The Texas House General Investigating Committee has announced it will hold a hearing on July 17. They have not disclosed for what purpose.

The committee is supposed to investigate allegations of misconduct within the state government. Before 2009, it focused on investigating issues related to the state’s governance. Committee members spent time in 2011 investigating the Texas Department of Transportation for alleged financial mismanagement. This resulted in stricter financial controls and increased transparency within the department.

Its long history since then has been one of persecuting conservatives while burying investigations into leadership cronies.

Before 2023, the committee’s last threat neutralization effort was a multi-year investigation into University of Texas Regent Wallace Hall. The Gov. Rick Perry appointee was investigating financial malfeasance in the law school’s forgivable loan program and rampant political favoritism in admissions. This effort worried officials who allegedly had participated.

House leadership accused Hall, an actual whistleblower, of abuse of office for his efforts. Committee members sought impeachment. This marked the first time in Texas history an appointed official faced the possibility of such a recommendation. However, committee members wavered and opted to censure the regent instead.

Former State Rep. Dan Flynn investigated Hall. He would go on to be competitively challenged in consecutive primaries before losing in 2020.

In addition to being used to harass conservatives, the committee has protected cronies. During the lead-up to the 2011 legislative session, former State Rep. Larry Phillips was accused of threatening then-State Rep. Bryan Hughes of being redistricted out of his seat if he didn’t support Joe Straus’ return to the Speakership.

Famously, committee members called Phillips to testify without putting him under oath. The charges were dismissed.

The committee also investigated disgraced former Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen. In 2019, Bonnen infamously offered the publisher of Texas Scorecard a quid-pro-quo to attack political rivals. They found that the speaker had “likely violated” the law but recommended no further action.

In 2023, after removing a state representative for predatory behavior involving a 19-year-old intern he was having an affair with, the committee turned its attention to removing Attorney General Ken Paxton. They acted based on the “triple hearsay” of former staffers.

In the waning hours of the 2023 legislative session, the House voted to send impeachment articles to the Texas Senate. The trial, held in September, ended in the humiliation of the House members who led the event, including State Reps, Andrew Murr, Jeff Leach, and Briscoe Cain.

Like former State Rep. Flynn, Murr earned himself a challenger and was censured by his local party. He ultimately decided to retire rather than risk losing a re-election bid. He’s currently a lame duck.

Paxton’s impeachment was encouraged publicly by Texans for Lawsuit Reform. However, similar to the hearings into Wallace Hall, even notoriously liberal Travis County attorneys have balked, to date, at bringing indictments against Paxton.

Recent information has indicated the House may be bent on another run at Paxton. Late last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Criminal Appeals issued a ruling that required unnamed Texas agency staff to testify before a grand jury following a federal investigation of Paxton ally Nate Paul.

In 2024, the weaponization of the justice system against political adversaries has taken on a life of its own, outstripping the levels of distrust and ire from the Republican base. In Texas, this loudly manifested in the 2024 GOP primaries. Republican voters fired scores of House Republicans who voted for impeaching Paxton.

This does not appear to have registered with the ruling class in Texas. Like his high-profile political ally, President Donald Trump, Paxton has been highly critical of federal agencies being weaponized to take out political adversaries. His impeachment partly rested on the word of involved staff who were unwilling to investigate the FBI for potentially abusing its power.

Earlier this month, the Texas Ethics Commission voted to make themselves the state’s speech police. 

The past four years have been replete with examples of federal agencies operating overtly and covertly to subvert the rule of law, including taking part in exacerbating tensions in January 2021 and organizing a plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan.

The House General Investigating Committee, composed of five members appointed by the Speaker of the House, has broad powers to investigate any aspect of state government, issue subpoenas, and propose articles of impeachment. The committee operates both during and outside of legislative sessions. 

The Texas House is not the only part of the legislature that can create a general investigative committee. State law says the Texas Senate too may create one. At present, it does not have one. If the Texas Senate created one, the Lt. Governor would appoint its five members.

Daniel Greer

Daniel Greer is the Director of Innovation for Texas Scorecard.