Ken Paxton’s most egregious crimes were not those given as excuses for impeachment by 61 Democrats and 60 Republicans in the Texas House. His true, and most inexcusable crime, was to challenge the autocratic rule of the Lone Star State by an unholy alliance of leftists Democrats and crony, anti-free market business Republicans.
None of this is a secret. They explained themselves in 2022 when opposing Ken Paxton in the primary and general elections. And they have engineered a situation where the third-place finisher in the GOP primary is being seriously discussed as a replacement for Paxton.
Collusion Between Corporatists and Democrats
It has long been an open secret in the Texas Capitol that the establishment lobby group Texans for Lawsuit Reform never liked Ken Paxton. State records and interviews show the organization has never supported Paxton in his primary elections. They have, however, in previous cycles helped in his November elections against Democrats.
But not in 2022. TLR had reportedly grown frustrated with Paxton using the powers of the Office of the Attorney General to aggressively combat the Biden administration, Big Pharma, and Big Tech. Coupled with his popularity among social conservatives and the grassroots, the establishment-backing TLR made removing Paxton a 2022 priority.
They failed expensively. Their preferred candidate was liberal Republican Eva Guzman, who shared the same corporatist / big-business vision of the Democrat who has long run TLR’s agenda, a refugee from the Jimmy Carter administration named Dick Trabulsi.
Handing Democrats A Seat In The Senate
Partnered with home-builder and social liberal Dick Weekley, Trabulsi has made sure TLR is only just conservative enough. When given a choice between two viable Republican candidates, they chose the more liberal.
And, when given the chance, they flood money donated by Republicans into the coffers of Democrats. For example, in 2022 they bankrolled liberal Democrat Morgan LaMantia. The open-seat senatorial race had a viable, conservative Republican conservative. LaMantia won by less than 700 votes out of over 175,000 cast.
(TLR’s excuse was they were trying to prevent an even worse Democrat. That’s hard to imagine, given LaMantia worked in lockstep against conservative and Republican priorities during the 2023 legislative session.)
It Wasn’t Just Paxton in 2022
It should be noted that Paxton wasn’t the only incumbent statewide Republican to be targeted by TLR and the crony wing of the Republican Party. The other was Sid Miller.
Perhaps the most consequential Commissioner of Agriculture since Rick Perry in the early 1990s, Miller is a grassroots favorite who took the office by storm. His chief crime in the eyes of the Austin crony establishment was his early endorsement of, and tight relationship with, Donald Trump.
TLR ran an affable out-going state representative against him, but Miller got 58.5 percent of the vote in a three-way race.
Their work against Miller made it clear that whatever tangential interest Texans for Lawsuit Reform still has in “lawsuit reform” is of tertiary concern to their real interest in pushing the GOP to be less conservative.
TLR/Guzman Originated The Impeachment ‘Charges’
In backing Guzman for Attorney General, TLR had a backbench Republican on the Texas Supreme Court without much of a record. Yet they dumped an unprecedented $4 million into her GOP primary race – much of it to finance attacks on Paxton.
Not coincidentally, those attacks were the same talking points used by the lieutenants of House Speaker Dade “Is he Drunk?” Phelan.
Indeed, every single charge levied by the House impeachment was lifted—seemingly point for point—from the Guzman / TLR primary attacks.
Voters rejected the message and the messenger out of hand. Guzman revealed herself to be, at best, an ideologically rudderless politician without much of a personality. At worst, voters saw a liberal eager to unravel the legal gains Texas—under Paxton—had made in fighting federal overreach and woke corporatism.
She ended up barely making third place, getting 10,000 more votes than former U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert – whose campaign amounted to little more than an announcement. It can be assumed that all TLR’s money did for Guzman was get her the 10,000-vote edge on Gohmert.
And, of course, their dollars set in place the anti-Paxton narrative for the Democrats in the fall. Historically, TLR—to keep up appearances as a “Republican” group—has spent money in November helping statewide Republicans. Not in 2022. TLR seemed more interested in having a leftwing Democrat in the office. Again, they donated exactly $0 to Paxton’s general election campaign against an incredibly liberal Democrat.
While TLR hates Paxton’s fights against Big Tech and Big Pharma, the Democrats hate him for working against the Biden administration.
No one was hiding that. A headline from the Democrat-apologists at the Dallas Morning News from December 2022 screamed “Texas AG Ken Paxton’s lawsuits stymie Biden agenda on immigration and health care.”
In the article, the DMN’s Austin correspondent lamented, “Paxton’s lawsuits have had some of the biggest impact on immigration rules.” That wasn’t meant as a compliment.
Rejecting The Voters’ Choice
TLR pushed hard the line that Paxton was not going to win re-election in the November 2022 contest. Apparently, voters did not get that memo because they reelected him with the same spread as the rest of the state GOP ticket.
The Democrats and TLR were furious that they couldn’t sell Texas on a liberal of either the Republican or Democrat variety.
This was the impetus for the Phelan assault on Paxton. Everyone in House leadership knew they were playing with fire. Phelan and his team knew the rank and file could not withstand the pressure from voters in their plans were known—and, frankly, that their own case could not withstand scrutiny.
This is why the General Investigating Committee—the members hand-selected by Phelan to conduct the inquiry—did not invite the Office of the Attorney General to participate and answer questions or offer a competing narrative.
The committee operated in secrecy until just days before the vote, as much to keep the rest of the House in the dark as Paxton and the public. Then Phelan and the committee sprung forward with charges, demanding a vote on years-old charges in less than 72 hours.
Now, Guzman’s name is already being floated as the crony elite’s “preferred” replacement. The brazen disregard for the voters’ wishes is breathtaking in its tone-deafness.
The House’s Charges Against Paxton and Why They Are Lacking
The House’s articles of impeachment stem from five major fact areas, all mirroring the attacks Paxton withstood in the 2022 primary and general elections:
- Investigation of the FBI’s intervention in the dispute between Nate Paul’s World Class Holdings and the Mitte Foundation, (Articles I-V),
- Termination of senior staff and the defense of those terminations, (Articles VI-VIII; XV),
- Allegations that Paul bribed Paxton by providing a job for his mistress and renovations to his home, (Articles IX-X),
- Defending himself against securities charges brought during his initial election, Articles XII-XIII), and
- Filing an inaccurate personal financial statement, (Article XIV).
Paxton is also charged with various generic offenses stemming from those allegations in the catch-all charges in found in Articles XVI-XX.
The House’s articles of impeachment provide no direct evidence and little in the way of direct factual allegations. Moreover, all of the allegations stem from facts that were well-known to the public prior to Paxton’s reelection in 2022.
Indeed, many of the charges complain of Paxton’s public efforts to defend himself, including litigating against baseless securities fraud charges brought in 2014 and conducting a publicly-disclosed internal investigation of these charges. These charges reek of the worst caricatures of ancient inquisitions, where the accused is punished for protesting his innocence.
Texas Government Code 665.081, referred to as the “forgiveness doctrine,” codifies the state’s policy of removing officers only for those acts occurring since their most recent election. The House protests that Section 665.081 does not bind the “constitutional” process of impeachment. But, as with much the House did at the behest of Democrats, this misses the point.
The law sets out the policy of the State of Texas, which is to respect the opinion of voters when it comes to the conduct of their elected officials. Texas senators will have to grapple with this policy, and their respect for the wisdom of voters, when they take up the House’s charges.
It should be readily apparent that the impeachment of Ken Paxton is not going to be a one-off exercise, but—potentially—the new status quo in Austin. Since it is unlikely the Democrats will get anyone elected statewide for at least the next decade in Texas, they must instead work—for now—with establishmentarian Republicans and crony business associations to find “acceptable” Republicans.
Yet, as noted above, the voters did not play along in 2022.
This leaves the Democrats’ new toy of impeachment—or, at least, the threat thereof—to be leveled against Republicans who don’t genuflect before the establishment cabal of leftist Democrats and big business Republicans.
The 61 Democrats and 60 Republicans who made up the “overturn the voters” wing of the Austin uniparty, are the cabal’s new enforcers. Any Republican who starts coloring too far outside the lines set by the crony elite could find themselves Paxtoned by the House.
Reshaping Texas Through Impeachment
Even as voters double down on conservative priorities, the threat of impeachment is designed to chill the passions of any conservative statewide official. Scurrilous allegations spread by disaffected staff and breathlessly repeated by third-rate opponents could suddenly become grounds for impeachment.
If the Senate goes along with the skullduggery, Texans can expect the next A.G.—Guzman or not—to soften the state’s challenges to the Biden administration and woke corporate America. And it could have a chilling effect on anyone seeking to do in office what they promised voters in the elections.
It boils down to this: voters picked a fighter, and the crony elite is having a temper tantrum. Since they cannot win at the ballot box, they are attempting to do so through a misappropriation of the state’s impeachment process.
If this continues, Ken Paxton will be just the first casualty in a new war on Texas’ grassroots.