The Texas House’s impeachment of state Attorney General Ken Paxton on Saturday was the latest in a string of legal woes that began shortly after the Republican was first elected in 2014.
Paxton is a conservative firebrand who has aligned himself with former President Donald Trump. From his perch as Texas’ top prosecutor, he has led legal battles against former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and more. He challenged the 2020 election’s results in federal court, and in recent months has targeted Texas hospitals for providing transition-related care for transgender minors.
Paxton, a former member of the Texas House and Senate, has denied any wrongdoing, and described his myriad of legal battles as politically motivated.
Here is a look Paxton’s tenure as Texas’ top prosecutor and the legal battles he has faced:
Just months after taking office, a state grand jury indicted Paxton on securities fraud charges. Prosecutors said Paxton duped investors by selling shares of a technology company without registering as an investment adviser representative with the state board or disclosing that he was being paid by the company.
The case has still not gone to trial, and has been mired in disputes over judges, location and prosecutors’ pay. Paxton has called it a political witch hunt and denied wrongdoing.
Paxton was also accused of bribery after accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from friends and donors to cover legal fees, but was not charged for doing so.
Amid the legal cloud, Paxton won a second term in 2018. He beat Democrat Justin Nelson by 3.6 percentage points.
Seven top Paxton aides in 2020 publicly accused him of bribery and abusing his office. The aides, who also reported their allegations to the FBI, were all fired, put on leave or resigned.
The whistleblowers had accused him of using his authority to benefit political friend Nate Paul, a real estate investor who had donated tens of thousands of dollars to Paxton’s campaign.
Federal prosecutors began an investigation shortly after the allegations were made, and Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section in Washington took over that probe this February.
Paxton, a Trump loyalist, filed a federal lawsuit after President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election seeking to overturn four key swing states’ results. The US Supreme Court threw out Paxton’s lawsuit. Weeks later, Paxton appeared at the January 6, 2021, “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the riot at the US Capitol.
In 2022, the State Bar of Texas sued Paxton, accusing him of professional misconduct for claims of substantial voter fraud that the bar said were “misrepresentations and false statements.” A Collin County district court judge earlier this year refused Paxton’s push to dismiss the lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds.
Paxton faced a crowded Republican primary field, including land commissioner George P. Bush, the son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in his bid for a third term. But he emerged unscathed, defeating Bush in a runoff by 36 percentage points and then defeating Democrat Rochelle Garza in November by nearly 10 points.
Paxton in February agreed to a $3.3 million settlement and an apology, but no admission of wrongdoing, with four of the whistleblowers.
However, it was Paxton’s request that the state legislature approve $3.3 million in government funds that triggered the General Investigating Committee of the Texas House to begin investigating those whistleblowers’ claims – a probe that would lead to Paxton’s impeachment at the five-member panel’s recommendation.
The House panel unanimously recommended Paxton’s impeachment last week, and on Saturday the full House voted to impeach the attorney general – setting up a Senate trial later this year to determine his fate.
Under state law, Paxton is now temporarily suspended from his duties as attorney general.
One of the impeachment articles accuses Paxton of using employees of the attorney general’s office to write a legal opinion intended to help Paul avoid the foreclosure sale of properties owned by Paul and his businesses.
It was among a series of articles focused on Paxton’s relationship with Paul, including accusations he hired an outside attorney who issued more than 30 grand jury subpoenas while investigating a “baseless complaint” made by Paul, benefited from Paul hiring a woman with whom Paxton “was having an extramarital affair,” and provided Paul with favorable legal help in exchange for renovations on Paxton’s home.
The articles of impeachment also detail what are described as Paxton’s efforts to cause “protracted” delays in the securities fraud investigation. And the articles say voters in November did not have a full understanding of Paxton’s legal troubles because he had intentionally obscured the details of the charges he faces.