The head of a Texas House panel was aghast Tuesday after investigators laid out wide-ranging corruption allegations against scandal-soaked Attorney General Ken Paxton, calling them “alarming to hear.”
“It curls my mustache,” said Rep. Andrew Murr, a fellow Republican, who no doubt was already familiar with the accusations that have swirled around Paxton for years.
Paxton, a staunch conservative in his third term as the state’s top prosecutor, now finds himself facing possible impeachment proceedings—on top of an ongoing FBI investigation and a long-stalled indictment.
His response has been to attack House Speaker Dade Phelan, accusing him on Tuesday—when word of the probe emerged—of drinking on the job. On Wednesday, after the litany of allegations was unveiled during a three-hour hearing, Paxton claimed Phelan, a Republican, is a “liberal” who wants to “sabotage my work.”
The investigators led the House committee through years of alleged misconduct that they believe broke the laws Paxton is sworn to uphold.
At the heart of of the matter are claims that Paxton used his office to assist a donor—real-estate developer Nate Paul—who then allegedly helped him remodel his home and hired his mistress.
Four Paxton aides who flagged the AG’s intervention in Paul’s affairs were fired.
“Each of these four men is a conservative Republican civil servant,” investigator Erin Epley told the House committee. “Interviews show that they wanted to be loyal… and they tried to advise him well and strongly. When that failed, each was fired after reporting General Paxton to law enforcement.”
As the FBI opened an inquiry, the aides filed a whistleblower suit against Paxton, who asked the state to pay them a $3.3 million settlement. Phelan balked at that, and the committee investigation was launched in March.
Shockingly, Paxton was accused of crimes long before this episode. In 2015, the rookie AG was indicted on securities fraud charges in a case that has been tied up in appeals ever since; Paxton denies the allegations and voters re-elected him twice since his indictment.
Paxton has also been named in a lawsuit by the State Bar for Texas, which accused him of misconduct for claiming voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election and asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Joe Biden’s win in several states.
What happens next to Paxton is murky. The House Committee took no action, and the Legislature’s session ends on Monday.