Texas’s top law officer, Ken Paxton, faces an unjustified legal gauntlet.
Since his landslide election in 2014, Texas attorney general Ken Paxton has been a preeminent advocate for state sovereignty. The Republican has led numerous multi-state coalitions in litigation to resist federal overreach, winning significant courtroom victories against the Obama administration. Paxton’s office has also vigorously defended popular laws passed by the Texas legislature—such as voter ID, abortion restrictions, and a ban on sanctuary cities—from lawsuits by liberal groups. In the conservative stronghold of Texas, Paxton’s impressive record as attorney general should make him a hero, and possibly position him for higher elective office—as it did for fellow Republicans, such as current Texas governor Greg Abbott and U.S. senator John Cornyn.
Yet, as I reported earlier this year, Paxton’s reputation has been marred by a dubious felony indictment issued in July 2015, which, after extensive machinations, is now scheduled for trial on December 11. The case, which concerns Paxton’s private work as an investment adviser, has been termed a “political prosecution” by the Wall Street Journal. The trumped-up controversy has regrettably diverted attention from Paxton’s formidable record and—possibly by design—even prompted speculation whether he will survive as an elected official.
In a state notorious for partisan witch hunts against GOP officials—the baseless prosecution of former House majority leader Tom DeLay and former governor Rick Perry are just two examples—the bogus charges against Paxton set a new standard for vindictive criminal proceedings. What makes the Paxton case unusual is that, unlike the attempts to railroad DeLay and Perry by liberal prosecutors in Democrat-controlled Travis County (home of the state capital, Austin), Paxton was indicted in conservative Collin County, a Dallas suburb in which the attorney general enjoys overwhelming support, and which he previously represented for over a decade in the state legislature.
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