Paxton Impeachment Trial Highlights Need for Reforms

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AUSTIN —  Common Cause Texas is calling for improvements to Texas’ ethics rules and a commitment to rooting out public corruption as proceedings to remove Ken Paxton from his position of Texas’ attorney general begins Tuesday. 

“This impeachment trial would not have happened at all had Paxton not had the audacity to ask the legislature to pay his legal bills,” said Anthony Gutierrez, Executive Director of Common Cause Texas. “If Texas had stronger ethics regulations, a stronger and more well-funded ethics commission, and harsher penalties for campaign finance violations, this corruption would likely have been caught far earlier.”

Common Cause Texas is calling for the following changes to stamp out the corruption and self-dealing.

  • A stronger Texas Ethics Commission with more staff, more robust investigative powers, and the enforcement powers to hold officeholders accountable for unethical actions. 
  • Limits on campaign contributions, harsher penalties for accepting contributions without reporting them, and prohibitions on contributions during or near any legislative session and special actions, like impeachment trials. 
  • For all Texas courts, but especially in trials such as this one in the Senate, Texas should have clear and fair conflict of interest standards that would require anyone who is to act as a judge or  juror to recuse themselves if they have a close relationship with the defendant or have taken or given money to them. 

“Our elected officials should be working for the people of Texas and not for their own self-interest,” Gutierrez of Common Cause Texas said. “These disturbing allegations of bribery and obstructing justice should be a wake-up call to clean up Texas and end this pay-to-play culture.” 

Paxton is accused of bribery, abuse of office and obstruction and was suspended without pay after he was impeached by a vote of 121-23 from the Texas House of Representatives on May 27, 2023. Tuesday’s trial in the state Senate will determine if Paxton is removed from office. 

Paxton is accused of:

  • Using his position as attorney general to benefit a campaign donor and friend of his, real estate developer Nate Paul. 
  • Inappropriately firing several whistleblowers in his office and attempting to settle legal claims with public dollars. 
  • Attempting to obstruct justice by seeking delays of a long-running securities fraud  criminal case in which Paxton is accused of steering clients to invest in a technology company without disclosing Paxton was a shareholder. Paxton was indicted on charges in 2015 but has yet to go to trial. 
  • Being unfit to serve in public office. 

The trial itself can be watched here.

Note: Common Cause Texas’s executive director Anthony Gutierrez is available to talk to the media about needed improvements to Texas’  ethics laws. Please email to arrange an interview.