Over at The Dallas Morning News, Gromer Jeffers Jr has a piece about Ken Paxton, the Republican attorney-general nominee:
In a rare interview last week with The Dallas Morning News, Paxton said he is mindful that political rivals are pushing a narrative that he faces a possible indictment, perhaps even after he takes office as the state’s top lawyer.
In May, the Texas State Securities Board said Paxton violated state law by soliciting clients, for pay, for a company that dispenses investment advice even though he had not registered with the board. He was fined $1,000. It can be a crime, but Paxton describes it as an administrative error.
I find myself in a state of genuine (although inconsequential) confusion over several things. First of all, this comment, “It can be a crime.” In certain cases, that sentence makes sense. Rick Perry’s efforts to encourage the Travis County district attorney to resign, for example, may be tantamount to coercion, which is a crime; hence his indictment on charges of coercion (abuse of official capacity). In Paxton’s case, however, authorities have already determined that the action described–soliciting paying clients as an investment advisor, without having registered with the Texas State Securities Board–was a violation of state law. That’s why they fined him. Paxton himself, in describing his failure to register as an administrative error, is only commenting on his motive, not on the supposed legality of his actions. And as a number of sources reminded me with regard to Perry, if you broke the law by accident, it still counts.
My second point of confusion is why Paxton’s presenting himself as the victim here. I get it, as a political gambit, but this is not, let’s say, an argument one would take to appellate court. The suggestion that Paxton could possibly face indictment over actions that violated the law and that he’s already admitted to isn’t a “narrative” being pushed by political rivals. It’s a factual comment about a possibility, a possiblity that Paxton himself acknowledged to Jeffers: “We have [a lawyer] ready, if anything does happen.” It’s arguably a possiblity that should concern Republicans more than Democrats; the last time I heard someone raise a concern about this, in fact, it was a conservative lawyer, and the concern was that the looming possibility of an indictment would potentially give the federal government leverage against the Texas attorney general. And for that matter Paxton’s actual political rival–the Democratic candidate for attorney general, Sam Houston–did tell Jeffers that Paxton might be indicted, but his main point was about the action itself, the failure to register as an investment advisor: “He wants to be the state’s top law enforcement officer, and he broke the law.”
Third point of confusion: As the Republican nominee, Paxton has to be considered the presumptive successor to Greg Abbott, the current attorney general. Yes, Texans are notoriously disinterested in government, and yes, it’s a downballot race, and no, the Texas Constitution doesn’t even say that the attorney general has to be a lawyer. Still…I mean, come on.
Speaking of which, today is the last day to register to vote in this year’s general election. (If you’re not sure whether you’re registered, you can check via the secretary of state’s website.)