Ready. Set. Investigate.

The Texas Attorney General (AG) is a unique position. It is a statewide elected post carrying a four year term with no limits to the time of service. Article 4, Section 22 of the Texas Constitution along with amendments and laws give the AG the power to assist in enforcing child support, antitrust actions, Medicaid fraud investigation, victim compensation, consumer protection, and civil actions concerning insurance, banking, and securities.

There are other statutory powers given to the AG but two important tasks stick out. One is to deliver opinions-an interpretation of the Texas and/or U.S. Constitution(s), statutes, or administrative rules. As the state’s top lawyer, the AG has a client to advise. So in this capacity, the AG may interpret laws or state a conflict exists with laws or the constitution(s). The opinions are not legally binding but they carry great weight. For instance, if state officials ignore the opinions, the AG will not defend them in court.

A request by a lawmaker or another government official is usually done when an action is vague or concerns difficult questions. As we saw in Lubbock, the AG gave an opinion on gun stores being considered an essential business.

The second major purpose is to represent the state and its government in civil and criminal litigation. Historically, the AG stood for Texas in cases concerning redistricting, voter ID, abortion, and immigration. The AG may also bring suit against corporations for antitrust, consumer protection, or other regulatory violations.

Texas Attorney General Seal

Why mention all of that? The reasoning is to remind readers the Texas Attorney General is Ken Paxton. This is the same Ken Paxton who was indicted in 2015 in Collin County district court on two first-degree felony charges of securities fraud and a third-degree felony charge of failing to register as a financial advisor. To his credit, he won re-election 51-47% in 2018 and until recently, he was out of the legal and political limelight.

Then in October 2020, midway through his second term, Paxton’s beleaguered name emerged from slumber. Key staff from the AG’s office suddenly resigned, citing allegations of bribery to an Austin real estate investor and GOP campaign contributor Nate Paul. This situation became so hot the FBI got involved.

AG Paxton was also involved in the January 6 riot on the D.C. capitol. He spoke at the event but claimed to have business there, which is why he was able to attend. But since he was in in D.C. for professional purposes, Texas media sought after the messages sent while attending the pro-Trump rally but according to them, Paxton refused to release them.

Paxton speaking at the pro-Trump rally on January 6, 2021.

Make no mistake, AG Paxton gathered more political baggage than any Texas leader since former Governor Bill Clements and he was involved with the SMU football scandal that led to the first ever “death penalty” in collegiate sports! Indictment of securities fraud and failing to disclose being a financial advisor, investigations of bribery, abuse of power, and contempt of the media are all serious albatrosses around the neck of Texas’ top lawyer. So what should happen?

If these are not grounds for an impeachment inquiry, then what is? What defense could Paxton have? Neither Governor Greg Abbott nor Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said anything concerning him and his situation since their October statements. Moreover, Gov. Abbott did not make a statement on the recent New York Times article, discussing a schism in the Texas GOP. AG Paxton, however, tweeted the article was “fake news” and that he supported Gov. Abbott in his re-election bid, but the governor did not reciprocate the sentiment.

While AG Paxton has not been convicted of any crime, that does not disqualify him from keen political scrutiny. Our leaders should be held to a higher standard and without a ringing endorsement of innocence from neither Gov. Abbott nor Lt. Gov. Patrick (or anyone else), Paxton’s political path should be clear. The Texas House of Representatives needs to investigate the AG’s office.

With the legislative session winding down, this necessary move is unlikely to happen but because redistricting has not taken place during the regular session, which is the fault of the Census Bureau than the legislature, a special session is all but certain. When the House gavels in for that special session, it owes the state and its people a full and fair investigative committee to see if the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton violated public trust. From there, the necessary steps of impeachment — Paxton’s final indictment — should be followed.



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Drew Landry

Drew Landry


Government Prof; Baseball fan; Political junkie; @drewllandry on Twitter