Attorney General Ken Paxton has been indicted on felony charges related to securities fraud. Many commentators are wondering where are the GOP office holders and hordes of Tea Party loyalists coming to Paxton’s defense. Noted Paxton supporters such as Sen. Ted Cruz (TP – Texas) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are nowhere to be heard or seen in defense of Paxton.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning News speculates on what the indictment and possible conviction means for Paxton’s political future.
What is different for Paxton is that there is no case to be made that he is a victim of dirty politics, said Southern Methodist University political science professor Cal Jillson.
“Even when you are offering a political defense, you have to keep one foot on the base — you have to make claims that are rooted in some plausibility,” Jillson said.
Paxton’s case was heard in Collin County “which is a red, red, red belt of Texas conservatism,” Jillson said, and the evidence was obtained by the Texas Rangers. The charges stem from investment deals with business partners who are under investigation by state and federal authorities, he said.
Paxton, once a small-town lawyer, already has been shown in news reports to have become involved with land flips and about 30 businesses once he got into the Legislature, Jillson said.
“It’s complicated and delicate for an attorney general, more so than for a governor or a senator, because you are the top elected legal official in the state,” Jillson said. “As the top legal officer, to find yourself under felony indictment is beyond awkward.”
Paxton can remain in office while under indictment. If he were convicted of a felony, his law license would automatically be suspended and he would be unable to serve.
Gov. Greg Abbott would name a replacement, who would face confirmation by the Senate.
During the legal fight, it is likely Paxton will keep a low political profile but try to make as many professional appearances as possible to deflect attention from his legal problems and reinforce the idea that he is tending to state business, Miller said.
Attacking the process is unlikely to help him either legally or politically, he said.
“It’s all courtroom,” Miller said. “Game on.”