KEN PAXTON  (R-TX)

Current TX Republican Attorney General

ESSENTIAL FACTS:

  • As the Attorney General of Texas, Paxton unsuccessfully led an effort to declare the 2020 election results invalid based on false claims of election fraud. He also spoke at the Jan. 6th Trump rally immediately preceding the Capitol attack. [1]

  • Paxton has been indicted on criminal charges, and  fired multiple staff members after they blew the whistle on allegations of bribery & abuse of power. [1]

  • Paxton tried to override the canceling of the Keystone Pipeline, and tried to block Biden from creating an advisory group to assess the social costs of pollution. [1]

  • Paxton initiated a lawsuit to get rid of Obamacare in its entirety. [1]

  • In 2021, Trump endorsed Paxton over George P. Bush for TX Attorney General. [1]

  • In 2022, Paxton sent a letter to DirecTV urging them to reverse their decision to drop One America News (OANN), calling it "highly troubling and disappointing". [1]

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Ken Paxton (R)

2022

Name

Born

Education

Category

Affiliation

Spouse

Warren Kenneth Paxton Jr.

December 23, 1962

University of Virginia (JD)

Politician

Far-Right, Trumper

Angela Paxton (m. 1986)

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  • In October 2021, Paxton told a crowd in El Paso, TX that he still believes Trump won the 2020 election, and that Biden's presidency amounts to an "overthrow". [1]

  • "President Trump’s revised immigration order is necessary to protect the homeland from those who wish us harm." [1]

  • "This case is about abusing the power of the subpoena to force Exxon to turn over many decades’ worth of records, so an attorney general with an agenda can pore over them in hopes of finding something incriminating, [It] ... represents an effort to punish Exxon for daring to hold an opinion on climate change that differs from that of radical environmentalists." [1]

  • Before rioters assaulted the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, Paxton spoke at the Trump rally near the White House, saying, "What we have in President Trump is a fighter. We will not quit fighting. We’re Texans, we’re Americans and the fight will go on.” [1]

  • On March 22, 2022, Paxton sent a letter to Austin ISD declaring that Pride Week illegal: "By hosting ‘Pride Week,’ your district has, at best, undertaken a week-long instructional effort in human sexuality without parental consent... Or, worse, your district is cynically pushing a week-long indoctrination of your students that not only fails to obtain parental consent, but subtly cuts parents out of the loop. Either way, you are breaking state law.” [1]

  • "The Texas Constitution clearly defines marriage as between one man and one woman, as Texas voters approved by an overwhelming majority, the law of Texas has not changed, and will not change due to the whims of any individual judge or county clerk operating on their own capacity anywhere in Texas. Activist judges don't change Texas law, and we will continue to aggressively defend the laws of our state and will ensure that any licenses issued contrary to law are invalid." [1]

  • "The federal government does not have the authority to govern the medical profession and set family policies, including what may constitute child abuse in state family law courts, it is time for the Biden Administration to quit forcing their political agenda." [1]

  • "Thanks to the Court of Criminal Appeals’ Stephens v. State decision, Texans will now have to rely on Democrat local officials in blue strongholds to enforce election integrity, we know that will never happen. Not only is the court wrong on the law – in fact, I recently filed a motion for rehearing – but its decision makes it much more likely for the left to steal Texas elections through illegal means." [1]

  • "I will not allow Texans to be coerced into getting a vaccine because the federal government is giving them an ultimatum to choose between their health or their child’s preschool education, these unconstitutional mandates have no place in our country, and they are not welcomed here in Texas." [1]
  • "We’re one of the most generous states in the country for early voting and giving access to voting but the Biden administration is looking to run states." [1] FYI this is objectively false, Texas is amongst the worst states in the U.S. when it comes to voting access/rights. [2]
  • "The decision to openly violate state law and devote district resources to defending Superintendent Martinez's unlawful actions is irresponsible, but if school districts decide to use their limited funding to try to get away with breaking the law, my office will oppose them and uphold the rule of law in Texas." [1]
  • "Today's ruling enjoining Obamacare halts an unconstitutional exertion of federal power over the American health care system while our multistate coalition lawsuit works its way through the courts, our lawsuit seeks to effectively repeal Obamacare, which will give President Donald Trump and Congress the opportunity to replace the failed social experiment with a plan that ensures Texans and all Americans will again have greater choice about what health coverage President Trump and Congress need and who will be President Trump and Congress doctor." [1]
  • In 2022, Ken Paxton, as TX Attorney General, sent a letter to DirecTV urging them to reverse their decision to drop One America News Network (OANN), calling it "highly troubling and disappointing" that they would bow to pressure from "powerful left-wing voices". [1]
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  • On December 8, 2020, Paxton sued the states of Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, where certified results showed President-elect Joe Biden the victor over President Donald Trump, alleging a variety of unconstitutional actions in their presidential balloting, arguments that had already been rejected in other courts. [1] In Texas v. Pennsylvania, Paxton asked the United States Supreme Court to invalidate the states' sixty-two electoral votes, allowing Trump to be declared the winner of a second presidential term. [2] Paxton's lawsuit included claims that had been tried unsuccessfully in other courts and shown to be false. [3] Officials from the four states described Paxton's lawsuit as recycling false and disproven claims of irregularity. [4] Trump and seventeen Republican state attorneys general filed motions to support the case, the merits of which were sharply criticized by legal experts and politicians. [5][6] Election law expert Rick Hasen described the lawsuit as "the dumbest case I've ever seen filed on an emergency basis at the Supreme Court." [7] The case was dismissed and later it was revealed that the failed suit had been drafted by Lawyers for Trump, a group connected to the Trump campaign. Several other state attorneys general turned down the offer to file the suit. Solicitor General of Texas Kyle D. Hawkins, who would ordinarily represent the state in cases before the Supreme Court, refused to let his name be attached to the suit. The Texas Attorney General hired Lawrence J. Joseph of Lawyers for Trump as special counsel for filing the suit. [8]  Thus far, taxpayers in Texas have paid $43,000 for Paxton's ''frivolous' suit to overturn the 2020 election. [9]

  • After the failure of his lawsuit, Paxton traveled to Washington to speak at a political rally for President Trump on January 6, 2021. In his speech, Paxton told the crowd "we will not quit fighting". [1] Immediately following, the crowd of Trump supporters left the rally and stormed the United States Capitol building in a riot that led to the death of five people, including a police officer. [2][3] In reaction to the violence and loss of life, Paxton falsely claimed that the rioters were liberal activists posing as Trump supporters. [4] He was the only state attorney general to not condemn the insurrection. [5] Furthermore, In October 2021, Paxton falsely claimed that Biden "overthrew" Trump in the 2020 election, [6] and in early 2021, Paxton's office refused to provide his work emails and text messages he sent or received while in Washington on January 6, after several Texas news organizations requested them in accordance with the state's open records law. In January 2022, the Travis County district attorney gave Paxton four days to comply or face a lawsuit. [7][8]

  • In April of 2022, it was reported that Houston conservative activist Steve Hotze would be hosting a gala with Paxton and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell to raise money for investigating voter fraud in Harris County, TX, despite the fact that one of Hotze's investigators, former Houston police captain Mark Aguirre, was previously indicted in 2021 for allegedly holding an air conditioning repairman at gunpoint after running him off the road while in search of thousands of phony ballots. The repairman later sued Hotze and his organization, Liberty Center for God and Country, for hiring and paying Aguirre. [1]

  • On July 28, 2015, a state grand jury indicted Paxton on three criminal charges: [1] two counts of securities fraud (a first-degree felony) and one count of failing to register with state securities regulators (a third-degree felony). [2][3] Paxton's indictment marked the first such criminal indictment of a Texas Attorney General in thirty-two years since Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox was indicted for bribery in 1983. [4] The state prosecution against Paxton grows out of Paxton selling shares of Servergy Inc., a technology company, to investors in 2011. Prosecutors allege that Paxton sold shares of Servergy to investors (raising $840,000) while failing to disclose that he was receiving compensation from the company in the form of 100,000 shares of stock in return. Paxton says the 100,000 shares of stock he received from Servergy's founder and CEO were a gift, and not a sales commission, and they were provided to Paxton long before the sales transactions occurred. [5] On August 3, 2015, following the unsealing of the grand jury indictment, [6] Paxton was arrested and booked. [7] He pleaded not guilty, and has portrayed "the case against him as a political witch-hunt." [8]

  • On April 11, 2016, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil enforcement action against Paxton in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The SEC's complaint specifically charged Paxton with violating various provisions of the Securities Act of 1933 and various provisions (including Rule 10b-5) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by defrauding the Servergy investors. [1] Paxton denied the allegations. [2][3][4] One of the defendants and Servergy itself reached a separate settlement with the SEC, agreeing to pay $260,000 in penalties. [5] On October 7, 2016, U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III conditionally dismissed the SEC's civil fraud charges, finding the SEC had not alleged Paxton had any legal obligation to inform investors that he was receiving a commission and giving the SEC two weeks to refile with any new allegations. [6] On March 2, 2017, Mazzant dismissed the civil securities fraud case against Paxton for a second time on grounds that he, the attorney general, had "no plausible legal duty" to inform investors that he would earn a commission if they purchased stock in a technical company that Paxton represented. [7] However, the state criminal case against Paxton is still pending.

  • In October 2020, seven of Paxton's top aides published a letter to the office's director of human resources, accusing Paxton of improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other crimes, and said they had provided information to law enforcement and asked them to investigate. [1] The letter was signed by First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer. [2] and the deputy and deputy attorneys general overseeing the Office's divisions for criminal investigations, civil litigation, administration, and policy. Paxton denied misconduct and said he would not resign. [3] By the end of the month, all seven whistleblowers had left the office: three resigned, two were fired, and two were put on leave. [4] The Associated Press reported that the allegations involved Paxton illegally using his office to benefit real estate developer Nate Paul, who had donated $25,000 to Paxton's 2018 campaign. [5] The Associated Press also reported that the allegations include the claim that Paxton had an extramarital affair with a woman, and that he had later advocated for that woman to be hired by Paul's company, World Class. Paul has acknowledged employing the woman, but denied that he had done so on Paxton's behalf. [6] In 2020, four of the former members of the Texas AG's Office filed whistleblower suit against the Office of the Attorney General, alleging that Paxton fired them for reporting misconduct to law enforcement, a form of illegal retaliation under the state's Whistleblower Act. In 2021, the district court denied Paxton's motion to dismiss the suit. [7][8] Paxton's office appealed, claiming that the Whistleblower Act did not apply to allegations of misconduct by Paxton, as an elected executive-branch officer, and that as an elected official he must have the power to control his top lieutenants, who are high-level political appointees. [9][10] In October 2021, the Third Court of Appeals denied Paxton's bid to have the case dismissed and affirmed the trial court's order. [11][12][13][14]

  • Ken Paxton initiated a lawsuit seeking to have the Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare") ruled unconstitutional in its entirety. [1]

  • In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Paxton threatened to file lawsuits against local governments unless they rescinded stay-at-home orders and rescinded rules regarding the use of face masks to combat the spread of coronavirus. [1] The city of Austin encouraged restaurants to keep logs of contact information, so as to as to ensure contact tracing in the event of an outbreak; Paxton described this as "Orwellian." [2] Paxton sued the city of Austin again in December 2020 when the city implemented restrictions preventing indoor dining and drinking on New Years weekend amid surging COVID-19 cases. [3] In March 2021, Paxton filed a lawsuit against Austin as well as Travis County, this time for the city and county continuing their local mask wearing requirements after Governor Abbott had signed an order ending the statewide mask-wearing mandate. [4]

  • In 2021, Paxton was grilled by Fox News over his 'inconsistent' vaccine stances. [1]

  • Paxton defended Texas in a federal lawsuit involving allegations that Texas's congressional districts were gerrymandered. In 2017, a three-judge panel of a U.S. federal court based in San Antonio ruled that the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature drew congressional-district to discriminate against minority voters, and ordered the redrawing of Texas's 35th and 27th congressional districts. Paxton appealed the ruling, contending that the previous maps were lawful, and vowed to "aggressively defend the maps on all fronts"; U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett criticized the appeal as a "desperate, highly questionable Paxton-Abbott maneuver" coming "after yet another ruling against the state of Texas for intentional discrimination". [1][2]

  • In March 2017, Paxton told The Washington Times that he was convinced that voter fraud exists in Texas, and claimed that local election officials in Texas were not on the lookout for detecting fraud. [1] And even though voter fraud is "very rare in the United States", and most cases are minor errors on the part of a voter, [2] Paxton "made it a mission" as attorney general to lay voter-charge charges. According to a July 9, 2021 article in The Guardian, "[F]ew prosecutors have pursued election-related crimes more than Paxton." [3] According to a May 2, 2017 ProPublica article', there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas. [4] In 2017, the Texas Tribune reported that, experts had said there was no reliable evidence of widespread voter fraud in the United States, [5] and a Texas study of elections over a decade determined that there were about three cases of fraud for every one million votes in the state. [6] Furthermore, of the voter fraud cases that Paxton's office chose to pursue, 72% were people of color, [7] and Paxton admitted to KXAN-TV that few people served time for voter fraud. The station found just 24 of 138 people convicted of voter fraud between 2004 and September 2020 spent time in jail. [8]

  • Paxton's office spent almost double the time working on voter fraud cases in 2021 as it did in 2018. It recorded spending over 22,000 staff hours on the task, but resolved only 16 prosecutions, half as many as two years prior. All of the cases were in Harris County, lodged against voters who had provided inaccurate addresses on their voter registration forms. None of those defendants were sentenced to jail time. [1] Paxton's voter fraud investigation unit had a budget of $1.9 million to $2.2 million in 2021. By the end of the year, the office had closed only three cases of fraud. [2]

  • In May 2020, Paxton opposed an expansion of absentee voting to voters who lack immunity to COVID-19. [1] A state district judge ruled that such voters could apply for absentee ballots under a statutory provision that accommodates disabled individuals. After the ruling, Paxton publicly contradicted the district judge and subsequently persuaded the Texas Supreme Court to address the issue of eligibility in a separate case he filed directly in that court, while putting the appeal of the district court case on hold. [2] During the 2020 election season, which played out amid the coronavirus pandemic, Paxton filed a lawsuit against Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins to stop him from sending applications for absentee ballots to some 2.4 million registered voters accompanied by instructions regarding eligibility as clarified by the Texas Supreme Court. [3] Paxton lost in the trial court and in the intermediate court of appeals, [4][5] but the Texas Supreme Court reversed and directed the trial court to enter an injunction against Hollins. [6] The mail-vote promotion was part and parcel of Harris County's package of innovative measures to reduce the COVID-19 infection risk of in-person voting while maximizing opportunities for all voters to participate under pandemic conditions. [7][8] The Republican Party of Texas opposed the expansion of voting by mail and other accommodations, and filed its own legal actions seeking to stop Hollins through the court system. [9]

  • In 2017, the San Antonio Express-News criticized the state's voter identification law, which Paxton sought to have reinstated after it was struck down by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi, who found the measure to be a violation of the Voting Rights Act and found that it was passed with the intent to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters. Paxton's office has appealed the decision. [1]

  • In 2018, Paxton falsely claimed that undocumented immigrants had committed over 600,000 crimes since 2011 in Texas. PolitiFact said that it had debunked the numbers before, and that the numbers exceed the state's estimates by more than 400%. [1]

  • In 2017, Paxton voiced support for the application of eminent domain to obtain right-of-way along the Rio Grande in Texas for construction of the border wall advocated by former President Trump as a means to curtail illegal immigration. [1]

  • In 2017, Paxton joined 13 other state attorneys general in filing a friend-of-the-court briefs in defense of both Trump's first and second executive orders on travel and immigration primarily from majority-Muslim countries (informally referred to as the "Muslim ban"). [1]

  • Paxton has tried to block limits on coal-mine pollution of waterways, sought to override Biden’s order canceling the Keystone Pipeline, demanded reversal of the administration’s moratorium on new oil and gas leases on public lands, and also tried to block Biden from creating a federal “advisory group” to assess the social costs of pollution. [1]

  • Paxton has mounted a legal challenge to the Clean Power Plan, which is President Obama's "state-by-state effort to fight climate change by shifting away from coal power to cleaner-burning natural gas and renewable resources." Paxton has said that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to "force Texas to change how we regulate energy production" through an "unprecedented expansion of federal authority." [1] The Clean Power Plan would require Texas to cut an annual average of 51 million tons of emissions, down 21 percent from 2012 levels. Paxton says that there is no evidence that the plan will mitigate climate change, directly contradicting studies by the EPA that have shown the regulation will reduce carbon pollution by 870 million tons in 2030. [2] He further asserts that the EPA lacks the statutory authority to write the state's policies. [3]

  • In 2016, Paxton was one of 11 Republican state attorneys general who sided with ExxonMobil in the company's suit to block a climate change probe by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Paxton and the other state AGs filed an amicus curiae brief, contending that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey used her office to "tip the scales on a public policy debate, undermine the first Amendment and abuse the office's subpoena power." [1] Healey had launched a probe of ExxonMobil's historical marketing and sale of fossil fuel products, requiring the company to produce 40 years worth of documents regarding fossil fuel products and securities. Healey said the documents would prove that ExxonMobil "knew about the risks of climate change decades ago and fraudulently concealed that knowledge from the public." Paxton described Healey's attempts to obtain historical company records for a public policy debate as a threat to freedom of speech." [2] The brief portrayed climate change as an issue that was still a matter of scientific debate, although in fact the scientific consensus is that the earth is warming and human activity is primarily responsible. [3] The U.S. Virgin Islands attorney general Claude Walker had also issued a subpoena for Exxon's records. Paxton issued a request to intervene in the case, stating: "What is Exxon Mobil's transgression? Holding a view about climate change that the Attorney General of the Virgin Islands disagrees with. This is about the criminalization of speech and thought." Walker dropped the subpoena in June 2016. [4]

  • As Attorney General, Paxton appointed several social conservatives and opponents of LGBT rights to positions in his department. [1]

  • In June 2015, after the issuance of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, in which the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, Paxton offered support for clerks who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. His statement said, "I will do everything I can from this office to be a public voice for those standing in defense of their rights." [1]

  • In 2016, Paxton led a coalition of thirteen states that sought an injunction to block a guidance letter issued by the Department of Education and Department of Justice that interpreted Title IX to require public schools to allow transgender students to use restrooms that accorded with their gender identity. [1][2] Paxton submitted court filings that the Obama administration had "conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment" and termed the directive a "gun to the head" that threatens the independence of school districts. [3] The states dropped the suit after the directive was revoked by President Trump. [4]

  • In 2022, Paxton issued a new interpretation of Texas state law which characterized gender-affirming health care (such as hormone treatments and puberty blockers) for transgender youths as child abuse. Paxton's action was contrary to medical standards. [1]

  • On March 17, 2022, Paxton made a post on Twitter in which he referred to U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Rachel Levine – a trans woman — as a man. Twitter flagged the tweet for violating its conduct rules, but did not remove the post. [1] The following day, Paxton tweeted a statement in which he again referred to Levine as a man, and stated that he was "exploring legal options" against Twitter. [2]

  • In 2016, three University of Texas at Austin professors sued in an effort to ban concealed handguns from campus, blocking the state's campus carry law. Paxton called the lawsuit "frivolous" and moved to dismiss. [1][2] The federal district court dismissed the suit in 2017, and the dismissal was upheld by a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2018. [3]

  • In 2016, Paxton sued the City of Austin to allow license holders to openly carry handguns in Austin City Hall. [1] Paxton prevailed, and the court decided not only that the city of Austin must allow such carry, but also ordered it to pay a fine to the state for each day it prevented investigators from the attorney general's office from carrying their firearms. [2] In 2022, the Texas Supreme Court declined to take up Paxton's bid to drastically increase Austin's $9,000 fine to $5.76 million. [3]

  • Paxton has often criticized what he calls "anti-Christian discrimination in Texas schools." [1]  But in early 2017, Paxton objected to a Texas school's use of an empty classroom to allow its Muslim students to pray, issuing a press release that claimed that "the high school's prayer room is ... apparently excluding students of other faiths." School officials said that Paxton had never asked them about this assertion, and that the room was a spare room used by faculty and non-Muslim students as well as for multiple activities, from grading papers to Buddhist meditation. The Frisco Independent School District superintendent, in a letter sent in response to Paxton, called his press release "a publicity stunt by the [Office of Attorney General] to politicize a non-issue." [2][3]

  • Paxton created a human trafficking unit in the AG office in 2015. In 2019, he convinced Texas lawmakers to more than quadruple the human trafficking unit’s annual funding. The year after, the unit did not secure a single human trafficking conviction, and only four in 2020. [1]

  • Paxton sued the Obama administration over a new rule by the United States Department of Labor, which would make five million additional workers eligible for overtime pay. The new rule would mean workers earning up to an annual salary of $47,500 would become eligible for overtime pay when working more than 40 hours per week. [1]

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