Tag Archives: Ken Paxton

Getting to know the political lay of the land

A move to another region of Texas gives bloggers such as yours truly a chance to get acquainted with the political movers and shakers of the community.

I’ve been sniffing around the Collin County legislative lineup and have discovered that the 2019 Legislature will be received two rookies from this suburban county.

Texas House District 89 will be represented either by Democrat Ray Ash or Republican Candy Noble. We all know this about Texas politics, which is that it’s highly likely the Republican will win the House race to seat the new state representative.

How do I know that? I don’t know it, although it’s important to note that Collin County voters gave Donald J. Trump 55 percent of their ballots cast in 2016.

The race for the Texas Senate had piqued my interest a bit more. Angela Paxton is the GOP nominee; she’ll face off against Democrat Mark Phariss this fall. Paxton is an interesting candidate, in that she is married to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is going to stand trial later this year on charges of securities fraud.

But here’s the question that needs to be dealt with head on: Will a Sen. Angela Paxton be able to vote on budget matters that involve salary matters relating to her husband’s income? That seems to smack of conflict of interest. I believe Paxton would need to tread carefully on that matter if she gets elected, presuming of course that her husband gets acquitted of the felony charges that have been leveled against him.

With all this chatter about Texas “turning blue” in this election cycle, I am not yet holding my breath. We have moved from the deeply red, fiery conservative Texas Panhandle to the doorstep of a county — Dallas County — that voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Given my own political bias, I feel a bit more at home politically in this region of Texas.

The learning curve about the politics of these new surroundings remains fairly steep. I’ll need to catch my breath and keep climbing.

No-brainer: Don’t vote on husband’s salary

Angela Paxton is a solid favorite to be elected to the Texas Senate this fall, representing the suburban region north of Dallas.

She won the Republican Party primary earlier this month. Given the state’s heavy GOP leanings, that puts her on the inside lane en route to the Senate.

Her husband happens to be Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who’s likely to be re-elected in the fall general election.

Ahh, but here’s a potential quandary facing a Sen. Paxton: Does she vote on budget matters that set her husband’s salary as the state’s top legal official? There appears to be some gray area here, with ethics experts debating it.

To me it’s a no-brainer. No matter what the Texas Constitution allows, Paxton shouldn’t vote on her husband’s salary. Let her 30 Senate colleagues determine how much the attorney general should earn.

For the life of me I don’t understand why this is even under discussion. According to the Texas Tribune: “She’s going to have to think about what she does before she does it. If they’re doing [increases] for everyone, I don’t think that’s a conflict because everybody’s getting the same raise,” Hugh Brady, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said. “If it’s something special for the attorney general, I think she should step back and pause.”

I disagree with the professor. I don’t think a lawmaker casting a vote that materially affects his or her income passes the smell test, no matter if it’s a vote for all officials or if the vote affects an individual.

Paxton wouldn’t be the first lawmaker to face this issue. GOP State Rep. Tom Craddick’s daughter, Christi, serves on the three-member Texas Railroad Commission. Rep. Craddick has voted through three legislative sessions in favor of state budgets that include salaries for the RRC. I believe that, too, constitutes a conflict of interest, although it would not be as blatant if Angela Paxton were to vote to approve her husband’s salary, given that she and the AG share the same home.

I’ll fall back on a truism that should govern elected officials’ conduct: Just because it’s legal doesn’t always make it right.

Guns in church: strange scenario

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says it’s OK for licensed gun owners can carry their weapons into church.

Is it me or does that seem like the strangest of juxtapositions: guns and houses of worship?

Paxton issued his ruling in the wake of the Sutherland Springs church massacre that left 26 people dead in the worst mass murder in modern Texas history.

I don’t know about you but I am uncomfortable with the idea of guns anywhere near a church sanctuary.

Churches have option to say ‘no’

Paxton says churches, of course, have the option of banning guns on their property. I am going to check with the church my wife, son and I attend to see if it allows firearms into its sanctuary. I am going to pray to Almighty God in heaven that it does not.

Texas legislators loosened prohibitions on concealed-carry laws by allowing guns in churches. I am not as opposed to concealed carry legislation as I used to be. I feared shootouts would occur as road rage erupted into gun violence. Silly me. That hasn’t happened.

I just have this aversion to guns in holy places where people worship in the name of the Prince of Peace.

I’ve touched on this before. Here is an earlier post:

God wouldn’t allow guns in church

Houses of worship deserve FEMA assistance

I can almost hear the grumbling now: The U.S. Constitution prohibits any relationship between government and religious organization, which means churches shouldn’t be eligible for federal emergency relief assistance.

I’ll respond this way: As Col. Sherman T. Potter would say: Mule muffins!

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help houses of worship ravaged by the wrath of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey.

Abbott and Paxton wrote in their letter to FEMA: “When Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas, wreaking devastation over a huge swath of the Texas Gulf Coast, scores of churches and houses of worship jumped into action to serve thousands of Americans in their time of need.”

Indeed, those houses of worship also suffered grievously from Harvey’s savagery, just as every other inhabitant along the Texas Gulf Coast.

I get what the U.S. Constitution says about the prohibition against making laws that establish a state religion. This is different. FEMA stands as an agency committed to helping all Americans.

Harvey delivered a killer punch to Texas. It brought substantial misery all along the coast from Corpus Christi to the Golden Triangle — and many miles inland.

Everyone affected by the horrific storm — including houses of worship — deserve assistance from the federal government that aims to serve them.

Enough of the delays in Texas AG’s fraud case

Texans deserve to know whether their state’s attorney general is crooked.

Many of them believe that Ken Paxton is innocent of the charges leveled against him. Many others do not.

Meanwhile, Paxton’s pending trial on securities fraud is getting caught in a tangled web of legal wrangling that is threatening to delay justice well beyond what is reasonable.

A state appeals court has ruled that District Judge George Gallagher surrendered his jurisdiction in the matter when he moved the trial from Collin County to Harris County. State prosecutors are asking the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to overturn the lower-court ruling.

Meanwhile, the rest of the state — at least those of us who care about such matters — is waiting to hear whether the Republican attorney general is guilty of defrauding investors before he became the state’s top law enforcement official.

https://www.texastribune.org/2017/06/02/paxton-prosecutors-want-high-court-overturn-judge-removal/

The Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals ordered Gallagher to vacate all rulings related to the Paxton case, including the one that set his trial for September. That means the trial likely will be delayed again.

Meanwhile, the 2018 election is coming up. Paxton likely will want to run for re-election. Does he submit himself to voters once again while awaiting trial for securities fraud?

Voters’ trust in government isn’t too high as it is. Foot-dragging and legal maneuvering such as this only worsens it.

Let the Texas AG’s trial commence … and conclude

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took office under a cloud.

The cloud remains. It’s still hovering over the Republican politician. Perhaps a trial jury will remove that cloud — one way or another — beginning Sept. 12.

Paxton is going to stand trial on felony charges of securities fraud. A trial judge moved the case from Collin County to Harris County, apparently believing prosecutors’ contention that Paxton’s legal team had tainted the trial jury pool, giving him an unfair advantage.

The AG is accused of misleading investors prior to his taking office in 2015. If convicted, he faces a potential prison term of 99 years.

This change of venue surprises me mildly. Prosecutors had argued that Paxton’s counsel somehow had sought some unfair advantage, given that the attorney hails from Collin County, just north of Dallas.

Why the surprise? Well, a Collin County grand jury managed to indict Paxton more than a year ago. The grand jurors were Paxton’s homies, too, just as a trial jury pool would have been. The notion that a grand jury would indict a former state legislator from that very county seemed to suggest that the county was capable of producing a qualified panel of trial jurors when the time came for it.

The judge, George Gallagher, saw it differently. That’s his call. Hey, he’s the legal eagle, right?

So, the case moves to Harris County, to Houston. Judge Gallagher has set a 10-day time limit for this case to conclude once the trial commences. Of course, the Sept. 12 start date well could be subject to change — perhaps even multiple changes before Paxton gets this case adjudicated.

Let the trial begin. Paxton deserves the chance to remove the cloud that’s hung over him since before he took office.

For that matter, so do millions of other Texans who believe their state’s chief law enforcer should be above reproach.

Texas AG handed surprising setback

Ken Paxton wanted to be tried by a jury of his peers in his home county in Texas.

State lawyers who are prosecuting him on charges of securities fraud said the Texas attorney general’s legal team had poisoned the jury pool and asked the judge for a change of venue.

Today, the judge agreed and moved the case out of Collin County; he also ordered a delay in the trial, I presume to give the principals a chance to find a suitable venue to try the attorney general.

This is a bit of a surprise to me.

It’s because a Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton on securities charges stemming from an allegation that he misled investors involved in a company with which Paxton was involved before he was elected attorney general in 2014.

The way I figured at the time, if a grand jury comprising peers of the attorney general would indict him, then surely a trial judge could find a suitable pool of trial jurors to hear the case and then decide on his guilt or innocence.

Paxton, you see, represented Collin County in the Texas Legislature before running for AG three years ago.

Paxton has suffered a stinging defeat to be sure. He now is going to stand before jurors who are ostensibly neutral in this case, who don’t know the AG personally or who’ve never had the chance to vote for him while he served in the Legislature.

Then again, he is a statewide elected official. Which makes me wonder: Where can one find a jury pool that is totally neutral?

Let the kids pray, Mr. Attorney General

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has decided to make an issue where none exists.

The non-issue involves some Muslim students at Liberty High School in Frisco, Texas, a Dallas suburb. They’ve been attending prayers in a classroom for years. They have been practicing their faith — of their own volition. The school has allowed the students to use the classroom and there’s been no issue with the other students.

Enter the attorney general, who has sent a letter to school administrators expressing his alleged concern about the Muslim prayers being recited in a public high school.

But then there’s this item, as reported in the Washington Post:

“Paxton attracted national attention last December when he waded into a dispute in Killeen, Tex., between a middle school principal and a nurse’s aide who put up a six-foot poster in the school with a quote from the classic animation special “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that read: ‘For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.’

“After the principal told the aide to take the poster down, Paxton wrote to the Killeen school district: ‘These concerns are not surprising in an age of frivolous litigation by anti-Christian interest groups … Rescind this unlawful policy.’

“When the school district refused, Paxton helped the nurse’s aide sue, and won.”

So, there you have it. It’s OK to sanction Christian activities in a public school, but when a group of Muslim students seeks some quiet time to pray, why, the AG expresses concern?

I understand what the Constitution says about government establishing laws that favor certain religions. The Constitution does not prohibit students from praying on their own. That is what is occurring in Frisco.

As the Post reports: “’This ‘news release’ appears to be a publicity stunt by the OAG to politicize a nonissue,’ schools superintendent Jeremy Lyon wrote in reply to the state. ‘Frisco ISD is greatly concerned that this type of inflammatory rhetoric in the current climate may place the District, its students, staff, parents and community in danger of unnecessary disruption.’”

It’s fair to ask: Would the attorney general have expressed concern had the students been Christian?

Frisco school officials have told the Post that the state never asked about the nature of the prayers when the school began allowing the students to use the room. Why is Paxton raising the issue now?

The anti-Muslim climate in this country is being fanned by policies enacted at the very top of the government chain of command. The president of the United States seeks to ban refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries and has run headlong into objections from federal judges who contend his executive order violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

As for what is occurring at Liberty High in Frisco, let the students pray, Mr. Attorney General.

Texas AG deserves to stand trial at home

My jaw dropped. My mouth is gaping. I cannot believe what I have just read.

Prosecutors seeking to convict Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is set to stand trial for an alleged securities fraud matter, have asked for a change of venue because they say they cannot get a fair trial in Collin County, a suburban region just north of Dallas.

Why the jaw-drop?

Well, Paxton represented Collin County in the Texas Legislature before he was elected AG in 2014. That’s what made his indictment by a Collin County grand jury all the more remarkable, the way I saw it. This wasn’t a group of liberal activists seeking revenge against a conservative statewide politician. The grand jury was a panel of Paxton’s peers.

Prosecutors need not seek a change of venue, given that a Collin County grand jury brought the charges against Paxton in the first place.

The grand jury indicted Paxton on allegations that he misled investors in a company; the alleged crime occurred before he became attorney general.

I don’t know about you, but I find this allegation of bias against them to be soaked in irony.

As the Texas Tribune reported: “Ken Paxton, like all Texans, has the right to be tried in the County he was charged in,” Paxton lawyer Dan Cogdell said in a statement. “The Special Prosecutors have filed a 60-page pleading trying to thwart that right. That these prosecutors are somehow painting themselves as ‘victims’ of some nonexistent conspiracy is extremely telling.”

I believe the trial court will be able to seat a jury that can determine this case fairly and without bias. Just look at what the grand jury did to bring this case to trial.

The case is set to go to trial on May 1. Let it take place in Collin County.

On to securities fraud trial for Texas AG

paxton_060916_002_jpg_800x1000_q100

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took office under a serious cloud.

Allegations had been leveled at him for securities fraud. Then came a criminal indictment from a Collin County grand jury, comprising individuals Paxton used to represent in the Legislature. Indeed, it’s a good bet many of the grand jurors had voted for him when he ran for AG in 2014.

They indicted him for failing to report that he had benefited from investment advice he had given to clients. This couldn’t be construed seriously as a political witch hunt, given that the indictment came from Paxton’s home county.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Today, though, the state’s highest criminal appellate court — the Court of Criminal Appeals — decided against hearing Paxton’s appeal. The ruling, thus, clears the way for Paxton’s case to head to trial.

https://www.texastribune.org/2016/10/12/court-criminal-appeals-declines-hear-paxton-case/

A federal judge earlier had tossed a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint against Paxton.

So, let’s decide this matter once and for all.

According to the Texas Tribune: “Last summer, a Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton on criminal charges of securities fraud and failure to register with the state securities board. He is accused of misleading investors in a company from before he took office as Texas’ top lawyer.”

This isn’t a penny ante case. It involves an individual, Paxton, whose reputation is supposed to be above reproach. It’s the position he holds. As the state’s top lawyer, he shouldn’t have this cloud hovering over him. Neither should the state AG’s office, which is really more important to the rest of us than a single politician’s reputation.

The Tribune reports that a trial could start as early as next spring. If Paxton is convicted, he faces a possible prison term of 99 years.

My own hope is that a court convene a trial as soon as possible so we can put this issue aside — one way or another.