This is member-exclusive content
icon/ui/info filled
Opinion

Ken Paxton plays the victim. But it’s Texas that is hurting

Do the honorable thing, Mr. Attorney General.

When earlier this month we called for the resignation of Attorney General Ken Paxton, we recognized that the state’s legal office could no longer function with its elected leader at the helm.

Since there is no path to removing Paxton from office politically short of the next election, it is left to him to do the honorable thing and step down for the good of the people of Texas.

No one expects that. Paxton has only dug in, refusing to acknowledge the increasingly troubling information that has surfaced about his actions in office.

He has falsely stated that seven of his top aides — almost all of whom have since been fired or resigned — “chose to air their grievances through the media and through the courts, rather than established and objective internal processes.”

To be clear, the aides — all top lawyers for the state, some well-known conservatives — did act through the state’s internal processes, filing a complaint with the attorney’s general human resources department.

The complaint revolves around the aides’ concerns that Paxton was becoming personally involved in legal matters involving a major donor to his campaign, real estate developer Nate Paul.

Paxton’s top assistant, now former First Assistant Attorney General Jeff Mateer, said senior staff in the attorney’s general office tried to intervene. But Paxton persisted in engaging in legal matters involving Paul, including a federal investigation that saw Paul’s home and business raided by FBI agents in August 2019.

Now we have learned that Paxton himself is under federal investigation. If there were not enough reason for him to step down before, there is every reason he must do so now.

It’s not clear how the attorney’s general office is functioning now. All seven of the aides who signed the whistleblower letter have either resigned or been fired.

There are signals the office is hardly firing on all cylinders. Its recent arguments before the Supreme Court on why the Affordable Care Act should be repealed in its entirety met a wary eye even from conservatives on the court.

“Both Chief Justice [John] Roberts and Justice [Brett] Kavanaugh expressed skepticism about the plaintiffs’ severability argument, pointing to the Court’s long-standing presumption that statutes are severable,” reported Health Affairs.

Paxton’s self-defense on Twitter, meanwhile, cast him as the weary but stalwart victim of heavy-handed law enforcement, a reference not only to his aides’ complaint but to his yearslong and as yet unresolved indictment on securities fraud charges.

It’s ever more clear that the real victim here is the people of Texas, who need an attorney’s general office they can trust to do the state’s important work.

Paxton has every right to defend himself and has every presumption of innocence, but the people also have every right to a well-run attorney general’s office. It’s clear now that they won’t have that until Paxton departs.

In This Story

Dallas Morning News Editorial. Dallas Morning News editorials are written by the paper's Editorial Board and serve as the voice and view of the paper. The board considers a broad range of topics and is overseen by the Editor of Editorials.

editorialboard@dallasnews.com @dmnopinion
Perspective

Get smart opinions

Editorial and commentary from op-ed columnists, the editorial board and contributing writers from The Dallas Morning News, delivered three days a week.

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy