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Federal bribery complaint alleged against Paxton

Holy moly.

Best mugshot ever

Top aides of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked federal law enforcement authorities to investigate allegations of improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential crimes against the state’s top lawyer.

In a one-page letter to the state agency’s director of human resources, obtained Saturday by the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV, seven executives in the upper tiers of the office said that they are seeking the investigation into Paxton “in his official capacity as the current Attorney General of Texas.”

The Thursday letter said that each “has knowledge of facts relevant to these potential offenses and has provided statements concerning those facts to the appropriate law enforcement.”

Paxton, a 57-year-old Republican, was elected in 2014. His office said in a statement Saturday evening: “The complaint filed against Attorney General Paxton was done to impede an ongoing investigation into criminal wrongdoing by public officials including employees of this office. Making false claims is a very serious matter and we plan to investigate this to the fullest extent of the law.”

The statement did not elaborate.

The letter to human resources was signed by Paxton’s first assistant, Jeff Mateer, who resigned Friday, as well as Mateer’s deputy and deputy attorneys general overseeing divisions that include criminal investigations, civil litigation, administration and policy.

“We have a good faith belief that the attorney general is violating federal and/or state law including prohibitions related to improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential criminal offenses,” the letter states.

Their decisions to report possible illegal activity involving their employer represents a stunning development in an agency that prizes loyalty, particularly from within Paxton’s inner circle. It places a renewed spotlight on Paxton, who is already under indictment for alleged securities fraud.

The complaint concluded by saying that they notified Paxton in a text message Thursday that they had reported the alleged violations to law enforcement.

The whistleblowers, who notified human resources to protect their jobs, offered no other details about the allegations and did not describe what they believe Paxton did that was illegal. Efforts to reach them were unsuccessful Saturday.

Mateer’s inclusion in the complaint letter, and his departure as Paxton’s second in command, was particularly significant, coming from a political ally who shared a conservative Christian perspective on many social and legal issues.

“Stunned” doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about this news. This is a bombshell, and it’s a question of how big it is. The fact that this accusation was made by Paxton’s staffers, including an ideological ally like Jeff Mateer, makes it all the more momentous. I cannot wait to see what happens next.

Paxton’s defense appears to be “I’m not doing illegal stuff, it’s these staffers of mine who are the bad guys”. Not sure how well that will work out, but as we do not have any details from either side as yet, it is very likely there’s more to this, and we’re just going to have to wait to see what else there is. Neither this story nor the KVUE story has a copy of the letter, so what you see here is what we’ve got. Stay tuned. See Jessica Shortall on Twitter for more.

UPDATE: Here’s the letter. Doesn’t say anything that wasn’t already quoted, but you can see who signed it. The Trib has more.

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9 Comments

  1. Kibitzer Curiae says:

    KEY WORDS RING THE BELL

    The Oct. 1, 2020 letter states: “This letter is intended to serve as notice to the Office of the Attorney General that on September 30, 2020, we, the undersigned reported to an appropriate law enforcement authority a potential violation of law committed by Warren K. Paxton, Jr., in his official capacity…”

    NOTA BENE “notice”, “appropriate law enforcement authority”, “violation of law”

    –> Whistleblower Act.

    The Whistleblower Act prohibits a government employer from taking an adverse personnel action against a public employee who in good faith reports a violation of law to an appropriate law-enforcement authority. TEX. GOV’T CODE § 554.002(a).

    TEXAS GOVERNMENT CODE Sec. 554.002. RETALIATION PROHIBITED FOR REPORTING VIOLATION OF LAW.

    (a) A state or local governmental entity may not suspend or terminate the employment of, or take other adverse personnel action against, a public employee who in good faith reports a violation of law by the employing governmental entity or another public employee to an appropriate law enforcement authority.
    (b) In this section, a report is made to an appropriate law enforcement authority if the authority is a part of a state or local governmental entity or of the federal government that the employee in good faith believes is authorized to:
    (1) regulate under or enforce the law alleged to be violated in the report; or
    (2) investigate or prosecute a violation of criminal law.

    FULL TEXT OF WBA HERE: https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/GV/htm/GV.554.htm

    Attorneys at the Attorney General’s Office obviously are quite knowledgeable about this area of the public employment law. They defend state entities against such suits, for which the Lege has waived sovereign immunity; — even the Attorney General’s Office itself at times. See, e.g., OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF TEXAS v. LAURA G. RODRIGUEZ, No. 17-0970 (Tex. June 12, 2020).

    This is not to say that there isn’t something big afoot, but at least one dimension of it would be job protection for these still there and/or laying the groundwork for a whistleblower action.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    Kibitzer,

    The key words I am seeing here are “good faith.” What happens when it becomes obvious this isn’t a “good faith” reporting, but a political hit job? What happens to the whistleblower protection then?

    The way I read this, if I have an ax to grind, or if I’m just slacking at my government job and know I’m in danger of being fired, I simply make a ‘whistleblower’ accusation and boom, I’ve now got protected status. I can start showing up late, not showing up, putting out shoddy work product, or anything else, without fear of losing my job.

  3. Ross says:

    @Bill, that’s not how it works. Whistleblowers can still be terminated for not doing their jobs. There would have to be good documentation to protect the State, but it can be done.

  4. mollusk says:

    This ain’t a group of low level whiny malcontents. The signatories are the first assistant (who also resigned, and whose Federal judgeship appointment was withdrawn because he managed to be too extreme for even the current Senate), deputy first assistant, and the chiefs for policy and strategy, administration, civil litigation, the criminal division, and the office of legal counsel – basically the C suite.

    Holy moly +1

  5. Bill Daniels being an even bigger wingnut than normal.

    These are all people with longtime connections to Paxton. Mollusk has the receipts.

  6. Jules says:

    Curious if Paxton is out on bond

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