Thursday, June 1, 2023

Paxton Vobiscum

Paxton is one of those AGs who really likes to be addressed as "General", so his far-right fanboys have dressed him up that way in the same way as they made Trump an Emperor.

There's a story running around about suspended criminal Texas attorney general Kenneth Paxton that isn't true, though it's his fault, because of his self-aggrandizing way of telling the story

on Stephen Bannon's podcast ("the #1 political podcast in the world"):

“If we’d lost Harris County—Trump won by 620,000 votes in Texas. Harris County mail-in ballots that they wanted to send out were 2.5 million, those were all illegal and we were able to stop every one of them,” Paxton told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon during the latter’s War Room podcast on Friday.

That was actually two years ago when he started telling the story, and based on some indisputable fact, but it was application forms, requests for an absentee ballot, not ballots themselves. In the 2020 election Harris County, where the huge and heavily Democratic city of Houston is, had a plan to mail out absentee ballot applications to all the county's registered voters, 2.4 million of them, to make sure people weren't stopped from voting by fear of COVID infection, and Paxton sued in August 2020 to prevent them from doing it. (And he wasn't able to stop them from mailing applications to seniors over 65 or the disabled.)

He was already confusing ballot applications with ballots as the suit proceeded, as in this radio report from September 1:

The attorney general told Houston Matters host Craig Cohen on Tuesday that the Texas Election Code bars Harris County Clerk Chris Hollins from mass mailing vote-by-mail applications.

“He has no authority under the law to send out applications,” Paxton said. “It's not his job. If somebody requests it – that's what the law says – if somebody requests it, he can do it. But he can't just decide, ‘I'm just going to send out millions of ballots and spend millions of dollars.' It's not within his authority to do that.”

Presumably on purpose, because he wanted the public to be confused. Anyway, the suit failed in all the venues he tried but at last got the ruling he wanted from the state's all-Republican Supreme Court, on October 7.

Now, that was kind of disgusting on his part, especially the persistent judge-shopping when he wouldn't take "yes" for an answer, but it wasn't what he said it was—unilaterally deciding that all the registered voters in Harris County were somehow "illegal" and refusing to get them mail-in ballots. Also Harris's turnout was record-high that year, 66% (almost 58% in the early vote, which includes the mail-in ballot) or 1.63 million votes, so no more than 800,000 could have been stopped from voting, not 2.5 million, and in all probability none were; it's unlikely Paxton's suppression efforts had much of an effect. 

Thus, he's bragging about a crime he didn't commit. Which makes the criminal intent of what he did do pretty clear.

By the way, I'm glad the Texas House has managed to impeach Paxton for a boatload of other crimes, not including the felony securities fraud charges on which he's been evading trial for the last eight years, which could earn him upwards of 99 years in state prison, but for taking bribes from an Austin real estate investor, Nate Paul, and protecting him from a fraud lawsuit, in return for a host of favors including $20,000 worth of countertop and a job for his then paramour

Committee members also claimed that Paul helped Paxton maintain his affair with a San Antonio woman by giving her a job at Paul’s company in Austin. It made her “more convenient” to Paxton, [Houston Rep. Ann] Johnson said.

Johnson claimed that a distraught Paxton once bemoaned his continued love for the woman he was having an affair with to his staff, who were gravely concerned that it was improper and could open the attorney general’s office to blackmail. Exposure of the affair, Johnson said, would have risked Paxton’s reputation as a “Christian man” who cherishes “family values” with his political base.

as well as alternately bribing staff members to keep quiet ($250 a month for one young man) and retaliating against those who didn't by firing them, and finally, when the whistleblowers sued, asking the state to pay them a $3.3-million settlement, which was what launched the legislature's investigation.

Christ, I wish Molly Ivins was alive to cover this, and the detail that his wife and helpmeet in the family values line is Senator Angela Paxton, who will shortly be a member of the jury in the case unless she recuses herself.

But keep in mind, in any case, that the Republican faction in the state House that has done the impeachment aren't liberals, though Paxton has tried to paint them that way, especially Speaker Dade Phelan:

“Phelan’s coalition of Democrats and liberal Republicans is now in lockstep with the Biden Administration, the abortion industry, anti-gun zealots, and woke corporations to sabotage my work as Attorney General,” he wrote in a statement after the impeachment vote. Trump has called Phelan a RINO.

But that characterization ignores that the House has moved to the right in some ways during Phelan’s still fairly new tenure. In 2021, his first legislative session, the chamber was involved in passing what was at the time the most restrictive abortion law in the country. And his chamber led the charge on a bill to allow people to carry handguns without a state-issued permit.
And of course they're the ones who passed laws in this session to disempower election officials in good old Harris County, and generally make voting more difficult than it already is in Texas. Because that's what they're all about.

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