Paxton accused of violating open records law

Put it on his tab.

Best mugshot ever

The Travis County district attorney has determined that Attorney General Ken Paxton violated the state’s open records law by not turning over his communications from last January, when he appeared at the pro-Trump rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The district attorney gave Paxton four days to remedy the issue or face a lawsuit. The probe was prompted by a complaint filed by top editors at several of the state’s largest newspapers: the Austin American-Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Houston Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News.

In a letter hand delivered to Paxton on Thursday, the head of the district attorney’s public integrity unit said her investigation showed the attorney general’s office broke state law by withholding or failing to retain his own communications that should be subject to public release.

“After a thorough review of the complaint, the (district attorney’s) office has determined that Paxton and (his office) violated Chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code,” wrote Jackie Wood, director of the district attorney’s public integrity and complex crimes unit, referring to the open records statute.

The district attorney’s office will take Paxton and his agency to court if they do not “cure this violation” within four days, Wood warned. For open-records complaints against state agencies, the law says the Travis County district attorney or the attorney general must handle them. The newspapers filed the complaint with the district attorney.


Jim Hemphill, the immediate past president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, said Paxton may take issue with the DA’s investigations — or he could voluntarily choose to release this and other records to the public.

“It’s a rare occurrence where a requestor actually has tangible evidence,” Hemphill said. “It will be interesting to see how the attorney general responds to this.”

The Texas Public Information Act guarantees the public’s right to government records, even if those records are stored on personal devices or public officials’ online accounts. The attorney general’s office enforces this law, determining which records are public and which are private.

On March 25, six news outlets jointly published a story that raised questions about whether Paxton was breaking open records laws.

On Jan. 4, five newspaper editors filed a complaint asking the district attorney to investigate the alleged violations. Anyone can file a complaint with a local prosecutor if they believe a public agency is withholding information in violation of the Public Information Act.

Wood’s notice to Paxton said the district attorney’s office concurred with the allegations in the editors’ complaint.

First, the editors raised concerns that Paxton’s office was using attorney-client privilege to withhold every single email and text message sent to or received by him around the time of the Jan. 6 rally, which preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol. Paxton and his wife were in Washington that day and appeared at the rally.

Wood said withholding all of Paxton’s communications during that week violated the law. As evidence, she noted the attorney general’s office released nearly 500 pages of communications sent to or received by First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster — including some emails that included Paxton as a recipient.

The newspaper editors also said the attorney general’s office had no policy for handling work-related records kept on personal devices or accounts.

When a Morning News reporter sent Paxton a work-related text message and another reporter requested all his messages that day, Paxton’s office responded that no responsive messages existed. A spokesman for Paxton later said the attorney general doesn’t have to retain “unsolicited and unwelcome text messages to personal phones.”

Wood noted that the attorney general’s office stated in the past that the communications of government officials were subject to retention policies and the open records law.

Finally, the editors raised concerns that Paxton was turning over other people’s communications in response to requests for his own text messages.

The DA’s investigation agreed that Paxton had not provided his own text messages with officials at the attorney general’s office in Utah — where Paxton and his wife traveled during the February freeze — and instead turned over a copy of another person’s text to Paxton. The attorney general’s office did not explain why Paxton didn’t provide his own version of the text exchange.

See here for some background. The answer to how Paxton will respond is obvious: He’ll denounce the Travis DA’s actions as unfair, biased, and partisan, and he’ll not only not comply he’ll do everything in his power to delay a court decision that might force him to comply. Honestly, even then I doubt he’ll actually comply – I’d bet he destroys records first, and dares everyone to do something about it. I don’t think anything short of handcuffs and a jail cell will move him. What in his past record suggests otherwise? As the Trib notes, the January 6 commission in Congress is also seeking records relating to communications between Paxton and Donald Trump at that time. What do you think are the odds he’ll comply with them?

We know who and what Ken Paxton is. He’s shown us, every day. I commend the newspapers for pursuing this, and the Travis County DA for taking action. It’s just that it will take more than a lawsuit to make him budge. He’s going to require a consequence he fears. We’re nowhere close to that. The DMN and the Statesman have more.

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16 Responses to Paxton accused of violating open records law

  1. Manny says:

    Mainstream, Greg, and you too C.L., come tell us how you are so against corruption.

    Come November if Paxton is the representative Republican/Racist Party, I want to see you posting for the Democrat.

    Deplorables, anyone that supports racists, that would be the Republican Party is no better than them.

  2. C.L. says:

    Many, if you knew me at all, you’d know I have no desire or inclination to defend Ken ‘What, me worry ?’ Paxton.

    Oh wait, you don’t know me…but feel inclined to lump me into what group du jour you decide to rail against ’cause they don’t share your…sensibilities.

  3. Mainstream says:

    I am not an apologist for Paxton and not a fan of Gohmert, so my choices March 1 would be former Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman or former land commissioner George P. Bush. If the Democrats want crossover votes in November, they should nominate candidates who cannot be caricatured as “defund the police” types.

  4. Manny says:

    Mainstream like all Republicans you are prone to telling lies. Most Democrats, in
    Texas, are not for defunding the police those are lies that you and your party push. Did you know that Turner increase their budget and pay? Of course, you did.

    C.L. maybe you won’t like her hair?

  5. Scott says:

    Mainstream, the democratic candidate you are describing exists.

    His name is Joe Jaworski. He’s running in the Democratic primary for AG and does not plan to defund the police.

    Can he count on your crossover vote? Or will you just vote for Paxton?

  6. C.L. says:

    Manny, if this will help you discern my political leanings, yes, I like Eva Guzman’s hair. You appear to be somewhat fixated with my dislike for Adrian Garcia’s coiffure. Why, I don’t know.

    Progressive/liberals painting all Republicans with the same broad ideology brush strokes/ condemnation is no different than Republicans painting all progressive/liberals with the same broad ideology brush strokes/ condemnation.

    For the most part there is no black and white when it comes to political views, there’s just varying shades of grey.

  7. Manny says:

    C.L. what makes you think I am a progressive?

    I wish that “Progressive” would be more like the Republicans, play by the same rules, or be prepared to lose.

  8. Manny,

    I focus my efforts on trying to help the local Democratic Party be successful by offering the Party candid input on issues, all written from the perspective of a moderate Democrat (which makes up the majority of Democratic voters). If moderate Democrats remain silent, the Democratic Party could just become an echo chamber for extreme liberal or progressive agendas (and candidates), thus costing us mainstream voters and support.

    In my opinion, Republican Ken Paxton is a public disgrace. I’ll let Republicans try to defend him. Ken Paxton has been under indictment for securities fraud since 2015. In 2020, some of his highest-level staffers accused him of bribery/corruption. Now, he is accused of violating Open Records laws. While people are innocent until proven guilty, this much smoke only originates from a blazing fire.

    During the general election season, we need to clearly identify the differences between the Democratic and Republican candidates, with the Democratic candidate (hopefully) having more appeal to voters. In the meantime, I’m content to sit back and let Republicans nominate horrible candidates, thus improving the chance of Democratic victories in November.

  9. Manny says:

    Why beat on your own team, Greg, when the other side is more than happy to do that?

    You make no sense.

    Most of the Harris County Democrats are moderate, so again, you make no sense again.

    How is Hidalgo a progressive?

  10. Manny,

    If you check their campaign websites, many of our local democratic officials describe themselves as progressives, including Judge Hidalgo. Like many progressives, Judge Hidalgo’s left-wing priorities often don’t reflect the concerns of mainstream (moderate) democratic voters. For instance, until recently, Judge Hidalgo and our local progressive criminal court judges basically ignored the surging violent crime rate in Harris County. Rather than improving public safety, progressive priorities included assisting criminal defendants (judges: granting multiple bail bonds; making it more difficult to revoke bail) and undermining our law enforcement agencies (Hidalgo: taking their roll-over funds from our local Constable Offices). It’s also worth noting that Judge Hidalgo walks around with her taxpayer funded, 24/7, Pct. 1 Constable security detail protecting her, while average Harris County citizens have to deal with the violent crime wave on our own.

    So, why speak out? The other option is to just remain silent while left-wing progressives undermine the Democratic Party and play right into the hands of Republicans. Anyway, her left-wing politics aside, Hidalgo also appears to have ethical and integrity issues (my opinion). I am definitely looking for an alternative…

  11. Manny says:

    Greg, you sound like a Republican parrot.

    Most what you wrote is straight from right wing fascists handbook.

  12. Manny,

    When your team (Democratic Party) makes serious mistakes that could cost us the game, a concerned coach or fan (me) will identify the mistakes, offer solutions, and try to prevent future mistakes in order to help his team win. An opponent (Republicans), however, will exploit those exact same mistakes to defeat your team. That’s why some of my concerns sound similar to Republican attacks – we are both identifying the same issues, but for different reasons. As liberal progressives drag the Democratic Party further to the left, they give Republicans a lot of legitimate ammunition (like the above) to use against us. Republicans aren’t really beating us… we are beating ourselves.

  13. Manny says:

    You keep using labels on Democrats, dah. I don’t believe you are a Democrat. You can’t prove it unless you took photos of you voting in November.

    In the past I often voted in Republican primaries but come November I would support most all of the people with a D.

    You are out to destroy the Democratic Party, don’t call yourself a Democrat. Go join the Bill King Party it is supposed to be the party of Moderates.

  14. “I’m out to destroy the Democratic Party?” Geez. That’s a pretty aggressive goal for a relatively laid-back retired guy. Believe what you want. I think my input has been more insightful and constructive than anything I’ve seen you post. Everything you post is insulting, adversarial, and does nothing to expand or improve the Democratic Party. Are you sure you aren’t a Republican?

  15. Manny, it takes two to argue. I’m done. You can have the last word, if you want it.

  16. Manny says:

    Be moderate, don’t be progressive, that is your argument Greg, awesome.

    Thank you, I will have the last word.

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