Impeachment | ‘Drunk Dade’ v. ‘Krooked Ken’

Texas AG Ken Paxton | Image by Marjorie Kamys Cotera, The Texas Tribune

With the House potentially voting to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton later today, Texas’ ruling party has been torn asunder as Republicans stand against Republicans in a political standoff.

In many respects, the case currently being argued in the court of public opinion and will likely be heard in the Senate does not merely concern the long-standing allegations against Paxton but the long-standing tensions between the AG and House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont).

The two politicians have been at odds with each other in a cold war that recently heated up after the revelation that the Phelan-appointed General Investigating Committee had been probing Paxton’s conduct since March. On the other side, Paxton has publicly called for Phelan to resign for allegedly being drunk during House deliberations.

After a video from May 19 of Phelan slurring his words and appearing unsteady on his feet went viral, Paxton called for the Speaker to resign for being “in a state of debilitating intoxication” and for proving “himself unworthy of Texans’ trust and incapable of leading the Texas House,” as reported by The Dallas Express.

Phelan has refused to explain whether he was drunk or suffering from some undisclosed medical condition, further stoking speculation that he was indeed intoxicated. Images of an alcohol station in the hallway behind the House floor circulated online, and six minutes of the video released later showed Phelan repeatedly struggling to speak from the dais.

Paxton sent a letter to the General Investigating Committee requesting that they open an inquiry into Phelan’s behavior, and the videos have caused supporters to label the Speaker “Drunk Dade.”

While Phelan has not addressed the allegation of being drunk, spokesman Cait Wittman has only suggested that Paxton’s call for resignation “amounts to little more than a last ditch effort to save face.”

Shortly before Paxton demanded Phelan resign, the House General Investigating Committee announced they would hold a hearing related to “Matter A,” which was soon revealed to be a probe into the AG’s conduct. Hearings continued across multiple days as the committee, led by Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction), heard from investigators concerning allegations of bribery, abuse of office, and dereliction of duty.

On May 25, the committee unanimously voted to recommend that the House impeach Paxton. The articles of impeachment were filed by its members shortly thereafter, detailing 20 counts of what they believed to be impeachable offenses.

As reported by The Dallas Express, the 20 impeachment articles detailed allegations of impropriety and criminal activity stretching back to Paxton’s accession to the office of attorney general.

Primarily focusing on his relationship with real estate developer and donor Nate Paul, the articles claimed Paxton misused his office to repeatedly shield and benefit Paul in return for certain favors, such as employing his alleged mistress and remodeling his house.

In one instance, the articles allege that “Paxton improperly obtained access to information held by his office that had not been publicly disclosed for the purpose of providing the information for the benefit of Nate Paul.”

The articles further described an alleged bribery scheme between Paxton and Paul, specifically claiming “Paxton benefited from Nate Paul’s employment of a woman with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair. Paul received favorable legal assistance from, or specialized access to, the office of the attorney general.”

When whistleblowers within the Office of the Attorney General reported some of Paxton’s conduct that they believed to be illegal, “Paxton terminated the employees in retaliation for reporting his illegal acts and improper conduct.”

“Furthermore, Paxton engaged in a public and private campaign to impugn the employees’ professional reputations or prejudice their future employment,” the articles claim.

Paxton and the whistleblowers were in litigation for several years before reaching a $3.3 million settlement agreement. Paxton requested that the State foot the bill, but House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) quickly rejected the idea, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

In a memo sent to House members by the General Investigating Committee, they said, “We cannot over-emphasize the fact that, but for Paxton’s own request for a taxpayer-funded settlement over his wrongful conduct, Paxton would not be facing impeachment by the House.”

In response to the evidence laid out in committee, Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) labeled Paxton “Krooked Ken,” explaining, “I would vote for impeachment. I sat in on the House Investigating Committee this morning and I didn’t have enough fingers and toes to count the felonies outlined by the testimony. Krooked Ken as gotnto [sic] go!”

Those siding with the committee’s findings have echoed the name, calling for “crooked Ken” to be impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate.

In what basically constitutes his opening argument, Paxton held a press conference on Friday afternoon, denouncing Speaker Phelan, the House’s impeachment attempt, and highlighting his own record.

“By proceeding with this illegal impeachment scheme to overturn a decision made by Texas voters just a few short months ago the corrupt politicians in the Texas House are demonstrating that blind loyalty to Speaker Dade Phelan is more important than upholding their oath of office,” Paxton said.

“They are determined to ignore the law,” he continued. “They have denied me the opportunity to present the evidence which contradicts their politically motivated narrative and they are showcasing their absolute contempt for the electoral process.”

“Every politician who supports this deceitful impeachment attempt will inflict lasting damage on the credibility of the Texas House, which I served in,” Paxton added.

Prior to becoming AG in 2015, Paxton was a member of the House from 2003 to 2013 and a Senator from 2013 to 2015.

“The House is poised to do exactly what Joe Biden has been hoping to accomplish since his first day in office, sabotage our work, my work as Attorney General of Texas.” Paxton said.

“Their plot imperils critical litigation my office has brought against the Biden administration to end the federal government’s attacks on our constitutional rights and the rule of law. Under my leadership, this state has sued Biden nearly 50 times to end his unlawful, tyrannical policies.”

“In fact, this week, while the Texas House was killing essential bills on crime and illegal immigration, and plotting their illegal impeachment scheme in secret, it was business as usual for me. I was launching lawsuits against the Biden administration and predatory corporations.”

“For this crucial work to continue, the political theater must come to an end,” he declared.

Calling the process “unjust and unethical,” Paxton added, “The fact that I was prohibited from presenting evidence to defend myself reveals that this shameful process was curated from the start as an act of political retribution.”

The attorney general asked supporters to “peacefully come let their voices be heard at the Capitol tomorrow. Exercise your right to petition your government. Let’s restore the power of this great state to the people, instead of to the politicians.”

“I hope the House makes the right decision, but if not, I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate where I truly believe the process will be fair and just,” he concluded.

The Democrat Party of Texas has also called for supporters to descend on the Capitol, saying, “Join us as the Texas House holds historic impeachment proceedings against indicted AG Ken Paxton! Let’s hold this Texas Republican criminal accountable.”

Paxton has received the support of the Republican Party of Texas and much of the grassroots, as reported by The Dallas Express. However, it only takes a simple majority in the House to impeach, meaning only 11 Republicans have to side with the 64 Democrats to send the matter to the upper chamber.

Some House members, such as Reps. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington), Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), and Brian Harrison (R-Midlothian) have voiced concerns regarding the approach that House leadership has taken regarding impeachment. Still, it is unknown whether enough Republicans share those feelings to cause the vote to fail.

Phelan received nearly unanimous support from both parties when re-elected to the speakership at the start of session, and many of the Republican representatives received large financial donations from Phelan during the most recent campaign cycle.

For example, Rep. Murr, chair of the General Investigating Committee that recommended Paxton’s impeachment and filed the articles, received a total of $70,947.67.

According to data retrieved from Transparency USA, Phelan contributed to the campaigns of the following members:

While it is not necessarily surprising to see the House Speaker get involved in allocating resources to members during the election, it is notable. Many of these members also received appointments by Phelan to important committees.

Phelan was also heavily active in funding Republican primaries, and “Speakers historically get involved in primaries to shore up their membership,” per the Texan.

The question of impeachment will be brought before the House at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 27, with a vote expected later this afternoon.

If a majority votes to impeach Paxton, he will be barred from exercising his role as attorney general while the Senate holds a trial on the matter.

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  1. Impeachment | ‘Drunk Dade’ v. ‘Krooked Ken’ – Round Up DFW - […] Dallas ExpressMay 27, 2023Uncategorized […]

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