Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is in deep trouble due to a state felony indictment on securities fraud charges.
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As the leader in the unprecedented — and ultimately failed — lawsuit challenging the results of the presidential election results in four swing states lost by Donald Trump, Paxton has been seen by many as aggressively angling for a pardon from the clemency-happy president — despite the fact that Trump’s pardon powers don’t extend to state judicial decisions — by aggressively supporting the lame-duck president’s false claims of massive election fraud.
Now, the watchdog group CREW — Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — has revealed just how far Paxton tried to stack the deck for Trump’s eventual victory in Texas.
With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing election officials around the country to take extraordinary steps to ensure that voting in the 2020 elections could be safe and secure for our citizens, many locales needed additional funds to help convert their elections plans to allow for a massive increase in mail-in ballots and were happy to be able to use funds provided by the CARES Act — the pandemic relief bill passed by Congress back in March — to help fund things like the printing of additional absentee ballots and other costs associated with the change in voting circumstances.
With Republicans associating the ability of more citizens to exercise their democratic franchise with a loss at the polls due to the unpopularity of their agendas, Paxton sprang into action back in May as soon as he heard that Harris County — home to Houston and a large concentration of Democratic voters — was planning on using CARES funds to fund the printing and distribution of millions of mail-in ballots for the November election.
He immediately wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin requesting an investigation into Harris County’s use of the federal money for this purpose and urged Mnuchin to revoke the award of the money to the county to prevent them from expanding their mail-in voting capabilities.
According to CREW:
“In the May 21 letter, Paxton “alert[ed]” Mnuchin about Harris County’s plan to use $12 million in CARES Act funds to pay for up to two million mail-in ballots. Paxton’s request was part of his multi-pronged effort to fight mail-in voting in Texas amid the raging coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed nearly 26,000 lives in Texas to date. It’s no coincidence that Paxton’s efforts focused on Harris County, home to Houston, the largest city in Texas and one of the most diverse cities in the country. Biden would go on to win Harris County by more than 200,000 votes.”
While Paxton made no secret of his opposition to the expansion of mail-in voting during the pandemic, he kept his letter to Mnuchin relatively quiet.
Just like in his efforts to overturn the election results in the four swing states that Donald Trump continues to claim were stolen from him, Paxton actually has no standing to weigh in on the use of CARES funds by local election officials at the county level in Texas.
“The CARES Act authorizes local governments to use federal relief money to cover expenses they deem “necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019.” In public guidance, the Treasury has interpreted this language “broadly to mean that the expenditure is reasonably necessary for its intended use in the reasonable judgment of the government officials responsible for spending Fund payments,” CREW writes.
“In other words, federal law empowers local officials–not the federal government, and not state attorneys general like Paxton–to decide whether CARES Act expenditures are “necessary” to address the public health emergency. And local officials in Harris County did just that.”
Luckily, Paxton was as unsuccessful in reversing the CARES funding for Harris County as he was in his efforts to overturn the legitimate election results in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
And, despite the Biden victory in Harris County, Trump wound up winning Texas’ electoral college votes anyway.
That Ken Paxton is an unscrupulous partisan with no regard for the very principles of democratic government is now fairly obvious.
That he continues in his role as Texas Attorney General, despite his felony indictment, is the biggest mystery that people both inside and outside the state continue to ponder.
Original reporting by Nikhel Sus and Linnaea Honl-Stuenkel at CREW.
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