Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, indicted for fraud but able to avoid prosecution so long as he remains in office, was impeached this weekend by lawmakers in the GOP-dominated state House. The lopsided 121-23 vote represents the broad disgust even Paxton's own party has for him, but now the case moves to the Texas Senate, where GOP discipline and ideology is more strictly-aligned and a two-thirds majority is required.
Paxton has been under FBI investigation for years over accusations that he used his office to help a donor and was separately indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, though he has yet to stand trial. His party had long taken a muted stance on the allegations — but that changed this week as 60 of the House's 85 Republicans, including Speaker Dade Phelan, voted to impeach.
"No one person should be above the law, least not the top law officer of the state of Texas," Rep. David Spiller, a Republican member of the committee that investigated Paxton, said in opening statements. Another Republican committee member, Rep. Charlie Geren, said without elaborating that Paxton had called some lawmakers before the vote and threatened them with political "consequences."
Paxton's own wife, Angela Paxton, is among the senators who will determine his fate. Among the charges against him? Funneling money to his mistress.
His corruption is blatant and well-documented; it's simply a matter of political privilege shielding him from prosecutors waiting to get their bites in.
In 2014, he admitted to violating Texas securities law, and a year later he was indicted on securities fraud charges in his hometown near Dallas, accused of defrauding investors in a tech startup. He pleaded not guilty to two felony counts carrying a potential sentence of five to 99 years.
He opened a legal defense fund and accepted $100,000 from an executive whose company was under investigation by Paxton's office for Medicaid fraud. An additional $50,000 was donated by an Arizona retiree whose son Paxton later hired to a high-ranking job but was soon fired after displaying child pornography in a meeting. In 2020, Paxton intervened in a Colorado mountain community where a Texas donor and college classmate faced removal from his lakeside home under coronavirus orders.