HomeOthersTexas G.O.P. Leaders Clash Over Accusations of Corruption and Drunkenness - UnlistedNews

Texas G.O.P. Leaders Clash Over Accusations of Corruption and Drunkenness – UnlistedNews

The Texas Capitol was unexpectedly rocked by a growing intrapartisan standoff between top Republicans Wednesday after a House committee moved toward a possible impeachment trial against Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton on corruption charges and abuse of power.

The allegations had been brought against Mr. Paxton before, but they gained new force when investigators working for the Republican-controlled House panel, the General Investigative Committee, publicly detailed each allegation about three hours of public testimonyconcluding that Mr. Paxton most likely committed crimes.

Whether or not the committee would recommend impeachment remained an open question. But Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan, whose resignation Paxton publicly called for this week, signaled his willingness to such an outcome.

“The attorney general appears to have routinely abused his powers for personal gain and exhibited a flagrant disregard for ethical and legal propriety,” a spokeswoman for Phelan said in a statement. “Spokesperson Phelan fully supports the overall investigative committee and any recommendations that may arise as a result of its thorough and diligent investigation.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Austin lawmakers and lobbyists were already discussing the possibility of an impeachment vote and subsequent trial in the Senate, and how that could upset the balance of power on the Republican-dominated Capitol.

For months, thinly veiled acrimony had been brewing between top Texas Republicans of different ideological camps, with Paxton aligning heavily with supporters of former President Donald J. Trump and Phelan viewed as a more traditional Texas Republican.

The latest tensions initially erupted into public view Tuesday afternoon when Mr. Paxton, who is already charged with securities fraud, accused Mr. Phelan of performing his duties while drunk. and requested the resignation of the speaker.

The move sent a shock through Austin. Shortly thereafter, news broke that Mr. Paxton may have had a personal motive for attacking the speaker: the House investigative committee had requested records from Mr. Paxton’s office, as part of an investigation into the speaker’s request. attorney general of $3.3 million in state money to settle corruption allegations brought against him by his own former high-ranking aides.

The sordid allegations were reminiscent of an earlier era of outlandish behavior and political posturing at the state Capitol. But the tangled web of resentment and finger pointing also highlighted a much simpler and far more consequential political reality in Texas: While they control the Legislature and all state offices, Republicans haven’t always agreed on what to do with it. his power.

Investigators, who include former prosecutors, described the evidence they had collected against Mr. Paxton and found that he had abused and misused his position to help a real estate developer and donor, and retaliated against those in his office who spoke against him. Investigators said that of the approximately 80 employees of the attorney general’s office contacted for the investigation, only one did not fear retaliation for participating.

When investigators met, the attorney general suggested on Twitter that he believed the Texas House of Representatives was building a case to impeach him.

“It is not surprising that a committee appointed by liberal Chairman Dade Phelan seeks to disenfranchise Texas voters and sabotage my job as attorney general,” Paxton said in a statement Wednesday to his base of supporters, many of whom view the Mr. Phelan aligned with the Democrats.

Paxton did not refer explicitly to impeachment, but his comment about voter disenfranchisement appeared to be a reference to a possible outcome of the committee’s investigation.

The timing of Mr. Paxton’s indictment against Mr. Phelan on Tuesday coincided with news of the committee’s subpoenas and public hearing the following day. Mr. Paxton based his assessment, and his call for Mr. Phelan’s resignation, on a video that circulated online of a House night session on Friday. At approximately 5 hours and 29 minutes in an official House videoMr. Phelan seems to slur his words as he speaks.

Some people inside the House chamber on Friday said they did not notice any problem with Mr Phelan’s behavior, despite the fact that his speech sounded slurred in a section of the video, which came at the end of more than 12 hours. hearings and voting. supervised by the speaker that day.

Phelan’s office dismissed Paxton’s accusation as “a last ditch effort to save face.” Still, he underscored the degree to which his leadership in the Texas House of Representatives has angered far-right lawmakers and Paxton-aligned conservative activists. They have complained that Phelan has blocked or watered down his priorities: border enforcement, public money for private school vouchers or displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools.

The House has often acted as a relatively moderate Republican bulwark against the more conservative instincts of the party’s right wing, to the dismay of some in Austin and the relief of others. But the committee’s inquiry into Mr. Paxton added an unusual element to the usual infighting.

Although many of the allegations brought before the committee Wednesday were not new, the hearing was the Legislature’s first extensive examination. And it provided new details and context about Mr. Paxton’s efforts to help an Austin developer, Nate Paul, who gave Mr. Paxton a $25,000 contribution in 2018.

Investigators said that Mr. Paxton also had an affair with a woman who worked in Mr. Paul’s office, and that Mr. Paxton punished or isolated employees who confronted him about his actions.

Mark Donnelly, a former prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, said those who provided information to investigators were often “the cream of the crop in their fields who resented Mr. Paxton’s behavior.”

“The feeling was shared, almost universal,” Mr. Donnelly said, “that the actions they were being asked to take, the positions they were assigned to, the decisions made by the attorney general, sullied the office and sullied their commitments in their careers”.

The situation surprised even longtime observers of Texas politics.

“I would say this is as damaging and important a scandal as we have ever seen in Texas political history,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a professor of political science at the University of Houston who is working on a book on Texas political scandals. “Not just because of what happened, but how long it’s been going on and how Paxton has been able to survive.”

The controversy over whether Mr Phelan was drunk was “quite mild” compared to the allegations against Mr Paxton, he added. “We’ve had some pretty serious misdeeds in Texas history,” he said.

Much of the information and allegations against Paxton had been known in Texas for years. In 2020, several of his top aides took concerns of him to the FBI and the Texas Rangers.

Four of the aides, Ryan Vassar, Mark Penley, James Blake Brickman, and David Maxwell, also sued Paxton; the case is pending. Earlier this year, Mr. Paxton said that he had settled with them and asked the state to pay the $3.3 million.

But Phelan resisted. “I don’t think it’s a proper use of taxpayer money,” he said. in a television interview in February.

It was the request for settlement funds, to avoid a public trial, that triggered the investigation by the House committee, Phelan’s spokeswoman said Wednesday. As a result, details of Mr. Paxton’s activities became more public than before.

One of the investigators, Terese Buess, told committee members Wednesday that Paxton may have violated various state and federal laws, including abuse of official capacity, violation of whistleblower statutes and dereliction of duty.

“It’s alarming to hear that, it curls my mustache,” replied the committee’s chairman, Rep. Andrew Murr, a Republican with a noticeably twisted mustache.

Several Republican lawmakers who reached out for comment declined to discuss the issue of Paxton’s allegations or possible impeachment.

Rep. Chris Turner, a Dallas-area Democrat, said that because of the allegations against Paxton, the attorney general was “the last person” who should be calling “someone to resign.”

“This is about someone who is under multiple indictments, under an FBI investigation, tried to overturn a presidential election,” he said, referring to Paxton’s efforts. to challenge the results of the 2020 election. “So Ken Paxton should mind his own business.”


Sara Marcus
Sara Marcushttps://unlistednews.com
Meet Sara Marcus, our newest addition to the Unlisted News team! Sara is a talented author and cultural critic, whose work has appeared in a variety of publications. Sara's writing style is characterized by its incisiveness and thought-provoking nature, and her insightful commentary on music, politics, and social justice is sure to captivate our readers. We are thrilled to have her join our team and look forward to sharing her work with our readers.


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