Who is Responsible for the Paxton Probe?

As special prosecutors gear up to drag Attorney General Ken Paxton through the same mud as former Gov. Rick Perry and whistleblowing UT Regent Wallace Hall, questions arise as to who exactly is responsible for the attacks.

On the surface, the leftist watchdog group Texans for Public Justice has driven much of the action in the case. TPJ is mostly the effort of one man, Craig McDonald, who worked as a liberal community organizer in the 1970’s and is an alumnus of Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen. McDonald and TPJ have been accused of using “lawfare” against targeted Republicans and are funded by George Soros’ Open Society Foundation.

TPJ was the group initially responsible for filing the complaint against Tom Delay alleging that his efforts to raise money to beat Democrats in 2002 amounted to a crime. TPJ and the corrupt Travis County DA’s office sought to lock the former majority leader away for his success in turning Texas red and disrupting the DC lobbyist cartel. That case was thrown out by the Court of Criminal Appeals last year, but not after Delay lost his political position and had to spend mountains of legal fees defending himself for more than a decade.

TPJ also filed the malicious complaint against Gov. Rick Perry, alleging that his calls for the resignation of disgraced Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg following her drunk driving arrest and his subsequent veto of funds going to the Travis County Public Integrity Unit amounted to a first degree felony. The Austin Court of Appeals has already thrown out part of the case against Perry, concluding that it violated his First Amendment rights.

In the Paxton case, Texans for Public Justice first attempted to get their friends in the Travis County DA’s office to indict the Attorney General. When the Travis County DA’s office refused after an extended delay, citing obvious venue limitations, TPJ maneuvered to have the case referred to Collin County. Once the case was back in Paxton’s home district, his opponents caused the Collin County DA to be recused, and for special prosecutors to be appointed. The appointment of special prosecutors shifted the interest balance against Paxton. The special appointees only get paid and only make a name for themselves if the case against Paxton goes forward.

But is it really just one left-wing activist, in TPJ’s McDonald, who is driving the efforts to attack Paxton and undermine his office? Democrat operative Matt Angle sure didn’t seem to think so.

Last year, Angle filed Public Information Act requests with the offices of House Speaker Joe Straus (R–San Antonio), Rep. Jim Keffer (R–Eastland), and Rep. Charlie Geren (R–Fort Worth) seeking records of communications and meetings between the Republican offices and the Travis County DA on the Paxton case.

It is unclear what role Straus, Keffer, Geren, or other members of House leadership played in attacking Paxton, but their motives are obvious. Paxton rose to statewide prominence when he challenged Straus for the speakership in 2011. Further, the three are still stinging from Paxton’s defeat of their ally and Straus’s boyhood friend, Dan Branch, in the 2014 primary for Attorney General.

Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning News is reporting that Ty Clevenger, a Dallas blogger, acquired the names and addresses of grand jury members and secretly communicated information to them, including delivering documents to one of their homes.

Time will tell how long it will take for Paxton to clear his name and rebut the politically-charged attacks against him. But will we ever know the true role Republican House leadership played in launching the probe?

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Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel for Empower Texans. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony received his J.D. in 2012 from UT Law School. While in school, Tony served as Senior Vice Chairman for Young Conservatives of Texas and helped manage its legislative affairs. During the 83rd Texas Legislature he served as Chief of Staff for Rep. Jonathan Stickland. Tony resides in Austin and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.

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