Tag Archives: Ken Paxton

Paxton strikes back at whistleblowers

(Photo by Erich Schlegel/Getty Images)

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Let’s do a little math, shall we?

Seven top aides to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have called for a federal investigation into what they allege is corrupt practices with the AG’s office, including bribery.

Two of the seven were fired; two others were put on “leave.” Two plus two equals four, correct?

And yet a spokesman for the embattled AG says the actions taken have nothing to do with the complaint the top legal eagles have filed against Paxton. Where I come from, it looks for all the world as if the firings and the placing on leave have everything  to do with the whistleblower complaint.

Paxton ought to resign, per the request from U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, a fellow Republican from Austin. There’s no way on Earth that the state’s chief law enforcement officer — who’s awaiting trial on securities fraud charges stemming from a Collin County grand jury indictment — can serve while having these storm clouds brewing over his head.

But the AG is hanging on.

Shameful, I am telling you.

As the Texas Tribune has reported:

The aides, who represented a large share of the agency’s most senior staff, alerted law enforcement and then agency human resources that they believed Paxton was using the power of his office to serve a political donor, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul. The agency had taken the unusual step of weighing in on a lawsuit that involved Paul, and Paxton personally hired an outside investigator — in a process aides called highly suspect — to vet the donor’s complaints

Ian Prior, a spokesperson for Paxton’s campaign, denied Friday that the personnel decisions had anything to do with their accusations against Paxton.

“Any suggestion that this has to do with the whistleblower claims is false and demonstrates an unfamiliarity with the facts,” Prior said. “There are a number of reasons for these separations that we cannot discuss at this time.”

Ken Paxton is unfit for the office of Texas attorney general.

Should AG Paxton quit?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Suffice to say that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton doesn’t have quite the same hold on Texas Republicans as, say, Donald J. Trump.

Consider what has happened since seven top Texas AG’s office aides have alleged that Paxton has engaged in activity that abuses the power of his office, including bribery.

The top dogs in the AG’s office have called for a federal investigation into Paxton’s conduct. Gov. Greg Abbott calls the allegations a “serious matter.”

But then U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, an Austin Republican, has called for Paxton to resign his office. Hit the road, Mr. AG, says Roy. Paxton has responded that he isn’t quitting. He calls the allegations phony and vows to fight them for all he’s worth.

I would prefer that Paxton quit. Not because Rep. Chip Roy says so, but because I also believe the allegations are “serious” and they sound credible to me.

It’s not every day that seven top legal minds put their names on a letter alleging behavior that smacks of outright criminality. One of them is the top aide, Jeff Mateer, who quit the attorney general’s office this past week the moment the letter went public.

There’s also the pending trial that Paxton must endure. He is accused of securities fraud. A Collin County grand jury indicted him in 2015, but years of wrangling over where to hold the trial has delayed justice in this case.

I guess the bottom line is that Paxton should quit the AG’s office. How does a state attorney general serve as the state’s top lawyer with an ounce of credibility when he faces the prospect of a federal investigation into whether he took or offered a bribe? 

Texas AG faces new questions, allegations

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had been in some serious trouble already, with a pending trial awaiting him over allegations of securities fraud.

Now comes a new set of concerns raised by senior AG office staffers, including Paxton’s top assistant, who are demanding a federal investigation into whether Paxton has abused the power of his office.

The hits just keep on comin’, as the saying goes.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, two of Paxton’s fellow Republicans, are being strangely reticent about the allegations. Patrick says they are “very concerning” and Abbott said they raise “serious questions.” The two men of course are withholding judgment until they know all the facts.

As the Texas Tribune has reported: “We have a good faith belief that the attorney general is violating federal and/or state law including prohibitions related to improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential criminal offenses,” seven agency leaders wrote in a one-page letter obtained by the (Austin American-) Statesman.

Among the seven officials who signed the letter is Jeff Mateer, Paxton’s top aide, who quit the AG’s office this past week.

Good heavens. The state’s top law enforcement officer cannot possibly function well with these kinds of clouds hanging directly over him. He already is awaiting trial on securities fraud stemming from a Collin County indictment in 2015 alleging that he failed to notify investors of his involvement with certain fund management outfits. Now we have this matter.

I would hope the federal government would get involved promptly and reach an independent finding of whether the admittedly unspecified allegations have any merit.

If not, then let Paxton stand trial on the securities matter. If they are legitimate, then let’s allow the system to take care of AG Paxton.

Let’s put the AG on trial … finally!

While the nation has been watching the machinations of a corrupt president and his minions, many of us in Texas have forgotten we have an attorney general who’s fighting criminal charges of his own.

Good news, fans and foes of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton: A judge has ruled that the case should be returned to Collin County, where the Republican AG was indicted initially on allegations of securities fraud.

Have you forgotten about that? Yeah, me too … almost. The indictment occurred in 2015. That’s five yeas ago. The state and Paxton’s defense team have been kicking the case around ever since. Prosecutors succeeded in moving the case to Harris County because, they said, they couldn’t get a fair trial in Collin County.

Sure they could. A Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton, after all, which would appear to make it possible that prosecutors could secure a conviction of the attorney general were he to stand trail in the county he represented in the Legislature before being elected to statewide office.

As the Texas Tribune has reported: Paxton has been fighting charges that he misled investors in a financial services company from before his time as attorney general. Paxton has pleaded not guilty to all the allegations and was cleared in a similar civil case at the federal level. But when the Texas State Securities Board reprimanded him for soliciting clients without being properly registered, he signed a disciplinary order without disputing its findings.

This matter needs a resolution. I happen to be one Texas resident who doesn’t like our state attorney general operating under a cloud of criminal allegations. These things tend to inhibit the man’s credibility whenever he opens his mouth.

Growing fonder of vote by mail

I am not King of the World, but if I held that title, I would mandate that we all vote on Election Day, in person, in the privacy of a polling booth.

However, since I cannot do that, I am left to deal with the real world. Reality at this moment rests in a pandemic that threatens the health of voters who want to cast their ballots for president of the United States. They fear that voting in person would expose them to COVID-19. So they want to cast their ballots by mail.

I do, too.

Thus, I am baffled, flabbergasted and confused by the opposition to vote by mail by Texas’ top elected officials. Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Attorney General Ken Paxton have formed a troika that opposes vote by mail.

Why? They contend it invites rampant voter fraud. They parrot Donald Trump. They’re all Republicans. They are launching a sickening end-around game that seeks to suppress voter turnout.

The Texas Tribune also reports — and this is rich, man! — that all three of them (four if you count Trump) have cast ballots by mail in the past. They have done so out of convenience, I reckon. The TT reports that Paxton regularly votes in person in his Collin County precinct, but has voted by mail. Same for Patrick and, yes, for Abbott.

So what’s the real problem here? Is it voter fraud as they contend? I think not!

I am not necessarily a fan of all-mail voting. You know that already. However I prefer it by a wide margin over not voting at all. I am one Texas resident who has a concern about potential exposure to a possible killer virus.

I also want Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick and Ken Paxton to stop hiding behind a phony excuse as justification for refusing to allow as many Texans as possible to cast ballots for the next president.

Rampant voter fraud does not exist. Nor will it exist if we develop a secure system of voting by mail.

Here’s a thought: Call ’em, ask how mail-in voting works

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, mimicking his fellow Republican Donald J. Trump, thinks mail-in voting invites fraudulent balloting.

That is the crux of his resistance to implementing it in Texas … or so he says.

I have an idea for Paxton to ponder. We have five states that conduct their elections by mail — Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah and Hawaii. Granted, four of the five of them are governed by Democrats; Utah is the exception. Pick up the phone, Mr. Attorney General, and talk at length with any or all of the elections officials in those states and ask them: How do you protect your electoral system from voter fraud?

It might be that Paxton, the loyal Republican, doesn’t want to hear how this works in a state run by Democrats. Big deal. He can call Utah’s election bosses.

Whatever it takes.

The concern over mail-in voting centers more on partisan concerns, in my view, than actual fear of widespread voter fraud. All the states that run their elections by mail report that they have not experienced anything resembling the rampant fraud that Paxton and other Republicans say will occur.

We are in the midst of a national medical emergency. The coronavirus pandemic makes traditional Election Day balloting a potentially life-threatening endeavor. Would I prefer to vote on Nov. 3? Yes, I would. However, I harbor concerns about my health and that of my family, so I want to see a full-blown presidential election occur by mail if that’s the best way to ensure full participation in this most important rite of citizenship.

Donald Trump spilled the beans not long ago by declaring that all-mail voting would doom Republicans’ electoral chances. Which tells me he is far less concerned about vote fraud than he is at his re-election chances. That is just too … damn … bad!

Now we hear from his GOP allies, such as Ken Paxton, parroting the Trump lie about voter fraud concern. That is BS!

The election officials who conduct this kind of balloting in their states proclaim great success. They say their systems are secure.

Again … Mr. Attorney General, if you are truly concerned about voter fraud, listen to your colleagues who just might be able to educate you about how to get more voters involved in this process. They also would be able to tell you how they do so without the so-called “fraud” you insist will occur.

Partisan justice is at work

Judicial rulings aren’t supposed to be tainted by partisan considerations, which is what the founders sought when they created an independent judicial branch of the federal government.

Then we have states such as Texas, which elects its judges on partisan ballots. You have to be either a Democrat or a Republican to run for a spot on any court in the state. That includes the state’s highest civil court of appeals, the Supreme Court.

So what does the all-GOP Supreme Court do? It halts any expansion of mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Texas Democrats want to ensure that more — not fewer — Texans vote in this year’s presidential election. They want the state to institute mail-in voting to allow greater participation among the state’s estimated 15 million eligible voters.

That’s a non-starter for Texas Republicans — and apparently their allies on the Texas Supreme Court. They have reeled in the reddest of herrings by alleging that all-mail-in voting invites rampant voter fraud.

No. It does nothing of the sort … provided that county election officials do their due diligence to ensure that every ballot cast is done by a legitimately registered voter.

My version of political perfection would rely solely on Election Day balloting. However, we cannot have everything we want. The pandemic has made polling-place voting a potentially life-threatening event, which is why mail-in voting is beginning to appeal more to me.

As for voter fraud, well, that is the serious non-starter. Five states have all-mail voting already. They all report without reservation that the incidents of fraudulent voting are rare. There is no such thing in any of those states of “rampant” voter fraud. Why is that? Because election officials take their tasks seriously and they all swear an oath to protect the sanctity of their political institutions.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argues that voter fraud is a major concern for him. Baloney! Paxton’s major concern is whether he is doing the bidding of Donald Trump, who has led the phony chorus of claims of voter fraud. He has actually griped out loud that mail-in voting would doom Republicans’ electoral chances in the future. Aww. Cry me a river.

“Among the State’s highest and most profound interests is protecting the integrity of its elections,” Paxton wrote. “To advance that interest, the … Legislature requires almost every voter to vote by personal appearance at a designated polling place, where trained poll workers confirm the voter’s identity before issuing him a ballot.”

I get that. Really. I do. However, mail-in voting as it has been done in a handful of states is just as secure as it is when it’s done the old-fashioned way.

The Supreme Court is going to hear oral arguments next week. Then it will make a final decision. Anyone want to bet how the all-GOP Supreme Court is going to go on that one?

Partisan bickering could cost more lives

Oh, my goodness. The partisan bickering is filtering from Austin to county courthouses throughout Texas.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is issuing warnings to Democratic mayors and county judges to back off their local coronavirus pandemic mandates because, Paxton says, they do not conform with what Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has declared.

This is rich, man.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, one of those Democrats, has emerged as a champion in my eyes as he seeks to battle the viral infection outbreak in North Texas. Oh, I need to mention that my wife, one of our sons and his family and I reside in next-door Collin County.

Jenkins has ordered that everyone “shall” wear masks when they do business; Abbott’s order doesn’t require the wearing of masks. Thus, Paxton said that Jenkins and other get-tough local officials are overstepping their authority.

C’mon, Mr. AG. The judge is seeking to save Texans’ lives!

It’s all part of what looks like a deepening and widening of the partisan divide in Washington as Democrats and Republicans squabble over how to fight this pandemic. This won’t surprise you, but I do believe Democrats are on the correct side in that D.C. fight, with Donald Trump continuing to muddle his messages and continuing to pick fights with Democratic governors needlessly.

It’s now happening in Austin, where Republican state officials are haggling with Democratic local officials over which of them is taking the correct course. GOP officials want to reopen the economy more rapidly than their Democratic colleagues. Why are Democrats dragging their feet? Let’s see. Oh, they fear that a too-rapid reopening puts Texans’ lives in danger!

Hey, that concern is good enough for me.

So, with that, allow me this rejoinder: Mr. Texas Attorney General … back off!

Texas AG: Gun shops are an ‘essential’ business … yikes!

I suppose you can chalk this one up as an “only in Texas” kind of thing.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has determined that gun shops are an “essential business” and therefore can remain open while other businesses are being shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic.

There is something kind of weird about Paxton’s decision, which countermands a statement issued by the mayor of Lubbock, who determined that gun shops in the West Texas city are “non-essential” and should close during this time of crisis.

How do we define essential? The way I define the term, that would include businesses that sell food, medicine, various household cleaning supplies.

But … guns? Seriously? Ken Paxton thinks that guns count as something Texans need to purchase.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott hasn’t issued a stay-at-home order for all Texans. He has left that decision up to local governments, some of which have been proactive; others have been, well, not so much.

State Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Lubbock Republican, asked Paxton for a ruling after the mayor made his determination. I guess Burrows got what he sought.

I just find Paxton’s decision to be peculiar … although not the least bit surprising. Gotta have them guns at the ready, right? I mean, we just don’t have enough of ’em out there already.

Texas AG to California: Butt out of our affairs

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This item was published initially on KETR-FM’s website, ketr.org.

I am inclined as a general rule to oppose Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s world view on most matters.

However, on the issue of seeking to remove one state’s non-essential travel ban to Texas because of our state’s strong stand in favor of “religious liberty,” I believe he is onto something.

What constitutes “essential travel”? I suppose one example would be in the event of a natural disaster emergency, in which firefighters or other first responders travel from California to Texas to lend aid.

Here’s the issue: In 2017, Texas legislators enacted a law that, among other things, allows foster-care agencies to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children. California responded by banning non-essential publicly funded travel from California to Texas, citing what California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called a discriminatory policy against gay Americans. It falls under the religious liberty doctrine, of which Paxton has become an aggressive advocate.

At one level, Becerra has a point. I don’t like the Texas law either. I believe – on this point – that gay couples are fully capable of being loving parents to children who need a home. As one who believes homosexuality is a matter of genetics rather than upbringing or of choice, the Texas law looks to me to be an overreach.

However, so is the California response to this state enacting a law that comports with its residents’ generally conservative world view.

Paxton has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene on Texas’ behalf. He is asking the highest court in the land to overturn the California travel ban, saying that California is trying to police how other states conduct their affairs.

“California is attempting to punish Texans for respecting the right of conscience for foster care and adoption workers,” Paxton said.

As the Texas Tribune reports, this latest salvo is just the latest in a long-running feud between the states, with California and Texas being the country’s top Democratic and Republican strongholds, respectively. Do you remember how former Gov. Rick Perry would venture to California to lure businesses from that state to Texas? Critics of that effort – and I was one of them – called it “job poaching.”

Paxton – who is in the midst of another fight involving his own indictment for securities fraud – has now joined the battle.

Texas is one of 11 states that have received travel bans from California, which to Paxton’s eyes is acting like a state run by busy-bodies. One of those states, Oklahoma, responded by banning non-essential travel to California from Oklahoma. I suppose Texas could respond accordingly.

Paxton is likely to have a friendly audience if the high court decides to take up the case. It has a solid conservative majority. Yes, it’s only 5-4 at the moment, but the five conservative justices – with the possible exception of Chief Justice John Roberts – are inclined to stand solidly behind GOP policymakers’ point of view.

I will say that I think Paxton makes a solid argument that California need not intrude into the affairs of other states governed by politicians who don’t hue to that state’s political leaning.