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Texas House Panel Accuses AG of Multiple Crimes

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has faced pending securities fraud charges since 2015 while winning reelection twice, has come under new fire from a Texas House committee that commissioned a secret probe into Paxton's conduct in office, the Texas Tribune reports. Four investigators for the House General Investigating Committee testified that Paxton has engaged in a yearslong pattern of misconduct, breaking numerous state laws, misspending office funds, and misusing his power to benefit a friend a political donor. Their inquiry focused first on a proposed $3.3 million agreement to settle a whistleblower lawsuit filed by four high-ranking deputies who were fired after accusing Paxton of accepting bribes and other misconduct. Those accusations resulted in a federal probe that is also pending. Committee Chair Andrew Murr said the payout, which the Legislature would have to authorize, would also prevent a trial at which evidence of Paxton’s alleged misdeeds would be presented publicly. Committee members questioned, in essence, if lawmakers were being asked to participate 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,” Murr said. “That’s something we have to grapple with. It’s challenging.”

The committee could recommend the House censure or impeach Paxton. Like Paxton, Murr is a Republican, the party that controls all of Texas government, including the House. The hearing capped a whirlwind 24 hours at the Capitol during which Paxton unexpectedly called on House Speaker Dade Phelan to resign, alleging the Beaumont Republican recently presided over the chamber while drunk. Hours later, the investigative committee revealed it was looking into Paxton, and Phelan dismissed the attorney general’s request that he step down as a “last ditch effort to save face.” Paxton served 10 years in the Texas House beginning in 2003, followed by two years in the Senate, before becoming attorney general in 2015. Among the allegations made in the House investigation, Paxton is accused of diverting senior employees to perform work that benefited a real estate developer who is a political supporter of Paxton's, providing that donor with an internal FBI file related to an investigation of the developer, and misapplication of fiduciary property, for allegedly hiring an outside lawyer for $25,000 to work inside the AG's office, performing work that principally benefited the developer.


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