Texas AG Ken Paxton accused of corruption by state investigators

FILE - Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks at a news conference in Dallas on June 22, 2017. A Republican-led investigative committee on Thursday, May 25, 2023, recommended impeaching Paxton, the state’s top lawyer. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton may have committed a litany of criminal and ethical offences, according to state investigators who disclosed new details of a secret, monthslong probe of corruption claims against the Republican, according to Bloomberg.

During a remarkable public hearing Wednesday at the state house, investigators outlined what they said was possible criminal and ethical misconduct by Paxton, including abuse of official capacity, misuse of official information and retaliation among other charges. He’s been under indictment for securities fraud for eight years and previously accused of professional misconduct and bribery while in office. 

Texas investigators began their probe at the request of a state House ethics committee after Paxton sought $3.3 million in state budget funds for a tentative settlement with former aides who claim they were fired for reporting Paxton to law enforcement for alleged bribery. Lawmakers bristled at the funding request and declined an allocation in the budget earlier this year.

The disclosure of the corruption probe came hours after Paxton called for the ethics committee to investigate the conduct of its chairman, House Speaker Dade Phelan. A video has been circulating online that Paxton says shows the Phelan “presiding over the Texas House in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication.”

Phelan and members of the committee are seeking to “sabotage my work as Attorney General,” Paxton said in a statement posted to Twitter.

“The false testimony of highly partisan Democrat lawyers with the goal of manipulating and misleading the public is reprehensible,” Paxton said. “Every allegation is easily disproved, and I look forward to continuing my fight for conservative Texas values.”

During public testimony on Wednesday, investigators said they uncovered evidence to suggest Paxton improperly used his office to aide a campaign donor who was being investigated by the FBI and directed his staff to withhold information from law enforcement about the man. 

“The allegations that were made as part of the whistleblower lawsuits, do you feel there is a lot of evidence there to support those?” Representative Andrew Murr, a Republican who serves as chairman of the committee, asked lead investigator Erin Epley.

“I do,” said Epley, a former assistant US attorney.

Epley said her team interviewed the whistleblowers and other agency employees, and they reviewed emails, contracts and court filings spanning years.

Wednesday’s hearing marked the first public disclosure of her team’s findings, but Epley said they were continuing to look into Paxton’s actions in office and would update the committee with new details as they emerge. The committee members also met in executive session, but did not take any action before adjourning.

While in office, Paxton has cultivated a reputation as a conservative firebrand known for his fierce loyalty to former President Donald Trump. GOP stalwarts have shown unwavering loyalty to Paxton at the polls, continuing to support his re-election campaigns despite the ethics allegations.