Embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a three-term Republican, was acquitted by the state Senate on Saturday following a two-week trial over corruption allegations centered around one of his wealthy friends and an extramarital affair.
He had been suspended since May when Texas’ Republican-dominated House voted overwhelmingly to impeach him by a vote of 121-23.
Paxton could count on having more allies in the Republican-dominated state Senate, where his wife, Texas state Sen. Angela Paxton (R), represents a suburban district outside Dallas. She was required to attend every day of the trial, although she was barred from deliberations and votes.
Her recusal made the bar to convict her husband slightly higher, with 21 senators required to oust him instead of 20.
A conviction on any one of the 16 articles of impeachment meant the attorney general would be permanently booted from office. With 12 Democrats and 19 Republicans in the state Senate, a conviction also meant persuading at least nine of the Republicans to join all of the Democrats.
It was a tall order. None of the articles received more than 14 “yea” votes.
Ken Paxton has long skirted allegations of corruption and wrongdoing in Texas politics.
He has yet to stand trial in a securities fraud case more than eight years after being charged with the felonies in 2015. Last fall, he ran out of his house and jumped into a truck driven by his wife to dodge a federal subpoena. Perhaps most bizarrely, he was caught on security footage around a decade ago pocketing a $1,000 Montblanc pen left behind on accident by another lawyer passing through courthouse security.
The impeachment trial revolved around his relationship with Texas real estate developer Nate Paul, whom Paxton was accused of helping through improper use of his public position.
After the FBI raided Paul’s office in 2019, Paul had been trying to convince Paxton to investigate the investigators, alleging a vast conspiracy against him. Paxton helped Paul secure subpoenas against the judges, federal agents and bank executives who were in his sights by hiring outside counsel on Texas taxpayers’ dime.
The outside counsel, a young lawyer named Brandon Cammack, testified that once he realized Paxton had used him, it felt like he’d “gotten the rug pulled out from me,” the Texas Tribune reported.
In 2020, several of Paxton’s employees were subsequently fired after reporting to the FBI their concerns about their boss’ relationship with Paul, who had donated $25,000 to Paxton’s second campaign and was allegedly covering Paxton’s home renovations.
The whistleblowers reached a $3.3 million settlement agreement, but nothing has been paid out because of disagreement over the use of public funds.
The situation grew more complicated by Paxton’s affair with a woman who worked for Paul named Lisa Olson; Paxton faced a charge of bribery in the state Senate over the relationship. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who served as the trial’s judge, said both sides agreed Olson would not testify, according to The Associated Press.