Paxton Impeachment

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The Paxton Impeachment is the shamimpeachment and attempted removal of conservative Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton from office in the summer of 2023. Paxton was fully acquitted on all charges in the Texas Senate on Sept. 16, 2023.[1]

Politically, all indications point to the publicly silent Gov. Greg Abbott as being behind this unprecedented ambush impeachment, because Trump-endorsed Paxton would likely defeat open-border Abbott in his primary in 2026. Two conservatives challenged Abbott in 2022 for failing to secure the border and obstructing other conservative policies, and Abbott won only by obtaining Trump's endorsement which Abbott will not have for reelection in 2026. Abbott misuses his Texas oligarchy to exert control over Texas Republican legislators, who face a deprival of campaign funds and a well-funded primary challenger if they cross Abbott.

The events surrounding this impeachment have occurred amid an alleged pattern of other purported political misuse of prosecutorial power, such as the indictment against Donald Trump (which took place on the same day that a key figure in the Paxton impeachment was arrested on Federal charges). However, while the issues surrounding Trump involve one political party going after a member of the other party, in this case the allegations involve a split within the Republican party, that a group of RINOs are pushing to remove Paxton for being conservative. Some observers view the split as between the remnants of the George W. Bush machine and populist MAGA Trump Republicans.[2]

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick appointed as his trial adviser a former state court judge who had donated to an opponent of Ken Paxton in 2021. A day after the appointment, Marc Brown declined the assignment based on his $250 donation to an opponent of Paxton.[3]

Summary

After a two-month investigation by the Texas House Committee on General Investigating into allegations of misuse of office, which led to 20 Articles of Impeachment against Paxton, the House voted 121-23 (all 23 members voting nay being Republicans; two members declared themselves Present Not Voting, with one excused absence and two Democrats choosing not to cast a vote or declare Present Not Voting) to impeach Paxton and send the matter to the Texas Senate for a trial; this action automatically caused Paxton to be suspended from office without pay or benefits pending the trial to permanently remove him from office and disqualify him from future state or local office.[4]

After considerable debate regarding the rules for the upcoming trial, the Texas Senate voted 27-3 (one member excused) to begin the trial at 9AM (Austin time) on September 5, 2023, but agreed to hold four of the 20 Articles in abeyance pending the trial on the remaining 16 Articles. The three no votes were Angela Paxton (Ken's wife), courageously conservative Bob Hall (considered one of the finest conservatives in the country), and Austin Democrat Sarah Eckhardt.

Background

The issues surrounding Paxton, which form the basis for the impeachment and proposed removal, can be divided into two areas: matters related to his indictment on securities fraud charges (under state, not Federal, laws), and matters related to his relationship with Natin (Nate) Paul, a political donor, and allegations that Office of Attorney General (OAG) resources were used for Paul's political benefit.

Securities Fraud Issue

In 2015, shortly after Paxton was elected as AG and took over, Paxton was indicted on charges of violating state securities laws by not disclosing his complete role while soliciting other investors in a stock offering.

The trial has been repeatedly delayed by pre-trial motions, notably three separate changes of venue and one change in the presiding judge:

  • The initial case was filed in Travis County (since Paxton was a state officer, and the law at the time required all such suits to be filed there; Travis County is the county in which Austin, the state capital, is located, and is notoriously liberal).
  • An intervening change in the law required the suit to be refiled in Collin County (where Paxton resides; Collin County is more Republican-leaning though the influx of California liberals has made it more competitive politically).
  • The originally assigned judge in Collin County recused himself; a judge from neighboring Tarrant County (a fairly conservative county) was reassigned by agreement;
  • The prosecution then successfully argued that it could not get a fair trial in Collin County due to Paxton's popularity among the residents; the judge agreed. The judge offered three options for transfer: Dallas County (which the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure required absent agreement), Harris County (another notoriously liberal county), or Tarrant County (which had more space available than the others). The parties agreed to move the trial to Harris County as most of the attorneys were based there, though Paxton's attorneys reserved the right to challenge the motion that granted the change of venue.
  • Paxton's attorneys argued that the motion was improper (on the basis that the judge's assignment had expired and was not renewed), and on appeal the Texas Fifth Court of Appeals (not to be confused with the United States Fifth Court of Appeals) disagreed, ruling that Collin County lost jurisdiction when the judge moved the case.
  • However, afterwards the newly assigned judge did not have the consent of all parties to continue to hear the case, it was reassigned again to a Harris County district judge, who upon a motion by Paxton's attorneys set aside the change of venue as void, returning the case to Collin County.
  • The state appealed the decision, and the Harris County district judge recused himself; another district judge then ruled that Harris County lost jurisdiction when the prior judge transferred the case to Collin County (though he also ruled that, if he had jurisdiction, he too would have ruled the same way).
  • The Texas First Court of Appeals upheld the decision in a split vote, and denied en banc hearing.
  • The state appealed the decision to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (the state's highest court for criminal matters; all nine justices are elected statewide and all nine are Republicans), which ruled in June 2023 that the judge had the authority to change venue, ruling that the trial should be moved to Harris County.

It was also well-known that political donors have been assisting in paying Paxton's legal fees during this trial; one donor made a $100,000 donation to a fund set up to assist Paxton in this issue.

The securities fraud issue has been well-publicized; as such, voters were well-aware of it during both the 2018 and 2022 election cycles, and other allegations of criminal activity (such as defrauding the estate of a wealthy client while serving as its probate attorney) were known during his prior political races. Notwithstanding such, Paxton has been elected or re-elected numerous times:

  • In 2002, Paxton was elected as a state representative, and re-elected every two years thereafter until deciding to run for Attorney General in 2014.
  • In 2014, Paxton took the most votes in the March Republican primary over Dan Branch (a former state representative) and Barry Smitherman (the former chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name only handles matters related to oil and gas), fended off Branch in a runoff, then defeated Democrat, Libertarian, and Green Party candidates in the November general election, with a majority (not just a plurality) of votes.
  • In 2018, with the securities fraud issue known to the public, Paxton faced no opposition in the March Republican primary, and (though his percentage of votes was over 8% less than in 2014), he still defeated Democrat and Libertarian candidates in the November general election, again with a majority of votes.
  • In 2022, still dogged by the securities fraud issue, and now having admitted to a prior marital affair (despite claiming "conservative Christian values"), Paxton again took the most votes in the March Republican primary over George P. Bush (the former Texas General Land Commissioner and a member of the globalist Bush political family), Eva Guzman (a former Texas Supreme Court Justice, supported by oligarch Weekley as discussed above; she finished a distant third) and Louie Gohmert (a former United States Representative), fended off Bush in a runoff, then defeated Democrat and Libertarian candidates (the latter admitting his whole purpose was to siphon votes away from Paxton for the benefit of the Democrat) in the November general election, with a nearly 3% improvement in percentage of votes over 2018, and again with a majority of votes.

Nate Paul Issue

Unlike the securities fraud issue, Paxton's relationship with Paul, an Austin real estate developer and political donor, were not publicly known outside of the OAG; thus, voters had no idea of the level of alleged corruption involving Paxton, Paul, and the OAG, until an investigation began by the House General Investigating Committee in March 2023.

In addition to allegations that Paul bribed Paxton by paying for Paxton's Austin residence to be completely renovated, and also hiring Paxton's former mistress so that Paxton could maintain their illicit relationship without him traveling to San Antonio where she previously lived, Paxton is alleged to have used OAG resources for the specific benefit of Paul. Four specific major allegations form the basis for much of the impeachment charges:

  • First, after Paul and his businesses were the subject of an FBI search warrant and ensuing raid (assisted by the Texas Department of Public Safety, or DPS), Paxton is alleged to have attempted to get OAG to release information on the search warrant, which is exempt from open records disclosure under the "law enforcement" exception, stating that he "didn't want to assist the FBI or DPS" (an odd statement from a high-ranking law enforcement official, in a state which prides itself on supporting law enforcement officials). Failing that, Paxton (through an aide) provided a manila envelope to Paul at one of his business addresses; from that point forward Paul no longer sought the search warrant information.
  • Second, after Paul was sued by the Mitte Foundation, a charitable organization which had invested in several of Paul's properties, Paxton is alleged to have forced OAG to intervene in the matter[5], but instead of intervening to the benefit of the Foundation, it did so to the benefit of Paul, by attempting to coerce the Foundation into a settlement which would have greatly reduced the amount Paul owed to them (even though a prior, bilaterally negotiated settlement, remained unpaid by Paul). Later, a "special prosecutor" hired by OAG (recommended by Paul, who had little or no experience in actual prosecutions, and who's contract several staffers refused to ratify) filed 39 subpoenas against various entities involved in the Mitte trial (actions which OAG staffers would later quash).
  • Third, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when Paxton was otherwise suing to keep governments from unilaterally forcing churches and other religious organizations to remain closed, he attempted to rush through a legal opinion which would have kept those same governments from holding public foreclosure sales. He did so using a "straw requestor" (later revealed to be Bryan Hughes, a Republican member of the Texas Senate from East Texas) and forced the opinion (which in normal cases can take up to six months to research, write, and review) to be drafted and issued quickly over the weekend prior to a scheduled foreclosure sale in August 2020; Paul faced no fewer than 13 foreclosures at the upcoming sale.
  • Fourth and finally, after many of Paxton's senior staff repeatedly warned him about his actions involving Paul (while other employees simply resigned), in late September 2020 no fewer than eight staffers went to law enforcement with their concerns and were subsequently either fired or forced to resign.

Four of the fired staffers then sued Paxton and OAG, claiming they were fired in retaliation for being whistleblowers. In an attempt to avoid discovery, which might have revealed the extent of corrupt activity, Paxton quickly agreed to a settlement whereby he would publicly apologize for his comments (he had publicly called them "rogue employees"), and notably pay the staffers $3.3 million. However, Texas law requires such a settlement to be approved by the Legislature before payment; it was when Paxton sought approval for the payment that the Legislature began its investigation into Paxton, as Paxton refused to provide any reason for the settlement to either the House Appropriations Commitee (which writes the budget and approves spending for such matters) or the House Commitee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence (which has oversight of OAG).

On June 8, Paul was taken into custody at the Travis County Jail on a Federal detainer[6], two days after an eight-page indictment was filed [7] charging him with falsification of financial records in order to obtain loans. He would later plead not guilty to the charges.[8]

Process

Like the Federal procedure, only a majority of the House is required to impeach an officer, while 2/3 of the Senate must vote to remove the officer.

Where Texas procedure on impeachment and removal differs from Federal procedure is that a state officer who is impeached by the Texas House is immediately suspended (without pay and benefits) from office, pending a trial on removal by the Texas Senate, and removal from office makes the officer permanently ineligible for any state or local office (but not a Federal one) in the future, regardless of whether the officer resigns beforehand. Under Federal procedure an officer remains in his/her position pending removal, which if done only removes the officer from his/her position and makes them ineligible for that position again but doesn't make them ineligible for another Federal one (such as with impeached and removed Federal judge Alcee Hastings, who simply ran for and became a United States Representative).

The action of impeachment and removal differs from the action of expulsion, which involves a member of one of the Legislative chambers; expulsion is taken only by the member's peers in his/her chamber while the other chamber has no part in the action.

Any action to impeach and remove a state officer originates first in the House General Investigating Committee, comprised of five members all chosen by the House Speaker. The Committee has the power to hire outside counsel and investigators, to issue subpoenas and compel testimony, and can use pseudonyms to protect the identities of people and other entities involved during an investigation.

Only twice previously has a Texas state officer been impeached: Governor Pa Ferguson in 1917 (the only statewide-elected officer to have been impeached), and Duval County District Court Judge O.P. Carillo in 1975. Both Ferguson and Carillo were Democrats, both were impeached by a Democrat-controlled House, and both were subsequently removed from their respective offices by a Democrat-controlled Senate. Paxton is the first Republican to face impeachment and removal. At the time of Paxton's impeachment there were 149 members in the House (one vacancy due to Slaton's expulsion earlier in May 2023) of which 85 were Republicans and 64 were Democrats; only 75 votes were needed to impeach, and 121 members voted to do so. In the Senate there are 31 members (no vacancies), of which 19 are Republicans and 12 are Democrats; 21 votes are needed to remove Paxton from office.

House Action

The most-senior, highly respected House members from both political parties spoke at length on the House floor strongly and persuasively against this ambush impeachment: Republican Rep. John Smithee, who called the impeachment “a Saturday mob out for an afternoon lynching,”[9] and Democrat Rep. Harold Dutton. They explained in multiple ways, drawing upon their extensive experience, how improper this process was.

For the 88th Legislature, Speaker Dade Phelan named the following members to the General Investigating Committee:

  • Andrew Murr, the Republican chair from Junction in the Texas Hill Country; his maternal grandfather (Coke Stevenson) served as Governor of Texas but was best known for his controversial loss in the 1948 United States Senate primary race to Lyndon Baines Johnson due to the infamous "Ballot Box 13",
  • Ann Johnson, the Democrat vice-chair from Houston; Johnson is a former Harris County District Attorney who specialized in prosecuting human trafficking cases, and is one of a handful of Democrats who are open homosexuals or other sexual deviants in the Texas House,
  • Charlie Geren, a Republican member from Fort Worth who is also the Speaker Pro Tempore (second in command behind Phelan in the Texas House); his brother Pete was a former United States Representative,
  • Oscar Longoria, a Democrat member from Edinburg in the Rio Grande Valley, and
  • David Spiller, a Republican member from Jacksboro (northwest of DFW).

The first action involving Paxton took place in February 2023 when the Committee began an investigation into AG Paxton, after his request for approval of the whistleblower settlement.

The Committee first met in a public hearing on April 14, 2023, and issued subpoenas to four individuals. Due to concerns over "reprisal and retaliation", it named the issue as "Matter A" and the four individuals as "John Does 1 through 4"[10], a practice it would continue until publicly disclosing Paxton as the subject of the investigation.

Due to the intervening issue of "Matter B" (later revealed to be the issue involving Slaton), the Committee would not meet again on "Matter A" until May 10, 2023, when it would issue eight more subpoenas, this time to "John Doe 5" and "Entities 1 through 7".[11]

Approximately two weeks later, on May 23, 2023, the Committee met again on "Matter A" and issued two more subpoenas, this time to "John Doe #6" and (for the first time) to a disclosed entity, OAG. The Committee also directed that a preservation letter be sent to OAG, the first time that any entity was publicly named (but the Committee did not mention that the matter involved Paxton specifically).[12]

The following day, May 24, 2023, the Committee met again and heard the testimony of four attorneys hired by the Committee (accompanied by two investigators, though neither of the investigators spoke during the hearing) into Matter A. This would be the first time that Paxton would be specifically revealed as the subject of "Matter A".[13] The Committee would later release a transcript of the three-hour plus meeting.[14] Meanwhile, Paxton would issue a statement calling for Phelan -- who he stated was drunk while proceeding over the House a week earlier -- to resign.[15]

On the following day, May 25, 2023, the Committee met again and issued two preservation letters, to DPS and the Texas Facilities Commission. It also approved the resolution drafting articles of impeachment against Paxton.[16] Later that day, Committee Chair Murr addressed the House, providing a copy of both the proposed resolution and the hearing transcript from the May 24 meeting, and announced that once the House had the opportunity to review the provided information, he would call up the resolution for the House to consider.[17] At that time, four House members had parliamentary inquiries of the Speaker recorded in the House Journal.

On May 26, 2023, in response to questions regarding the process in general, and specifically involving a section of the Texas Government Code involving unlawful actions by a state official prior to election, the Committee issued a memorandum explaining the process and why the Code section was not applicable.[18] Mainly, the argument for removal comes down to four points: 1) impeachment and removal are not intended to punish the offender, but to protect the State (and an offender is still subject to civil and criminal actions), 2) the Code only applies to statutory removal, while this action is brought under Texas Constitutional process, 3) both the Ferguson and Carillo impeachments involved matters which took place prior to their elections, and 4) although some of the allegations against Paxton were known beforehand, the extent of the corruption was not, and therefore voters were not able to make a sufficiently informed decision whether or not to keep him in office notwithstanding the allegations.

The resolution for articles of impeachment was brought before the House on May 27, 2023.[19] For over four hours the Committee laid out the basis behind the impeachment charges. Committee Chair Murr took questions from various Representatives, who also spoke both for and against the resolution. Eventually, the House voted 121-23 (with two Present Not Voting, one Excused Absence, and two Absent) to impeach AG Paxton (notably, but according to custom involving major issues, Speaker Phelan voted to impeach). One member who voted to impeach, later entered a Statement of Vote in the House Journal that, had each article been subject to a separate vote, he would not have voted for three of the articles, specifically Articles XII, XIII and XIV. The two "absent" members also recorded Statements of Vote indicating that had they been present, they would have voted to impeach.[20] While the impeachment hearing was underway, Representative Geren commented that Paxton had called several Representatives, in what he termed an attempt to intimidate them into voting against impeachment. Later, Paxton purportedly provided documentation to Senators outlining why the charges were invalid. In response, Democrat Representative Eddie Morales argued that those actions should result in additional articles of impeachment for witness intimidation and jury tampering.

The last Committee meeting during the Regular Session took place the following day, May 28, 2023, and would issue 12 more subpoenas, this time naming the entities involved (one of which was the rideshare company Uber).[21] Later that day, the House would pass a resolution (136-4 with the Speaker not voting by custom, along with eight other Representatives, seven of whom later claimed "away from the chamber" or "vote failed to register"; five Representatives also claimed that their vote was registered incorrectly) naming 12 "managers" (chosen by the Speaker) to manage the upcoming trial. The managers chosen would include, along with all the aforementioned members of the Committee (the chair and vice-chair to chair the managers as well), the following House members:[22]

The managers promptly provided the articles of impeachment to the Senate.

On June 1, 2023, the Texas House announced that it had selected two well-known Texas trial attorneys to present the case to the Senate:[23]

  • Dick DeGuerin, notable for attempting to negotiate a peaceful resolution between David Koresh and the ATF, and who also defended Tom DeLay in his corruption trial (DeLay was initially convicted but the conviction was reversed on appeal); he also defended University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall in a prior potential impeachment case (ultimately Hall was admonished and censured by the House instead of being impeached), and
  • Rusty Hardin, who defended the Arthur Andersen accounting firm during the Enron scandal; he has also defended numerous public sports figures such as Wade Boggs, Scottie Pippen, and Roger Clemens.

DeGuerin stated in interviews that "the evidence is ten times worse" than what is mentioned in the articles of impeachment. Such a statement would be improper for a prosecutor to declare in the media before a court trial where civil or criminal liability would attach. Hardin, meanwhile, admitted that he and DeGuerin are being paid $500/hour plus expenses for their services (which they claim is a fraction of what their normal bill rates would be, and in any event will be lower than the $3.3 million Paxton sought to silence the whistleblowers).

It should be noted that, except for the May 28 action, every action taken by the General Investigating Committee was a unanimous 5-0 vote (the May 28 action was 4-0 with Representative Longoria being absent).

Senate Action

Almost immediately after receiving the articles from the House, Lt. Gov. Patrick announced a resolution which took the following measures:

  • First, the Senate trial would take place no later than August 28, 2023.
  • Second, by June 20, 2023, the Senate would announce the rules for the trial.

The following Senators, five Republicans and two Democrats, were named to determine the rules:[24]

Shortly after the articles were presented, numerous Senators issued letters to their constituents, most of which appeared to be similar in structure and were allegedly written by the same organization.[27]

Complicating matters is that, in addition to limited precedent (there have been only two trials for removal in Texas history, and none in nearly half a century) in determining what the rules of the trial should be, two Senators have actual or potential conflicts which may require recusal from voting: Angela Paxton (his wife) and Bryan Hughes (the alleged "straw requestor" on the foreclosure opinion, who may be called as a witness by the House). As it is likely that all 12 Democrat Senators will vote to remove, if Paxton and Hughes must or choose to recuse themselves, the Senate would need nine out of the remaining 17 Republican Senators (just over half) to vote to remove.

The Senate was to have announced the rules on June 20, 2023. However, after numerous delays continuing into the following day, the rules were finally announced.[28] Notably, the Senate will meet on September 5, 2023, to sit as the Court of Impeachment, and that Articles XI, XII, XIII, and XIV will be held in abeyance (i.e. not considered at that time; those were the three Articles centered on Paxton's ongoing securities fraud matter as well as one involving another known matter of not timely filing financial statements). Witnesses will be required to testify in person and subject to cross-examination, the House managers and their attorneys will be limited to 24 hours to present their case (unless extended by agreement), Paxton and his attorneys are also limited to 24 hours to present their case (again, unless extended by agreement), and the standard of proof for any Article (all of which will be voted on separately) will be beyond a reasonable doubt. Also, Senator Hughes (if called as a witness or if he agrees to testify voluntarily) will not be subject to recusal as a juror; Senator Angela Paxton will be counted solely as present for purposes of counting the number of votes but cannot participate in any deliberations or vote on any matter. Finally, although removal from office will be automatic if any Article is agreed on by the 2/3 vote required, a separate vote will be held to determine if removal will extend to any future office.

The senators who voted against the rules were (in addition to Senator Paxton) liberal senator Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) and conservative Senator Bob Hall (R-Edgewood).[29] Eckhardt later made a public statement of her vote, stating that the rules were too permissive, allowing an Article to be dismissed beforehand by only a simple majority vote but requiring a 2/3 vote for affirmation, and further that the rules gave Patrick too much control over the proceedings (as Patrick and Paxton are political allies, Eckhardt sees it as a potential avenue for quick dismissal without the merits being heard and debated).

Post-Impeachment Actions by other than the House and Senate

On June 6, 2023, it was announced that Tony Buzbee, a prominent Houston trial attorney in his own right, will lead Paxton’s impeachment defense.[30] Not surprisingly, Buzbee claims that the whole process was a "sham" and that "the Senate will not vote" to remove Paxton from office, with the only question remaining as to whether the articles will be dismissed early (similar to both United States Senate trials after both Trump impeachments) or a protracted trial will take place (Buzbee has bragged that, if the latter, they have plans to call "66 witnesses" and the trial will last an entire year). Dan Cogdell, another trial attorney, also joined Paxton's defense team. In addition, no fewer than six staff members at OAG, including its Solicitor General and Deputy Solicitor General, have taken leaves of absence from their duties in order to support Paxton and assist in his defense.[31]

Paxton has issued a report denying the charges, claiming that his actions to fire the staffers were justified due to their insubordination.[32]. Later he added a report from an outside law firm, further supporting his actions.[33]

Reactions

Republican Party

The impeachment of Paxton has resulted in a split between Texas Republicans. Both sides within the Republican Party of Texas recognize that Paxton's actions and lawsuits against Biden Administration officials and Federal agencies, claiming overreach into state matters, have had a fair level of success in the courts, and are beneficial to overarching Republican goals of keeping the state politically conservative and desirable as a relocation destination for businesses and individuals (and, as a side benefit, maintaining Republican control over state politics, which the Republicans have managed to accomplish for nearly two decades). Both sides also recognize, though, that Paxton has had long-standing legal and other issues involving very serious matters.

Where the sides differ is why these actions are taking place at this time:

  • One side believes that notwithstanding Paxton's efforts and success against Federal overreach, his outside legal issues are a distraction to the Republican Party of Texas reaching its overarching goals. Though realizing that Democrats might not discipline one of their own for similar conduct, this side believes it needs to take "the high road" (especially given that Evangelical Christians who hold to Judeo-Christian moral values -- at least in theory -- are a major part of its voter base, as opposed to the predominantly secular and amoral -- if not immoral -- members of the Democrat voter base) and show its base (along with independent voters it wants to court at the next election) that they are willing to take action against one of their own -- regardless of that person's effectiveness or success in maintaining conservative Texas values -- for actions which are improper if not illegal. This side points out that, earlier in May 2023, the entire Republican membership of the House voted (with no abstentions or absences) to expel Bryan Slaton for his actions involving inappropriate conduct by providing alcohol to an under-age intern[34], then having sexual relations with her, and then attempting to cover up the matter, in what was a one-time incident, while Paxton's actions are long-standing, on-going, and have far more serious repercussions for both those involved and the state as a whole.
  • The other side believes that the actions were taken because of, and hopefully to stop, Paxton's efforts and success against Federal overreach, and that his legal isues (along with the impeachment) are part of a plot by dark money globalists who allegedly control most Texas Republican officials. Those who hold to the latter view generally believe the entire process is "an ambush without notice to voters", and have also alleged that Texas Governor Greg Abbott (Paxton's predecessor as Attorney General) may have been jealous of Paxton or viewed him as a younger potential rival, and as a result used his fundraising power from the Texas oligarchy to swing nearly 60 Texas House Republicans into supporting impeachment. They also believe that Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who presides as President of the Texas Senate when it is in session and during any trial for removal, has "stacked the deck" against Paxton in deciding who will determine the rules and what those rules will be, notably by having the chair be "a non-lawyer Abbott-loyalist".

The Collin County Republican Party passed a resolution condemning the impeachment; however, it has chosen not to publicly post it. On the other hand, the Republican Party of Texas posted their resolution condemning the impeachment.[35]

Governor Abbott has not publicly commented on the matter. His only action has been to appoint John Scott, a former Deputy Attorney General and a former Secretary of State, as the interim replacement for Paxton.[36] Abbott-appointed Scott then resigned after less than a month and half on the job.[37]

Democrat Party

Harold Dutton, one of the senior Democrats in the House, spoke against this impeachment, but ultimately showed himself as Present Not Voting, later making a statement that this was an internal Republican issue and Democrats should stay out of it. The remaining Democrat House members almost unanimously voted for impeachment and support the move to remove Paxton, hoping that his successor (even if a Republican) will stop or at least slow down the tide of suits against the Biden Administration.

News Media

The liberal New York Times observed that impeachment of Paxton was “unexpected — as of a week ago [prior to the vote to impeach] there was little public indication that an impeachment could be imminent.”[38]

Retaliation by Gambling Industry?

Besides the Committee, one of the notable speakers in favor of the impeachment was Representative Jeff Leach, a fellow Republican from Collin County, who would be later named as one of the 12 managers for the upcoming trial. Leach also chaired the House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence, which as mentioned earlier has oversight of OAG.

Notwithstanding that he denotes himself as an Evangelical Christian (and who, interestingly, previously attended the same church as Paxton -- Prestonwood Baptist Church, the well-known Southern Baptist megachurch, which in line with traditional Baptist teaching opposes gambling), Leach has been a proponent of expanding legalized gambling in Texas, arguing primarily that it is virtually impossible to stop the practice (especially with regards to online sports wagering). Leach authored HJR102, a proposed state constitutional amendment (along with HB1942, an "enabling legislation" bill effective if the amendment had been approved by the Legislature and the voters, which would have legalized online sports wagering.

HJR102 passed with 101 votes in favor, a mere one vote more than needed[39], while HB1942 passed with only 82 votes in favor, only three more votes than needed. However, upon receipt by the Senate, neither the amendment nor the enabling legislation were referred to a committee for hearing. (A companion amendment, SJR 39, and a companion enabling legislation bill, SB 715, were both referred to the Senate Committee on State Affairs, but neither were reported out of committee.) Contrary to other reports, Paxton's wife, Senator Angela Paxton, was not a member of the State Affairs Committee.

In addition, Leach supported another amendment and enabling legislation which would have allowed for casino gambling. However, those items never made it out of the House, due in part to Democrats who pushed to give priority on casino placement to Indian tribes located in Texas (similar to how casinos operate in neighboring Oklahoma) over large money interests (as casinos in neighboring Louisiana operate; a major donor to several political campaigns including Leach's was the "Texas Sands PAC", funded by Las Vegas Sands, a major gambling operation in Nevada and other states).

At a recent fundraiser attended by some pro-gambling interests, speakers blamed Paxton for supposedly blocking the gambling bills from passing, and the speakers demanded that he must be removed as Attorney General. The gambling market in Texas is expected to be worth billions of dollars if increased legalized gambling were legalized there, and it is not as if Texas needs the increased revenue: the Comptroller of Public Accounts estimated that for the upcoming biennium (the two year period beginning September 1, 2023 and ending August 31, 2025) the state would have a $32.7 billion surplus, the largest in Texas' history.[40]

Dick Weekley

The driving force behind this is apparently a grudge held by numerous oligarchs in Texas, among them Dick Weekley, who spent more than $5M against Paxton in his March 2022 primary only to be humiliated by Paxton's victory, and who has "given money to all those voting for impeachment ... [and] given close to 2 million dollars to the impeachment managers. Most telling he gave and raised millions to Paxton’s primary opponent, Eva Guzman."[41]

Weekley is a Houston real estate oligarch, co-founder (with brother David) of David Weekley Homes, one of the largest builders of tract homes in Texas. He is also the chairman and CEO of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, a pro-business think tank with an associated political action committee and an associated 501(c)(3) foundation which has had success in changing the legal landscape of Texas law and courts, namely a controversial $250,000 cap on non-economic damages which can be awarded in a civil lawsuit.

Ranked #3 in the Texas oligarchy of mega-donors who pour millions into elections in Texas,[42] Weekley is thought to be one of the oligarchs who secretly pushed for the ambush impeachment of Ken Paxton.

Weekley was a big supporter of Eva Guzman in the March 2022 primary, whom Paxton defeated by a landslide.[43] Weekley may have felt humiliated by how his candidate received only 17.5% (third behind Paxton and Bush, only ahead of Gohmert) of the vote in running against Paxton in that primary.[44] Weekley apparently poured more than $5 million from himself (more than $1M), the Texans for Lawsuit Reform organization he controls (more than $3M), and wealthy donors he directs (e.g., Jan E. Duncan), into supporting Guzman in that failed attempt to defeat Paxton in his March 2022 primary.[45]

Karl Rove

On February 10, 2022, blogger Imil Amani wrote, "Karl Rove and the Bushes despise Ken Paxton. They will do anything and at all cost to remove Texas’s best Attorney General from office."[46]

Considered by some to be a master of dirty tricks against conservatives, Rove has deep ties in Texas where he has close ties to mega-donors, the Bush family, and savvy lobbyists.

On May 31, 2023, Rove oddly published an anti-Paxton editorial in the Wall Street Journal misleadingly and disparagingly entitled Viewer’s Guide to Ken Paxton’s Impeachment, "The Texas attorney general’s scandal allegedly entails an affair, fraud, payoffs and even the FBI."[47] Rove's rant in the WSJ against Paxton and in favor of the ambush impeachment had a tremendous amount of detail which was presumably fed to Rove by an insider. the

While Rove likely knows who was really behind the Paxton impeachment, there is reason to doubt that Rove had much influence over it other than cheering it on. Rove was unable to outraise Ken Paxton by much among the all-important oil and gas industry for the race against him by Rove's candidate George P. Bush. See Oil and gas industry donations in 2022 GOP Texas primary.

See also

References

  1. https://www.texastribune.org/2023/09/16/ken-paxton-acquitted-impeachment-texas-attorney-general/
  2. Tony Buzbee, “The Bush Era in Texas Ends Today” – “They Can Go Back to Maine, THIS Is Texas”…, Sundance, The Conservative Treehouse, September 15, 2023.
  3. https://www.texastribune.org/2023/08/19/dan-patrick-marc-brown-paxton-impeachment-adviser-counsel/
  4. Paxton cannot, however, be prohibited from running for a Federal office if he were to consider such in the future.
  5. Texas law allows OAG to intervene on behalf of a charitable organization, if OAG feels that the organization's interests are not being adequately protected. However, the Mitte Foundation, a well-endowed organization, believed that it had adequate legal representation and did not request OAG assistance.
  6. https://www.statesman.com/story/news/politics/state/2023/06/08/austin-nate-paul-jail-fbi-federal-charges-texas-attorney-general-ken-paxton-scandal/70304588007/
  7. https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/Nate-Paul-Indictment.pdf
  8. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/texas-businessman-at-center-of-ag-ken-paxton-s-impeachment-pleads-not-guilty-to-federal-charges/ar-AA1cXaQe?ocid=msedgntp&cvid=76570ea56c074fea960db0201c43a449&ei=57
  9. https://www.politico.com/news/2023/05/27/texas-gop-held-house-set-for-impeachment-proceedings-against-ag-ken-paxton-00099096
  10. https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/88R/minutes/html/C2802023041400001.htm
  11. https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/88R/minutes/html/C2802023051018001.htm
  12. https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/88R/minutes/html/C2802023052315001.htm
  13. https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/88R/minutes/html/C2802023052408001.htm
  14. https://house.texas.gov/_media/pdf/committees/House_Committee_on_General_Investigating_052423.pdf
  15. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/texas-attorney-general-paxton-calls-on-state-house-speaker-dade-phelan-to-resign-after-apparent-intoxication
  16. https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/88R/minutes/html/C2802023052515451.htm
  17. https://journals.house.texas.gov/HJRNL/88R/HTML/88RDAY71FINAL.HTM
  18. https://house.texas.gov/_media/pdf/committees/GI-Impeachment-Memo.pdf
  19. https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/88R/billtext/pdf/HR02377I.pdf#navpanes=0
  20. https://journals.house.texas.gov/HJRNL/88R/HTML/88RDAY73FINAL.HTM
  21. https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/88R/minutes/html/C2802023052819001.htm
  22. https://journals.house.texas.gov/HJRNL/88R/HTML/88RDAY75FINAL.HTM
  23. https://www.texastribune.org/2023/06/01/ken-paxton-impeach-rusty-hardin-dick-deguerin/
  24. https://www.breitbart.com/border/2023/05/29/texas-senate-prepares-for-trial-in-impeachment-of-attorney-general-ken-paxton/
  25. After a point of order was raised in the House against the amendment by a Democrat Representative, Rafael Anchia, on the grounds that the House committee minutes reporting on the bill were inaccurate, the point of order was withdrawn and the House Sponsor to the amendment (the aforementioned Cody Vasut) agreed to postpone consideration to a date and time after the end of the session, thus killing the amendment.
  26. https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=88R&Bill=SJR52
  27. For example, see this letter from Senator Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound: https://twitter.com/TanParkerTX/status/1662619785576734720/photo/1
  28. https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/881/billtext/pdf/SR00035F.pdf#navpanes=0
  29. https://www.khou.com/article/news/local/texas/ken-paxton-impeachment-trial-rules/285-1a6ea7d6-3529-4ad4-91e6-6100d3d6c464
  30. https://www.texastribune.org/2023/06/06/ken-paxton-impeach-tony-buzbee/
  31. http://quorumreport.com/quorum_report_daily_buzz_2023/six_employees_in_the_office_of_the_attorney_genera_buzziid31633.html
  32. https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/sites/default/files/files/executive-management/Internal%20Report.pdf
  33. https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/sites/default/files/images/press/Report.pdf
  34. The intern was 19 at the time. Under Texas law, a person under age 21 can only be provided alcohol by his/her parents or spouse.
  35. https://texasgop.org/paxtonimpeachment/
  36. https://gov.texas.gov/news/post/governor-abbott-appoints-john-scott-as-interim-attorney-general-of-texas
  37. https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/news/releases/statement-provisional-attorney-general-john-scott
  38. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/05/28/us/texas-republicans-ken-paxton-legislature.html
  39. Proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution require 2/3 votes in each chamber, on what is called "third reading" (or, the final vote), to be submitted to the voters.
  40. Based on that estimate, the Legislature passed several bills which reduced taxes, such as removing the sales tax on various baby items (e.g. diapers and baby bottles, even including maternity clothes and breast milk pumps) and female menstrual products (a long-standing wish by feminist organizations, which finally received enough conservative support to pass this session), as well as exempting certain items from property tax such as fertilizer, pesticides, and rainwater harvesting structures. These actions -- which passed both chambers by significant bipartisan votes -- clearly would not have been taken if the Legislature had concerns about adequate revenue for operations. Further, the Legislature is attempting to lower overall property taxes; though the chambers disagree as to approach, again these actions would not be taken if the Legislature had concerns about adequate revenue.
  41. https://twitter.com/houston_cf/status/1666085107684503555?s=20
  42. https://www.tiktok.com/@christackett71/video/7140661803222076718</,
  43. https://www.texastribune.org/2021/07/12/texas-eva-guzman-attorney-general-fundraising/
  44. https://ballotpedia.org/Texas_Attorney_General_election,_2022_(March_1_Republican_primary)
  45. https://ballotpedia.org/Eva_Guzman
  46. https://granitegrok.com/blog/2022/02/texans-must-reelect-ken-paxton
  47. https://www.wsj.com/articles/viewers-guide-to-ken-paxtons-impeachment-texas-ag-corruption-affair-480694cc