It's A Fascist vs Conservative Fight To The Death In Texas
It’s the biggest news in Texas right now but in the rest of the country people might not be as aware of what the fuss with the state’s Attorney General, Ken Paxton (R), is all about. First a little background: Paxton, who was suspended as AG on May 27 after the Republican-controlled Texas House impeached him (123-23), is in the middle of a state Senate impeachment trial. He was first elected in 2014 and has been under indictment since 2015 on securities fraud charges. Justice comes slowly for rich white guys in Texas. The current trial isn’t about his securities fraud charges. These are the bribery and abuse of office charges.
Paxton began his political career in 2002 when he was elected to represent an open deep red legislative district. The was defeated in a run for Speaker (against a “RINO) in 2011 but was elected to the state Senate in 2012, two years before becoming AG, succeeded Greg Abbott. He quickly declared allegiance to MAGA— and despite the indictments hanging over his head, Trump endorsed him for reelection in 2018. He was reelected with just 50.6%. Last year he beat Democrat Rochelle Garza by nearly 10 points, although he lost 4 of the 5 biggest counties (Harris, Dallas, Bexar and Travis, and won the 5th, Tarrant, by the skin of his teeth. He won big in the low-info, low IQ rural MAGA parts of the state where voters don’t understand that there’s something wrong with electing a criminal to be Attorney General. He won landslide victories in the 49 least populated counties (also least vaccinated and, generally speaking, filled with the least intelligent people in America). They like him because he’s adamantly anti-Choice, anti-LGBTQ, anti-democracy, anti-healthcare, anti-union, xenophobic and a Climate Change denier and pro-gun, pro-gerrymandering. So far, he’s sued Biden two-dozen times since Biden became president.
These were the articles of impeachment the GOP-led House General Investigating Committee unanimously charged him with:
Paxton ignored his official duty to protect charities when he directed his office to interfere in the Mitte Foundation charity's lawsuit against Nate Paul a political donor to Paxton.
Paxton abused his official power to issue written legal opinions when he directed his office to write an opinion to prevent Paul's properties from being sold in foreclosure, and also had his office reverse their legal conclusions, in an attempt to benefit Paul. To cover up his direction, Paxton arranged for a Senate committee chairperson to seek the above opinion.
Paxton abused his official power by directing his office to violate the law regarding two public information requests, one of which concerned Department of Public Safety records for a criminal investigation of Paul.
Paxton abused his official power to improperly obtain private information in an attempt to release it for Paul's benefit.
Paxton abused his official power by hiring a special prosecutor, Brandon Cammack, to investigate a "baseless complaint" made by Paul; Cammack would issue over 30 grand jury subpoenas to benefit Paul.
Paxton ignored his official duty by improperly firing whistleblowers in his office who had in "good faith" alleged to authorities that Paxton had broken the law; Paxton also privately and publicly tried to tarnish the whistleblowers' reputations and harm their chances of future employment.
Paxton wrongly used public resources by having his office conduct a "sham investigation" into the whistleblowers' allegations, and having his office create a report "containing false or misleading statements in Paxton's defense.”
Paxton abused his official power in his attempt to settle the whistleblowers' lawsuit, which "delayed the discovery of facts and testimony at trial, to Paxton's advantage", preventing voters from gaining knowledge regarding Paxton.
Paxton accepted a bribe by Paul's employment of a woman "with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair", and in return Paxton used his office to help Paul.
Paxton accepted a bribe by having Paul (a real estate developer) renovate Paxton's home, and in return Paxton used his office to help Paul.
Paxton obstructed justice by delaying his trial for federal securities fraud after being indicted in 2015, preventing voters from gaining knowledge regarding Paxton.
Paxton obstructed justice by benefiting from a lawsuit filed by his political donor, Jeff Blackard, that caused problems in paying the prosecutors working on Paxton's securities fraud case, delaying the trial and discovery of evidence, preventing voters from gaining knowledge regarding Paxton.
Paxton made false statements to the State Securities Board regarding his illegal failure to register with them.
Paxton did not accurately reveal his financial interests to the Texas Ethics Commission, violating law.
Paxton made or directed for multiple false or misleading statements to be published in his office's report responding to the whistleblower allegations.
Paxton conspired or tried to conspire with other people for the actions detailed in the articles of impeachment.
Paxton abused his official power by having his office act to benefit him or other people.
Paxton ignored his duty and violated the Texas Constitution, his oaths of office, statutes and public policy for the actions detailed in the articles of impeachment.
Paxton was unfit for holding office for the actions detailed in the articles of impeachment.
Paxton abused or neglected his official power to prevent lawful governance and obstruct justice, bringing his office into "scandal and disrepute" for the actions detailed in the articles of impeachment.
Paxton blames RINOs controlled by Biden for his impeachment and attempted to insight a J-6 type event in Austin, but failed. During the impeachment debate, Charlie Geren, Speaker Pro Tem, said that “several members of this House, while on the floor of this House doing the state's business, received telephone calls from general Paxton personally, threatening them with political consequences in our next election.” Trump has said the impeachment is “election interference,” although Paxton’s next election won’t be in until 2026. Ted Cruz is also on Paxton’s side. The trial began last Tuesday.
The day before, the NY Times reported that there’s a conservative push to save Paxton, but they mixed up “fascist” with “conservative,” as they always do. Conservatives oppose Paxton; only fascists and MAGAts back him. “With television ads and text messages, direct mail and billboards,” wrote David Goodman, “supporters of the embattled Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, have embarked on an escalating campaign of political pressure, backed by hard-right billionaires, aimed at trying to sway the outcome of Paxton’s upcoming impeachment trial. The targets of their efforts are narrow: the 19 Republican members of the State Senate who will act as jurors in the trial, set to begin on Tuesday, and decide whether allegations of corruption and abuse of power are serious enough to warrant permanently removing and barring Paxton from office. But the effort to save Paxton who is seen by many hard-core [Texas neo-Nazis] as their legal standard-bearer, is also the latest proxy in the broader fight over the future direction of the party, both in Texas and nationally. It has drawn in a range of conservative figures on both sides, with Rick Perry, the former Texas governor, and Karl Rove, the political consultant to former President George W. Bush, arguing in support of the impeachment process, and Steve Bannon, the former Trump political adviser, lampooning it as a Democrat-inspired witch hunt.”
Paxton, who has called his impeachment by the House “shameful” and denied any wrongdoing, has strongly aligned himself with Trump, seeking to capture some of the Republican outrage over the multiple indictments of the former president. “Everybody should fear the weaponization of state power they have harnessed to destroy him,” Paxton wrote on X… alongside a smiling photo of himself with Trump.
People know this is a political witch hunt. They’re doing it to Trump, they’re trying to do it to Paxton,” Jonathan Stickland, president of Defend Texas Liberty, said this month on [a fascist talk show].
Strickland, a former member of the Texas House, promised that the group would spend “an epic ton of money” in advance of the impeachment. “And if they stand against that, then every one of these bums will be kicked out,” he said.
Already, the group has begun going after Republican legislators whom they perceive as insufficiently [fascist].
The Hill reported this week that Texas fracking billionaire Farris Wilks, his brother Dan Wilks [fascist campaign sugar daddies] and fellow Christian nationalist ally Tim Dunn have also been Paxton’s biggest benefactors. The three have given nearly $15 million to Defend Texas Liberty, the pro-Paxton PAC, since it was founded in 2020— $3.5 million of it since Paxton’s impeachment in June, as the Tribune reported. That PAC has also given more than $3 million to impeachment judge [neo-Nazi Dan] Patrick since the charges were announced in late June. But the mere fact of Paxton’s impeachment— alongside Tuesday’s failure by the far right to get those charges thrown out— suggests that the threat of the right-wing primary may no longer work to cow the business conservatives. ‘Anyone that votes against Ken Paxton in this impeachment is risking their entire political career, and we will make sure that is the case,’ right-wing activist Jonathan Stickland, who runs the pro-Paxton Defend Texas Liberty PAC, told Steve Bannon in a mid-August interview. Stickland singled out six Republican senators: Kelly Hancock (North Richland Hills), Mayes Middleton (Galveston), Bryan Hughes (Mineola), Charles Schwertner (Georgetown), Charles Perry (Lubbock) and Drew Springer (Muenster). ‘We’re gonna make all these six famous in the days ahead,’ Bannon replied, as Stickland threatened to sponsor primary campaigns against any Republicans who voted against Paxton. But only Hancock, from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, voted to throw out the charges entirely. Two others— Perry of the Panhandle city of Lubbock, and Schwertner, from a conservative suburb of liberal Austin— voted for less-sweeping measures that nonetheless would have effectively ended the trial… By defying Paxton’s supporters, the three dissidents, Middleton, Springer and Hughes, signaled their willingness to run the risk of the most fearsome threat that the Texas right can offer: a contested primary among the famously conservative Republican primary electorate."
On Thursday, conservative Republican David French wrote an OpEd for the NY Times, The Contagious Corruption of Ken Paxton, comparing in to Ramaswarmy when it comes to “the power of unprincipled leaders to exploit civic ignorance.”
“Paxton,” he wrote, “faces impeachment in large part because seven of his top deputies blew the whistle on him in 2020, claiming that he had engaged in bribery and abuse of office. The charges against Paxton, to which he pleads not guilty, center primarily on his relationship with an investor named Nate Paul. Paxton is accused of providing favors to Paul, including using the power of his office in an attempt to stop foreclosure sales of Paul’s properties, ordering employees not to assist law enforcement investigating Paul and even providing Paul with “highly sensitive information” about an FBI raid on his home. And what did Paxton get in return? Paul reportedly helped Paxton remodel his home and employed Paxton’s mistress. (Paxton’s wife, Angela Paxton, is a Republican state senator who is attending the hearings but is barred from voting on the charges against her husband.)… Soon after coming forward, every whistle-blower either resigned, was fired or was placed on leave. When they sued for retaliation and improper firing, Paxton attempted to use $3.3 million in taxpayer funds to settle the lawsuit.”
What’s happening now is a Texas-size version of the civil war that rages across the right. Is it possible for Republicans to police their own, or does Paxton’s devotion to Donald Trump and his zealous commitment to the culture wars excuse his misconduct, however egregious? Is it possible for Republicans to potentially start the slow and painful process of healing the GOP?
…[T]he Southern Baptist Convention— the nation’s largest Protestant denomination— gathered at its annual convention in Salt Lake City and tried to make the simple case to the American people that character counts. It passed a resolution on the moral character of public officials containing this memorable line: “Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment.”
Putting aside the words about God’s judgment, I suspect that a broad range of Americans, regardless of faith, would agree with the basic premise: Corruption is contagious.
But why? Consider the relationship between leadership and our own self-interest. Most of us belong to organizations of some type, and unless we’re leading the organization, our income, our power and even our respect within the community can depend a great deal on the good will of the men and women who lead us. In very tangible ways, their character creates our path through our careers, our churches and our civic organizations.
Thus, if a leader exhibits moral courage and values integrity, then the flawed people in his or her orbit will strive to be the best versions of themselves.
But if a leader exhibits cruelty and dishonesty, then those same flawed people will be more apt to yield to their worst temptations. They’ll mimic the values of the people who lead them.
…And what is the moral current of Trumpism? For Donald Trump’s supporters, tactics that would normally be utterly unacceptable on moral grounds instead become urgent priorities. In this moral calculus, Paxton’s absurd lawsuit against Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin isn’t a mark of shame, but rather a badge of honor.
Paxton’s aggressive loyalty to Trump, in other words, acts as a form of indulgence that grants him license in his personal and professional life. Paxton’s acknowledged sins, including his affair, are cheap and tawdry. Yet a constellation of Republican stars are rallying to his side, led by Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Ted Cruz and Steve Bannon. Because he’s a fighter. He goes to war against the left, and if the age of Trump teaches us anything, it’s that the current of his leadership flows eternally toward conflict and self-interest, consequences be damned.
It’s hard to overstate how much this ethos contradicts the Christianity that Paxton purports to proclaim. In fact, scriptures teach that the role of the godly man or woman isn’t to yield to power, but to confront power when that power is corrupt. The mission is to swim against the cultural current. That brings me to one of the most grievous abuses of scripture during the Trump presidency— the constant comparison of Trump to King David.
Trump is flawed, his supporters acknowledge. But so was David, they argue, and God blessed David. Scripture calls him a man after God’s own heart. But David’s virtues did not excuse his vices. In one of scripture’s most memorable passages, the prophet Nathan not only directly confronted the king but also declared a harsh judgment for David’s sins. And what was David’s response? Repentance. “I have sinned against the Lord,” he said. He then penned a poignant, penitent psalm. “God, create a clean heart for me,” he begs. “Do not banish me from your presence,” he pleads.
Does any of that sound like Donald Trump? Does that bear any resemblance to the religious right in the age of Trump? Of course not. The contagious corruption of a broken president and a broken party has turned the hearts of millions of Christians away from scripture’s clear moral commands. They have chosen not to swim against the tide.
Yesterday’s trial updates revealed that Paxton maintained a “blacklist” that barred lawyers from working with certain reporters. Also David Maxwell, the AG office’s “top cop” (the director of law enforcement) “testified that Paxton repeatedly pressured him to investigate Nate Paul’s ‘conspiracy theories,’ even after law enforcement experts found them to be ‘ludicrous’ and debunked them through forensics and other means.” He told Paxton “that Paul was a criminal— potentially of historic proportions” and that he was running a Ponzi scheme… Rather than heed the warnings by Maxwell— who served more than three decades as a Texas Ranger— Paxton threatened to fire him after he said that he would not investigate Paul’s bizarre claims. The threat, Maxwell said, came during a meeting with a ‘heated’ Paul that Paxton attended but requested not be recorded. ‘I knew then what his commitment was to Nate Paul and that he was not going to be deterred,’ Maxwell said. ‘He was angry with me because I was not buying into the big conspiracy theory.’”