Tue. 9:31 p.m.: Indicted Texas attorney general rode tea party to power
AUSTIN, Texas – That newly indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton may have broken securities law isn’t news to voters who elected him: Blistering TV attack ads during the 2014 elections reminded them that the Republican had already admitted that.
Yet the tea party favorite clobbered an establishment Republican who heavily outspent Paxton and counted former President George W. Bush as a donor, riding a wave of conservative insurgency to become Texas’ top law enforcement officer despite questions about his financial dealings.
Now barely seven months in office, Paxton’s future is already murky after turning himself into jail this week on felony securities fraud charges. His attorney has said Paxton will plead not guilty.
Heavyweight admirers that include U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz are now treading carefully about the attorney general, who today was back at work slamming Planned Parenthood with the kind of abortion-bashing that made his 2-to-1 victories in both a GOP runoff and general election so decisive. The Republican Party of Texas says it expects Paxton to harness that same zeal toward his criminal case.
But for Paxton’s critics, some of whom are calling for his resign, the indictment unsealed this week was a reminder of tea party dominance in Texas.
“It’s nothing I feel good about to say that I told you so,” said Sam Houston, a Houston attorney and Democrat who lost the attorney general’s race by 20 points to Paxton in November. “It’s disappointing. The voters knew about this and elected him anyway, and by a pretty wide margin.”
Last year, Paxton admitted to violating state securities laws during his Republican primary race and paid a $1,000 fine for failing to register as an investment solicitor. He described it as an administrative oversight but denied criminal wrongdoing.
In an email to supporters today, Paxton said he expects to be “fully vindicated.”
“I am looking forward to the opportunity to tell my story – which the grand jury did not hear – in a court of law. Thank you for standing with me and now walking forward with me as we continue the work we came to do,” Paxton wrote.
But a grand jury in Paxton’s hometown of McKinney have now handed up charges that accuse the former state lawmaker of lying to wealthy investors, telling them he put his own money into a tech startup called Servergy Inc. All the while, prosecutors say, Paxton was being compensated by the company.