Texas needs a functional attorney’s general office. It cannot have that under Ken Paxton.
The issue now goes beyond whether a crime has been committed, and there are mounting allegations against him. It raises questions of whether he can do the job and whether the people of the state of Texas reasonably can have faith in him to do the job.
The answer to both questions is a resounding no.
At the beginning of last month, seven top officials in Paxton’s office signed a whistleblower complaint accusing the attorney general of engaging in improper influence peddling, bribery and other criminal offenses. They requested a federal investigation into Paxton centering on his relationship with a major campaign donor, real estate developer Nate Paul.
Paul, we later learned, had his home and business raided by the FBI in August 2019. According to a raft of statements, Paxton took issue with Paul’s treatment at the hand of federal authorities and decided to launch an investigation of his own.
Over the summer, Paxton’s top deputy — the now-former first assistant attorney general Jeff Mateer — became increasingly concerned about Paxton personally intervening in other matters involving Paul, including a lawsuit between Paul and a charity. Paxton planned to personally appear in court to try to put the charity’s suit on hold, Mateer told our reporters, until Mateer talked him out of it.
Paxton’s decision to hire a special prosecutor to investigate Paul’s claims of mistreatment by federal law enforcement was apparently the last straw for his leading deputies. Senior officials in the attorney’s general office had already examined Paul’s claims and found them without merit.
In September, Paxton signed off on his office hiring an inexperienced civil attorney as a special prosecutor. That attorney, Brandon Cammack, then fired off 37 subpoenas that a lead prosecutor in Paxton’s office argued were invalid because Cammack was not authorized to act as a special prosecutor. A judge agreed and the subpoenas were quashed.
In early October, the whistleblower complaint was filed and became public. Paxton denied its content and proceeded to fire two of the signatories and place two others on investigative leave. Mateer resigned on Oct. 5 and another signatory, Darren McCarty, confirmed his resignation Oct. 26.
Now, investigative reporters Lauren McGaughy and Allie Morris have uncovered that Paul hired a former legislative aide whom, he recalled in a sworn statement, Paxton had recommended. Paxton had an affair with the woman Paul hired, two sources told McGaughy and Morris.
All of this stinks to the heavens, but none of it is an assurance Paxton is guilty of anything, and we don’t know the status of an investigation into Paxton’s alleged activities on behalf of Paul.
What we do know is the state’s top law enforcement official lost the faith of his top officers. He lost our faith. And he should lose your faith, too, that he can execute the duties of this office.
Texas needs a functional attorney’s general office. It cannot have that under Paxton.
He must resign now.
• Dallas Morning News
via The Associated Press