The Travis County district attorney's office in Austin informed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) on Thursday that he had violated the state's open record laws by refusing to release any of his communications from around last Jan. 6, when Paxton was in Washington, D.C., and appeared at the rally the preceded the Capitol siege. District Attorney José Garza (D) gave Paxton four days to "cure this violation" by turning over the documents or face a lawsuit.
The Texas Public Information Act gives the public the right to government records, including those on personal devices or a public official's online accounts. Paxton has tried to claim attorney-client privilege for every email and text he sent in the days surrounding the Jan. 6 attack. The top editors of five newspapers — the Austin American-Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Houston Chronicle, and the San Antonio Express-News — filed a complaint with the Travis County D.A. on Jan. 4, accusing Paxton of violating the open records law.
The attorney general typically enforces the Public Information Act, but the law also allows the Travis County district attorney's office to handle violations filed against a state agency. The newspapers filed their complaint with Garza.
Bill Aleshire, an attorney and transparency expert, told the Chronicle this is the first time he's heard of the statee attorney general being accused of violating the open records law to shield his own communications. "When the public official responsible for enforcing public records laws violates those laws himself, it puts a dagger in the heart of transparency at every level in Texas," he said. "Why should other Texas officials be transparent with public information if the AG himself is not?"
The House Jan. 6 committee is also interested in Paxton's communications with former President Donald Trump and has requested some of them from the National Archives and other federal agencies, The Texas Tribune notes.
Paxton, seeking re-election this year, "is currently facing the fiercest scrutiny of his decades-long career, with several GOP challengers, three state criminal indictments, allegations of an extramarital affair, and a pending FBI bribery investigation," the Chronicle reports. "Paxton has denied any wrongdoing."