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  • Stephanie Koithan

Ken Paxton Gets the Cowboy Boot

Ken Paxton mugshot

If Ken Paxton weren't getting impeached, maybe he'd have time to prepare for his securities fraud trial.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been impeached and removed from office. Reactions have ranged from “finally” to “why now”? Paxton has been indicted for most of his time as Attorney General and yet has been re-elected twice.

Like his buddy “Teflon Don,” nothing seemed to stick to him. So what finally did it?

The Case

Ken is on the hook for abuse of office, improper influence, and bribery following a 2020 whistleblower complaint by seven of Paxton’s aides, among other forthcoming evidence. Paxton has been accused of misappropriating $120,000 in campaign contributions to renovate his home. The contributions were from Austin real estate developer Nate Paul, essentially putting Paxton on his payroll.

Paxton, in turn, hired a lawyer with zero prosecuting experience to be an “outside independent prosecutor” (a position Paxton made up). Seemingly, this position’s entire function was to bilk taxpayers out of $300 per hour serving subpoenas to Paul’s enemies. In the process, Outside Independent Prosecutor Brian Cammack was able to access countless unredacted documents containing sensitive information about those coming after Paul, including people at the FBI, Department of Public Safety, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

To return the favor, Paul hired a woman who was allegedly having an extramarital affair with Paxton.

Surprising no one, Paul himself just got arrested in connection with the case. Paul also had his offices raided by the FBI and the Department of Treasury in 2019.

Other Alleged Crimes

Paxton has had a slew of legal troubles over the years, but that didn’t stop him from getting reelected twice. In 2015, he got indicted and arrested for felony securities fraud. The plaintiffs claimed that Paxton encouraged them to invest in McKinney-based technology company Servergy Inc. while failing to mention that he would collect a commission from the deal. He also failed to register with the State Securities Board.

In 2018, he suddenly reversed the state’s position by pulling a lawsuit the day after filing, seemingly responding to pressure by conservative activists in his home county.

Paxton is also the king of dodging subpoenas like he did in September 2022, fleeing his home in a truck driven by his wife.

Speaking of his wife, State Senator Angela Paxton filed a bill in 2019 attempting to further cement his power by creating an exemption for the very crime that landed him a felony indictment in 2015.

Through all this legal trouble, Paxton has found a way to conduct even more backroom deals. Paxton has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars through a legal defense fund, which he claims is strictly for “family friends.” This too could be in violation of state law, as elected officials are not allowed to take gifts from anyone subject to their authority. Paxton, of course, thinks he’s an exception to this law as well.

Conservative Bulldog

Republicans have long kept quiet about Paxton’s criminal activity because of his role in the culture wars they are waging. Paxton was the first state attorney general to support Trump’s “travel ban” executive order targeting primarily Muslim countries. Whether it is attacking the Affordable Care Act, abortion rights, DACA, or gender-affirming care providers, Paxton is there to chase headlines with legal action.

The Texas Attorney General’s power is of great consequence, because he can fight the culture wars and dismantle protections for marginalized people on a national level by taking legal battles all the way to the Supreme Court on behalf of the state of Texas.

If that wasn’t enough, an endorsement by Trump can’t hurt.

"It is going to take a PATRIOT like Ken Paxton to advance America First policies in order to Make America Great Again," Trump said during Paxton’s 2021 re-election campaign.

Paxton’s Replacement

When news broke of Paxton’s impeachment and removal from office, many activists braced for a replacement who would be just as nefarious.

In his place, former Secretary of State John Scott has stepped in as interim Attorney General. Scott has been the right-hand man of Governor Greg Abbott for over a decade, even serving as State Litigator when Abbott was Attorney General. Scott seems to be Abbott’s pinch hitter whenever one of his guys gets compromised. When disgraced former Secretary of State David Whitley lost credibility by conducting a witch hunt against the Texas voter rolls, Abbott called on Scott once again to serve in his place. Scott also briefly served on Trump’s legal team.

The Prosecutors

Weird side note: the lawyers prosecuting Ken Paxton have some… interesting history. Dick DeGuerin is a criminal defense attorney who has represented some pretty high profile crooks including convicted murderer Robert Durst, Branch Dividian leader David Koresh, and former U.S. House Majority Leader and Texas Republican Tom Delay, who faced money laundering and conspiracy charges for illegal campaign finance activities. The other prosecuting attorney was on the wrong side of the Enron scandal, representing document-shredding accounting firm Arthur Andersen and getting their obstruction of justice conviction overturned. These are our white knights?

The Takeaway

Paxton has served three terms as the top lawyer of Texas, despite being a criminal himself. How did this happen? Part of the issue is the strong support behind him from Trump and Tea Party lobbyists like Bill Miller, investor Douglas Scharbauer, or oil & gas tycoon, Javaid Anwar. As long as he does their bidding, they are behind him. Republican voters statistically vote down party lines, which means they would continue to choose him in the general election, and though his most recent primary race against George P. Bush was tight, he still won. As embattled as he is legally, he is just as frequently in the headlines throwing them the red meat they crave.

Another part of the issue can be found in the lack of public knowledge and, consequently, outrage necessary to vote someone out of this position. Half of Texas doesn’t vote, and feeling uninformed is one of the main reasons people choose not to vote. Many would be hard-pressed to name their senators, let alone the Texas Attorney General. Fewer still would be able to enumerate the legal strikes against him. This is the struggle of down-ballot candidates like his 2018 opponent Justin Nelson, who worked hard to raise awareness about Paxton’s indictment and other trespasses.

So what is to be done? Educate yourself on who represents you, and help your peers do the same. Talk about these issues whenever you can. Raise awareness about the power the Texas Attorney General holds, and the harm he has caused in our courts on a national level.

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