DAGA Co-Chairs Call on Former RAGA Chairman Texas AG Ken Paxton to Resign

October 4, 2020

Seven Senior Officials in the Texas Attorney General’s Office Sent a Letter Asking Federal Law Enforcement to Investigate Paxton for “Improper Influence, Abuse of Office, Bribery, and other Potential Crimes”

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) Co-Chairs Massachusetts AG Maura Healey and Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum released the following statement calling on indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and former Chair of the Republican Attorneys General Association to resign. The call for resignation follows the letter sent by seven senior officials in the Texas Attorney General’s office asking for federal law enforcement to investigate Paxton for “improper influence, abuse of office, bribery, and other potential crimes.”

Statement from Massachusetts AG Maura Healey and Oregon AG Ellen Rosenblum, Co-Chairs of the Democratic Attorneys General Association

“Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is an embarrassment and a danger. The most recent news should be the last straw.”

“Seven senior members of the Texas Office of Attorney General have blown the whistle on improper and potentially illegal behavior by Paxton. These latest allegations, combined with the indictment pending against him on charges of securities fraud, put the work of Paxton’s office—and even the joint work among offices of state attorneys general—at risk. Any allegation that bribes were accepted demands a serious review of Paxton’s influence and decisions regarding cases and settlements involving his office.”

“All state attorneys general must be above reproach. For too long Paxton has teetered on the edge. He needs to go, and an independent investigation should be launched immediately.”

“State Attorneys General must be of one voice on the seriousness of this matter. As such, we call upon Republican AGs to join us in this call for Paxton’s resignation.”

 

Statement from Sean Rankin, Executive Director of the Democratic Attorneys General Association

“And the list of Republican Attorneys General accused of improper, potentially illegal, and unethical behavior grows again. Paxton’s current indictment on securities fraud has yet to be heard in court due to political shenanigans and manipulations by the Texas Republican-held Legislature, and these allegations by his senior staff further define a pattern of behavior by Paxton. Adding this to the behavior of Curtis Hill of Indiana and Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, it’s easy to see the pattern in Republican leadership: Hill, a former RAGA Vice-Chair, for sexual misconduct and Morrisey, a former RAGA Chair, previously a lobbyist – and his wife a current lobbyist – for the opioid industry, putting his political career in 2016 and 2020 over the needs of the people of West Virginia.”

 

“As a start, RAGA should freeze fundraising and segregate contributions, setting them aside, from any organization or company that also contributed to Paxton directly as those contributions could be identified as having been a part of potential improper behavior by Ken Paxton. Further, RAGA should release the full list of donors for the past six years to its affiliated entities especially the obviously misnamed Rule of Law Committee, so there can be a full, public accounting.”

 

Additional Background on Recent Bad Behavior by Republican AGs:

  • Indiana AG Curtis Hill, former Vice Chair of RAGA, had his law license suspended for 30 days by the state Supreme Court, which found that he broke the law by groping four women during a party at the close of the legislative session in 2018.
  • Alaska AG Kevin Clarkson resigned in disgrace after it became public he exchanged more than 500 texts with a junior employee – including inviting her over to his house at least 18 times – which experts said “definitely crossed professional and ethical boundaries.”
  • South Dakota AG Jason Ravnsborg faces investigations after he struck a man on the side of the road while driving home from a fundraiser last month and left the scene. At the time, Ravnsborg claims he believed he hit a deer.
  • West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey’s ties to the opioid industry including his wife’s role as a lobbyist for the industry have raised ethical concerns regarding his decisions on opioid litigation as the state continues to grapple with devastation from the opioid crisis. Morrisey is a former Chair of RAGA.

Additional Background on Ken Paxton’s Corrupt Record (as reported by The Texas Tribune)

  • To help pay for his stacked team of defense attorneys, he has collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts for his legal defense fund, claiming the contributions came from “family friends” and are exempt from a state bribery law that bars elected officials from receiving gifts from people who are subject to their authority.
  • In the securities fraud charges that are still pending, Paxton is accused of convincing investors to buy stock in a technology firm without disclosing that he would be compensated for it. He has maintained his innocence and criticized the prosecution as politically motivated. In 2014, the Texas State Securities Board fined Paxton $1,000 for soliciting investment clients without being registered, and he signed a disciplinary order without disputing its findings.
  • Last year, his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, filed a bill that would have expanded her husband’s power as attorney general, giving him the power to exempt individuals from state regulations like the one he has been charged with violating.
  • In 2018, Paxton’s office filed — and then abruptly recalled — a formal court brief in a lawsuit over Plano’s zoning policies, in a move that his supporters attributed to political influence from conservatives in his home county.
  • This spring, he declared that Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on elective medical procedures, an effort to conserve hospital resources for coronavirus patients, also barred abortions in the state, sparking a lawsuit that would drag on for weeks and force hundreds of women to cancel appointments to terminate their pregnancies.
  • His office threatened to sue the state’s biggest cities if they did not roll back coronavirus-related safety precautions, including mask mandates, and told local officials they could not keep landlords from evicting their tenants during the pandemic.
  • Paxton used the power of his office to lean on a Colorado county after it shut its doors to vacation home owners — including a top donor.
  • Paxton has led major multi-state lawsuits to overturn laws like the Affordable Care Act and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, often landing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. He’s made equally political choices in the cases he chooses not to take.
  • His office refused to defend a state agency, as it typically would, when it was sued for disciplining a state judge who refused to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples.
  • And it declined to defend the Texas Ethics Commission in a lawsuit brought by the hardline conservative group Empower Texans, a political donor.
  • Last year, he was a major player in Texas’ botched effort to review its voter rolls.
  • Paxton often boasts of his close relationship with the president, frequently greeting him on the tarmac when Air Force One touches down in Texas, and sharing stories during public appearances about their communication on major Texas-led litigation — the time Trump called while Paxton was in the shower is a favorite.