The Senate trial starts in 11 days, and there continues to be so much Paxton news.
Political pressure is intensifying around Republican state senators who will serve as the jurors in the impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Paxton’s allies are singling out a half dozen senators for lobbying. A mysterious entity is airing TV ads targeting certain senators. And an influential establishment group, as well as former Gov. Rick Perry, are urging senators to oppose efforts to effectively stop the trial before it starts.
“Anyone that votes against Ken Paxton in this impeachment is risking their entire political career and we will make sure that is the case,” Jonathan Stickland, who runs the pro-Paxton Defend Texas Liberty PAC, said Thursday in a media appearance.
Paxton’s allies have gotten more aggressive in recent days. On Tuesday, Dallas County GOP activist Lauren Davis went on the show of Steve Bannon, the former Donald Trump strategist, and urged viewers to apply pressure to six GOP senators: Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills, Bryan Hughes of Mineola, Charles Schwertner of Georgetown, Charles Perry of Lubbock, Drew Springer of Muenster and Mayes Middleton of Galveston. She said Middleton was especially important to lobby given that he was a top donor to Paxton’s primary challengers in 2022.
“We’re gonna make all these six famous in the days ahead,” Bannon said.
Earlier in the week, Davis used her group, Moms Love Freedom, to launch a petition asking the Senate to dismiss the articles of impeachment “with prejudice.”
Davis was the 2022 Republican nominee for Dallas County judge and is currently running for Dallas County GOP chair, challenging an incumbent. She shares a political consultant, Axiom Strategies, with Paxton.
Then on Thursday, the deep-pocketed GOP group Texans for Lawsuit Reform issued a rare public statement on the impeachment process. The group, which heavily funded one of Paxton’s primary challengers in 2022, reiterated it “had nothing to do with” his impeachment, a day after the Dallas Morning News reported that Paxton’s lawyers planned to call TLR founder Richard Weekley as a witness.
But what came next was more notable. The group, which was sitting on a $33 million warchest as of June 30, made clear it expected senators to oppose the pretrial motions to dismiss — or anything else that could derail a full-blown trial.
“There is an ongoing effort underway to intimidate the Senators into abandoning their constitutional obligations and acquitting Paxton before the trial even begins and the evidence has been presented,” the statement said. “These efforts are disrespectful of the constitutional impeachment process and insulting to the integrity of the Texas Senate.”
“TLR expects the Senate will conduct a fair, open and thorough trial and that each Senator will make her or his decision solely on the evidence presented,” the statement added, putting an emphasis on “solely.”
The statement was only attributed to Texans for Lawsuit Reform and not any specific representative of the group.
By the end of Thursday, Perry was also weighing in with a similar message to that of TLR. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Perry condemned fellow Republicans who he said were trying to “delegitimize” the process and called for a “full and fair trial” in the Senate.
“We’ve come this far in the process, and it’s critical that the Senate sees it through to the end,” wrote Perry, who is close with Patrick. “That means a fair trial that allows both sides to lay out all the facts and gives senators the opportunity to vote based on the evidence.”
Such interventions are likely to further inflame tension with Paxton and his allies, who have long theorized the Republican establishment, especially TLR, is willing to do whatever it takes to get him out of office.
Definitely some big “wretched hive of scum and villainy” energy in there. You’ve got to be truly terrible to make me side with Texans for Lawsuit Reform. This right here is the division I was hoping for from this trial. Keep it coming.
Elsewhere, the reams of data dumped by the prosecution last week continues to generate more stories.
Ken Paxton once dragged his feet for a month before paying $12.50 for specialty license plates. But when a legal association put him up in a hotel for a convention, the attorney general readily picked out a $600 sport coat in the gift shop and charged it to the sponsors.
With his own money, the state’s top lawyer is known to be “very stingy” and to constantly vent about how little he makes, according to former close advisors. Paxton is less constrained, they say, when it comes to accepting cash and favors from others.
“He understands the power of the ask because people have a hard time saying no,” Drew Wicker, Paxton’s former executive aide, told investigators for the Texas House. “And that can be for small things, like lunch or providing a furniture move from Dallas to Austin, and it can be for some larger things, apparently.”
As evidence pours in ahead of Paxton’s impeachment trial next month, key witnesses for House prosecutors have painted the now-suspended attorney general as someone who obsesses over money and is susceptible to outsiders who want to influence how he runs his office.
The prosecutors claim Paxton took bribes from a campaign donor in exchange for political favors. It’s the latest in a line of financially related scandals that span years and encompass everything from securities fraud charges to pocketing another lawyer’s $1,000 pen.
Blake Brickman, a former deputy attorney general and one of the whistleblowers, told House investigators that Paxton regularly griped about finances at the office.
“He would always complain, literally complain about the fact that his staff would make more money than he did,” Brickman said, according to a transcript. Before being suspended due to impeachment, Paxton earned $154,000 a year, whereas many top agency lawyers make over $200,000. “Money was always at the top of the mind for him.”
David Maxwell, the agency’s former director of law enforcement and another whistleblower, offered the examples of the $600 sports coat and the license plates. He said one of the first things Paxton asked him to do was to get him a specialty plate that “says who I am.” Once Maxwell received them, Paxton told him he would bring him a check.
“I did not give him those plates until he handed over $12.50,” Maxwell said. “I kept it for over a month because I knew exactly what he was going to do.”
“When people would travel with him, he would always make them pay,” Maxwell went on. “I’m talking about employees who don’t make any money, you know. He’s always trying to get his hand in somebody’s pocket and make them pay.”
See here and here for previous entries, including an introduction to Drew Wicker. Most of this stuff comes from people who have good reasons to be mad at Ken Paxton, so while all of this should be factual, it’s also told from a particular perspective. It’s also likely to reinforce your opinion of Paxton, if you like me and other decent people think he’s a terrible person, or to confirm your suspicion that people are out to get him if for some reason you don’t.
Another wrinkle was added this week in the impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Ken Paxton. A former Texas Ranger accused two top Paxton aides of hounding female staffers out of the executive tier.
The accuser is David Maxwell, who formerly served as Paxton’s director of law enforcement. He was interviewed by impeachment managers last week. During the interview, he revealed that two top aides, First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster and Aaron Reitz, who has since become Chief of Staff to Senator Ted Cruz.
According to interview documents, Webster and Reitz were so toxic and sexist to female staffers that they resigned.
“I would tell you that those two individuals, there have been many complaints of sexual harassment by the female employees up on the eighth floor,” said Maxwell. “Most all of them have left. And their complaints were varied. You know, it’s they’re so misogynistic it’s incredible how blatant they are about it and how openly sexual they are in talking around their female employees.”
Nor is sexism the only bigotry Maxwell said was present in the office. Reitze was apparently suspended for two weeks after a homophobic tweet. Reitz was also suspended after calling gymnast Simone Biles a “childish, national embarrassment.”
Maxwell characterizes the attorney general’s office as a boy’s club where loyalty to Paxton was the most important thing.
“I would tell you that that group has basically devastated the agency as far as talent,” he said in the interview. “They have hired only people who will, as I said before, be loyal to Paxton, regardless of the legality of what they were doing. You probably know that Webster had represented himself as an attorney of record for Nate Paul in the Mitte Foundation lawsuit.”
The Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Foundation is a charitable group that provides grants and programs in the Austin and Central Texas area related to community improvement in areas like education and disability access. They sued Nate Paul, Paxton’s longtime friend, donor, and important figure in the impeachment charges, over misappropriation of funds after an investment. Days after the case was settled, the FBI raided Paul’s office.
Maxwell does not accuse Paxton himself of sexual harassment in the interview. However, his testimony further paints the attorney general’s office as a place where rules and propriety were not respected. Despite their contact, Reitz and Webster only rose higher in the organization.
I feel like I’ve seen some of this stuff before, but I didn’t find a relevant post in my archives on a cursory search. The chintziness allegations are kind of petty, but this is serious and honestly deserves its own investigation. It’s also completely believable.
We have another week and a half of this to go, and then we get to the actual trial. Have you stocked up on popcorn yet?