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Law And Order

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accused by top aides of bribery, abuse of office

Seven top aides to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) are accusing him of "violating federal and/or state law including prohibitions related to improper influence, abuse of office, bribery, and other potential criminal offenses," according to a letter obtained Saturday by KVUE-TV and the Austin American-Statement. The signatories include five deputy attorneys general, Paxton's top aide Jeff Mateer — who resigned Friday — and Mateer's deputy. They disclosed their allegations in a whistleblower complaint to the agency's human resources director.

The seven aides are seeking a federal investigation into Paxton's appointment of a special prosecutor to target "adversaries" of Austin real estate investor Nate Paul, a Paxton campaign donor, the Houston Chronicle reported Sunday. "Their decisions to report possible illegal activity involving their employer represents a stunning development in an agency that prizes loyalty, particularly from within Paxton's inner circle," the American-Statesman says. "It places a renewed spotlight on Paxton, who is already under indictment for alleged securities fraud."

Paxton was arrested five years ago, but he "has yet to go to trial on the charges amid side battles over where the case will be heard and how much the special prosecutors appointed to take the case to trial will be paid," The Texas Tribune notes.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Sunday the new "allegations raise serious concerns," and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) called them "obviously concerning," though both said they would reserve judgment until an investigation was complete. A spokeswoman for Paxton said, without elaborating, that the complaint "was done to impede an ongoing investigation into criminal wrongdoing by public officials including employees of this office. Making false claims is a very serious matter and we plan to investigate this to the fullest extent of the law.”

"Paxton has faced numerous questions over his ethics over his more than a decade in public life," The Texas Tribune reports, including claiming that hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts for his legal defense "came from 'family friends' and are exempt from a state bribery law." And last year, the Tribune notes, "his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, filed a bill that would have expanded her husband's power as attorney general, giving him the power to exempt individuals from state regulations like the one he has been charged with violating." Read more about Paxton's history at The Texas Tribune.