Earlier this week, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was subjected to rigorous questioning by the Senate Finance Committee which is proposing to cut his office’s budget.
Last fall, multiple senior aides alerted federal authorities to Paxton’s violation of bribery and corruption laws in order to protect friend and donor Nate Paul. After firing top deputies, the Attorney General was met with a whistleblower lawsuit filed by four former employees who are seeking reinstatement, compensation and damages. Paxton’s agency is attempting to throw the case out, arguing that as an elected official Paxton is exempt from state whistleblower protection laws. Separately, the FBI is actively investigating his involvement with Paul, who is the target of a federal investigation.
This is not the first time that Paxton has been in trouble with federal authorities. In 2015, a state grand jury indicted Paxton on three criminal charges: two counts of securities fraud and one count of failing to register with state securities regulators. The following year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil enforcement action against Paxton which charged him with defrauding the Servergy investors.
Paxton’s recent request for $1.26 billion funding over the next two years was met with hostility. The Senate Finance Committee declined his offer, proposing instead to slash nearly $90 million from the Attorney General’s budget.
During the hearing, Paxton underwent intense questioning from both parties. Democrats pressed him on the legitimacy of his failed lawsuit which asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn other states’ election results, as well as his whereabouts on the day of the Capitol riots. Republicans questioned Paxton’s request to spend $43 million on external attorneys for his antitrust suit against Google, as well as his previous violations of budget authorities.
While Democrats have directly campaigned for the Legislature to investigate Paxton, Republicans have been slow to defend him. U.S. Rep. Chip Roy (TX-R), Paxton’s former chief deputy, publicly called for his resignation. Paxton has held onto his position, but goodwill among Republicans may be running low.