing in their quests for reac­tion, ret­ri­bu­tion and revenge. The reli­gious right and ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive Catholic bish­ops ignore Trump’s mul­ti­ple sins and have blessed his pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns. Mur­doch’s Fox pun­dits have broad­cast claims of a stolen 2020 elec­tion which they knew to be false.

Vengeance is the goal of gov­ern­ing with these people.

Pre­sid­ing over the Sen­ate tri­al will be Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Dan Patrick, high in the aviary of wacko birds. Patrick gained noto­ri­ety three years ago when he told Tuck­er Carl­son that he would rather die from the fast-spread­ing COVID-19 pan­dem­ic than dam­age the econ­o­my for future generations.

The cheat­ed-on wife of AG Pax­ton is also a state sen­a­tor. One of the twen­ty arti­cles of impeach­ment states that Paul paid for exten­sive ren­o­va­tion of the Pax­ton home which includ­ed coun­ter­tops val­ued at around $20,000.

A two-thirds vote is required for con­vic­tion by the Texas Sen­ate, its cur­rent make­up nine­teen Repub­li­cans and twelve Democ­rats. In the mean­time, Gov. Greg Abbott has the option of nam­ing an inter­im successor.

Abbott, Paxton’s pre­de­ces­sor as AG, has remained silent on the impeach­ment. Trump used his social media plat­form on Sat­ur­day to say: “Miss­ing in action! Where is the Gov­er­nor of Texas on his Attor­ney General’s impeachment?”

The polar­iz­ing of Amer­i­can has pro­duced one-par­ty states. The Repub­li­cans in Texas have used ger­ry­man­der­ing to dom­i­nate the leg­is­la­ture, and wealthy right-wing donors to fill their cam­paign coffers.

Still, there is pres­sure: Even poli­cies that seem far right to the rest of Amer­i­ca do not go far enough. Texas has expe­ri­enced a rash of mass shoot­ings, yet leg­is­la­tors have loos­ened rather than strength­en gun safe­ty laws.

The infight­ing among Repub­li­cans may encour­age some to view Paxton’s actions as a prod­uct of Texas’ polit­i­cal cul­ture. Look again.

Sev­en­teen fel­low AGs and one hun­dred and twen­ty-six mem­bers of the U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives – a major­i­ty of the Repub­li­can cau­cus — signed on with his chal­lenge to count­ing elec­toral votes in the 2020 election.

One of those mem­bers, Kevin McCarthy, is now House Speak­er, put in pow­er and kept in office by ultra MAGA wacko birds.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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