The fiasco of Texas AG Ken Paxton is exactly why Americans hate their politicians | Opinion
If Texans get any justice, Ken Paxton will be impeached over 20 accusations of wrongdoing that include obstruction of justice, bribery, and conspiracy.
From retaliating against whistleblowers to providing regular use of the Office of the Attorney General to his friend, donor Nate Paul, the allegations are serious and robust. If true, Paxton must have known that what he was doing was criminal and wrong. Now, the jig is up. The House should impeach him Saturday, when it considers the work of its investigating committee, and send the case to the Senate for trial.
Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but even one of these allegations would carry a lot of weight, let alone 20. And a bevy of Paxton’s fellow Republicans with varied backgrounds have seen enough evidence to recommend impeachment.
Everything about this from start to finish just stinks. It shows why many Americans just loathe politicians. When this is over, it won’t surprise anyone, it will just outrage them — even more. He was who we thought he was, they will say, and many Texans will echo it as well. One more chink the armor of trust people have in so-called public servants.
What’s so stunning reading the charges is just how entitled Paxton seems to have been, perhaps even more than the average arrogant politician. How full of yourself do you have to be to use state lawyers to help your friend, a major donor, in exchange for home renovations, as the charges suggest?
Then, when a handful of honorable employees put all these pieces of wrongdoing together, he fired them in retribution, delayed as long as he could to keep the public from finding out, then settled with the whistleblowers out of court. To add insult to injury, he asked the Legislature for the taxpayers to pay the $3.3 million settlement.
The incredible hubris of Ken Paxton could be a primer on how not to act in public office. Being an elected official in America is supposed to be a point of privilege, not entitlement. One is chosen by the American people, picked for their ability to represent them.
But power, money and fame are intoxicating, so the business of politics sometimes attracts those without integrity, honor and a sense of duty. There are many in office who do reflect those values. But what does it say that Texans elected Paxton three times, even after some charges had been levied against him?
You know the old saying: The higher you’re foisted, the farther you fall.
The kind of white-collar crimes Paxton is accused of would stain anyone’s reputation. He denies all of it, but the charge of misappropriation of public resources stings.
“Paxton misused his official powers by causing employees of his office to perform services for the benefit and the benefit of others,” the articles of impeachment read.
Undoubtedly there are men and women who work for him, beyond the whistleblowers, who thought something didn’t add up. They either lacked the details necessary to put the full picture together of wrongdoing or worried they’d be fired if they said anything that remotely pointed to ethical failures. Paxton put his employees in an awful position.
The logistics of Paxton’s misdeeds are stunning. How he had the time and resources to do this while maintaining such a high-profile political job with so many things required of him is a study in time management, to be sure.
The office was essentially run at the behest of Paul, the House committee’s initial investigation found. While most Texans have never heard of the real estate developer and donor, they have heard of a crime a neighbor committed, or a domestic dispute gone awry, or a single mom or dad who is still trying to receive child support. Those are the people harmed by the diversion of resources from the state’s business.
The Office of the Attorney General boasts a yearly budget of more than $700 million and is paid for by taxpayers and exists for taxpayers. The OAG does a myriad of things to enforce the law in Texas from providing legal services to enforcing child support laws. By some estimates, 400,000 parents will neglect to make child support payments this year.
We now know that Paxton wasn’t all that concerned about what his office wasn’t doing. He was more preoccupied with how to use his office for personal gain; if it doubled for political gain, all the better.
The Paxton fiasco will forever go down in Texas history as an example not just of another politician caught committing bribery, but also of what too many people do when they’ve had a taste of money, power and fame.
It will be one more case that sealed the mistrust of Texans, and whatever happens to Paxton, he has no one to blame but himself.