The real problem with attorney general Ken Paxton is not just that he has admitted to securities violations, although he has certainly done that. Or that his civil violations could now lead to a felony criminal indictment. Or that he has essentially locked himself in a closet ever since the Republican primary to avoid media scrutiny. Or that his opinions as attorney general read more like political statements than principled, legal rulings. The problem with Paxton is that he is a mediocrity, a lawyer who appears to have little respect for the law.

Paxton has been successful politically because he has been coddled by a cabal of Republican extremists, chief among whom is Cathie Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum. He won his race for attorney general thanks to an endorsement—if you can call it that—by Ted Cruz. He owns few credentials as a public servant. As a representative, he ran a right-wing campaign against Joe Straus as speaker—and lost. As a state senator, he never passed a significant piece of legislation. As attorney general, he has protected the likes of UT’s rogue regent, Wallace Hall, with his dubious rulings. In a recent interview with my colleague Brian Sweany, Greg Abbott, when asked about the ongoing investigation into Paxton’s dealings, offered this unbelievable exchange:

BDS: The man who took your job as AG, Ken Paxton, has unresolved legal issues. He has admitted to certain state securities violations, and there is an ongoing investigation. Right now, do you have any concerns about his ability to lead the AG’s office?

GA: I have not looked into those issues and really am uninformed about those issues. But what I have done is I have dealt with him on a professional level, and I am proud to see that he has taken up my legacy of holding the federal government accountable to the Constitution.

BDS: You’re pleased with the job he’s doing?

GA: Yes.

BDS: If there is an indictment, should he continue to hold office?

GA: I can’t get into any kind of speculation like that. I’m not going to indict anyone here at a press interview. I have no factual knowledge of anything about this, so I am completely unqualified to comment.

The governor asserting that he doesn’t know enough about the issues to offer comment? From a party that has stressed ethics and transparency in government? If that’s not coddling, I don’t know what is.

According to the special prosecutor in charge of the case, the Texas Rangers investigation has turned up more than what was intitially uncovered. Two grand juries will hear testimony next week that could lead to criminal indictments. The question then will be simple: will Republicans continue to stand behind him?

(Photo by Deborah Cannon / Austin American Statesman)