Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing an impeachment vote from the Texas House on Saturday, following a House committee’s months-long investigation into misconduct.
On Thursday, the bipartisan, but Republican-led General Investigating Committee unanimously recommended that Paxton be impeached and removed from office, over allegations of bribery, obstruction of justice and other abuses throughout his years in office. House Republicans have brought forth 20 articles of impeachment in total.
Paxton has denied any wrongdoing and invited Texans to the capitol to “peacefully” protest what he called the “political theater.” The case is the first impeachment hearing of a state official in the House in almost 50 years.
Here’s what to know:
Who is Ken Paxton?
Paxton joined the Texas political landscape in 2002 as a Republican after winning a seat in the House. He went on to spend 12 years in the legislature. In 2014 when Texas Governor Greg Abott vacated his role as the state’s attorney general, Paxton ran for the open position, winning by a landslide.
As attorney general, Paxton has been a driving force behind Texas’s culture wars. Over the years, he’s strongly allied himself with hard-line conservatives and former president Donald Trump. Paxton was involved in Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 presidential election results, as well as other legal challenges against the Biden administration and efforts to loosen migration and border restrictions. Paxton was re-elected for a third term in November by a sizable majority.
Paxton has spent most of his tenure as attorney general under investigation. His first year on the job in 2015, he received felony charges over securities fraud for allegedly misleading investors.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleges that he raised over $800,000 by selling shares from software company Servergy to clients, without disclosing to them that he was receiving additional stock shares from the company in return. Paxton denied wrongdoing, claiming that he received the stocks as a gift, and has yet to go to trial over the charges.
Why is Paxton facing impeachment?
Many of the allegations against Paxton were introduced in a letter from October 2020, that several of Paxton’s top aides sent to his office’s human resources director, accusing the attorney general of bribery and abuse of office. Some of the aides said they also asked the F.B.I. and state law enforcement to investigate Paxton.
The letter and numerous articles center on allegations that Paxton illegally used his political power to benefit his friend, Austin real estate developer Nate Paul. Paul donated $25,000 to Paxton’s 2018 campaign and one of the bribery articles relates to how Paul employed a woman who Paxton allegedly had an extramarital affair with. Paul denies that he hired the woman to benefit Paxton.
Paul allegedly contacted Paxton in 2019 after federal officers raided his property. Paxton authorized an investigation into the F.B.I’s raid. At the time, Paxton said, he wasn’t motivated to “protect a political donor or to abuse this office, nor will I ever.”
Other impeachment articles accuse Paxton of disregarding his official duty, making false statements on official reports and abusing public trust. Texas Rep. Andrew Murr, who leads the House General Investigating Committee, said this week that the impeachment is a response to “grave offenses” that Paxton committed both before and during his tenure in office. He also faces an obstruction of justice article over the 2015 securities fraud indictment alleging that one of Paxton’s campaign donors filed a lawsuit to delay the trial.
When four of the aides were fired in the fall of 2020, following the letter’s release, they filed a lawsuit accusing Paxton of retaliation. Paxton’s office produced a 374-page report concluding that Paxton “committed no crime.” He challenged the suit, but after a Texas appeals court ruled against him, he agreed to pay $3.3 million in settlement to the aides in February 2023.
Paxton asked the state legislature for funding to pay the multi-million dollar settlement, but House Speaker Dade Phelan opposed the use of taxpayer money for it. The House opened an investigation into the allegations against Paxton to gather intel over his funding request, according to Phelan’s office. A House committee voted Thursday to make the first judgment over the allegations. Legislators said there was enough evidence against Paxton to start the process of removing him from office.