ust before assaulting the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, rioters attending the Trump rally near the White House heard these stirring words: “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.”
These are the words of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Paxton remains proud of that speech, but has repeatedly refused to turn over records of his communications about that rally to reporters in a possible violation of the Texas Public Information Act. That dispute could result in Paxton being prosecuted for violating a key accountability law that his office is simultaneously charged with defending.
Indeed, Paxton has been accused of violating state laws so often that he seems to embody the dark side of what some call “Texas exceptionalism”. For the last seven years, he has been under indictment on three felony charges related to securities fraud. Usually invoked in braggart terms, “Texas exceptionalism” has exceptional downsides: We coddle—and re-elect—politicians who scorn and break our ethics rules and laws.
No other sitting state attorney general can compete with ours in the exceptional number of legal complaints and scandals that he has had in office. In a recent report, Governing Magazine found that state attorney general scandals most often affect inexperienced, first-term officials in states controlled by a single party. What sets Paxton apart is his inability to learn from mistakes, his long litany of alleged and admitted misdeeds, and our state’s failure to bring him to justice. Indeed, he is favored to win re-election in 2021, though he will face three formidable Republican opponents in March.