Top Texas Republicans are demanding Attorney General Ken Paxton, who led ongoing efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, resign from office following staffer allegations of bribery and abuse of office.
GOP congressman and former top aide, Rep. Chip Roy, called on his former boss to resign Monday in a statement which cautioned the attorney general office is "too critical to leave in chaos" just weeks ahead of the November elections. A letter obtained by the Austin American-Statesman last week revealed seven senior officials in Paxton's office calling for federal law enforcement to "investigate allegations of improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential crimes" committed by their own boss. Paxton, who is co-chair of the Lawyers for Trump coalition, has been under indictment on felony charges of securities fraud for five years.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott joined Roy and other top Republicans in expressing "serious concerns" over the allegations against Paxton.
"For the good of the people of Texas and the extraordinary public servants who serve at the Office of the Attorney General, Attorney General Ken Paxton must resign," Roy said in a statement Monday. "The allegations of bribery, abuse of office, and other charges levied against him by at least 7 senior leaders of the Office of the Attorney General are more than troubling on the merits."
"But, any grace for him to resolve differences and demonstrate if the allegations are false was eliminated by his choice instead to attack the very people entrusted, by him, to lead the office – some of whom I know well and whose character are beyond reproach," Roy said of his former boss.
Paxton drew national controversy last spring after Abbott banned elective medical procedures in an effort to free up hospital resources for COVID-19 patients, but the attorney general used the move to ban abortions in the state. He also threatened to sue the cities of Houston, Dallas and Austin if they did not roll back coronavirus safety precautions. As the Texas Tribune notes, he routinely appears on television touting himself as the state's "top culture warrior."
But perhaps his largest achievement is leading multi-state lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," as well as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He's pushed cases all the way up to the Supreme Court, including the upcoming Texas vs. California set to be heard by SCOTUS on November 10 and which has drawn scrutiny as a potential reason Trump and Senate Republicans want to stack the court with conservatives. Paxton spearheaded the 17-state coalition behind the case which aims to overturn the ACA entirely.
"Obamacare is a failed social experiment," Paxton said last year after the U.S. Department of Justice concurred that the entire health care law should be struck down. "The sooner it is invalidated, the better, so each state can decide what type of health care system it wants and how best to provide for those with pre-existing conditions, which is federalism that the Founders intended."
The Texas attorney general stands accused of using the power of his office to coerce a Colorado county into allowing one of his top donors back into their vacation home earlier this year. Paxton has also been accused by several members of his own staff of collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts. His political adviser, Jordan Berry, was among multiple staff members who resigned this past week over the allegations.
"I learned about this from media reports," Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said in a statement to the Tribune Sunday. "I will wait until the investigation is complete before making any additional comments."
Paxton's wife, state Senator Angela Paxton, filed a bill last year which intended to expand her husband's power in office and would have exempted him from bribery state laws.
Newsweek reached out to Patrick's office for comment Monday afternoon, but did not receive a reply before publication.