A committee in Texas’ state legislature heard testimony from investigators alleging a yearslong pattern of misconduct and questionable actions by Attorney General Ken Paxton, The Texas Tribune reported.
Four investigators spoke before the House General Investigating Committee and said Mr Paxton broke numerous state laws, misspent money spent for his office and used his power to benefit a friend and donor.
The committee looked into a $3.3mn agreement to settle a whistleblower lawsuit that four high-raking deputies filed after they were fired when they accused Mr Paxton of accepting bribes and other misconduct. The legislature would need to authorise such a settlement but the committee’s chairman Andrew Murr questioned whether the legislature was participating in a cover up.
“It is alarming and very serious having this discussion when millions of taxpayer dollars have been asked to remedy what is alleged to be some wrongs,” he said. “That’s something we have to grapple with. It’s challenging.”
Many of the allegations were already known but were aired in public for the first time and the committee can recommend the state House censure or impeach Mr Paxton, an ally of former president Donald Trump. The former president endorsed Mr Paxton during his re-election campaign last year when George P Bush, the son of Jeb Bush and grandson of former president George H W Bush, ran against him in the Republican primary.
Mr Paxton has been under criminal indictment since 2014, but has yet to go to trial. Erin Epley, lead counsel for the committee, said the inquiry focused on the four whistleblowers’ allegations by interviewing employees of the attorney general’s office, who expressed fear of retaliation, the whistleblowers themselves and others with pertinent information.
“Each of these four men is a conservative Republican civil servant,” Ms Epley said. “Interviews show that they wanted to be loyal to General Paxton and they tried to advise him well, often and strongly, and when that failed each was fired after reporting General Paxton to law enforcement.”
Mr Paxton’s office fired the whistleblowers after they told federal and state authorities about their concerns about Mr Paxton’s relationship with Nate Paul, a real estate investor and Paxton donor. They alleged that Mr Paxton broke the law by allegedly diverting taxpayer money to work that benefited Mr Paul; misusing public information by providing Mr Paul with an internal FBI file related into an investigation of him; and hiring an outside lawyer to the tune of $25,000 to work inside the attorney general’s office.
The allegations triggered a federal investigation by the FBI in November 2020.
Mr Paxton, for his part, called into a Texas radio show denying the allegations.
“Every allegation is easily disproved, and I look forward to continuing my fight for conservative Texas values,” he said. Mr Paxton accused the committee of being set up by his nemesis, House Speaker Dade Phelan, whom he recently called on to resign after he said Mr Phelan presided over the legislature while drunk.
The Independent has reached out to Mr Paxton’s office for comment.
“The Attorney General appears to have routinely abused his powers for personal gain and exhibited blatant disregard for the ethical and legal propriety expected of the state’s leading law enforcement officer,” Carrie Wittman, a spokesman for Mr Phelan, said.