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Why Would Texas Republicans Impeach Ken Paxton? Take Your Pick
On Thursday evening, a special investigative committee of the Texas legislature officially filed charges of impeachment against state Attorney General Ken Paxton. AsThe Texas Tribune reports, the document includes “20 articles listing a yearslong pattern of alleged misconduct and lawbreaking.”
The chair of that committee has already announced that he will call for Paxton’s impeachment. On Wednesday, members of that committee voted unanimously that the attorney general should be impeached. If it happens, it will be a first: No attorney general has been impeached in the history of the state.
Paxton has issued a response calling the legislators members of the “corrupt political establishment,” and posted a statement on Twitter in which he called on the speaker of the Republican-led House to resign for, among other things, allowing “Chinese spies” to control Texas land. He’s also declared that Texas Republicans are tools of President Joe Biden and the Washington elite, all of which should make the upcoming hearings even more enjoyable.
Before you reach for the popcorn, here’s a reminder of some of the “accomplishments” that have marked Paxton’s career.
On January 6, 2021, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stood in front of the Trump supporters gathered at the “Stop the Steal” rally and delivered a speech that made clear allusions to the Civil War. “One of the great things about the state of Texas is, we did not quit,” said Paxton. “If you look at Georgia, they capitulated, they consented. We kept fighting in Texas.” That’s not exactly a record to be brought up with pride, but then there’s little to be proud about anywhere in the record of Paxton.
Just hours after he had urged Trump supporters to, like Texas, “keep fighting” and watched them march for the Capitol, Paxton swore that it wasnot Trump supporters who smashed their way into the building. “These are not Trump supporters,” Paxton wrote on Twitter. Instead he blamed the insurgency on the forces of antifa. When Paxton was asked about his sources, he said he was only reporting what he heard from a “journalist,” by which he meant the fascism-friendly conspiracy site WorldNetDaily.
Paxton topped off his January 6 escapades by refusing to turn over records related to his own appearance at the rally. As with so many things related to Paxton, that battle went to court, where he did what he was so good at doing: make irrational arguments and lose. But those January 6 events were just one small item on the checklist of all things Paxton.
The Texas constitution states that if Paxton is impeached in the House, he will immediately be removed from office until his trial in the Senate. Should he survive that trial, Paxton could go back to misusing his office as he has always done.
Why is Paxton up for impeachment? Take your pick.
- The FBI investigation into how Paxton used his office to illegally help a donor.
- The indictment for fraud that Paxton’s Republican supporters have stalled for years, in part by blocking attorneys prosecuting the case from getting paid. As the AP pointed out, it’s not many people who can avoid going to trial on felony charges for seven straight years—and they made that point last year.
- The $3.3 million that Paxton had to pay out to settle a whistleblower case after a group of his own deputies raised warnings about his actions, including “abuse of office and other crimes.”
- An affair with a woman he later promoted for a high-paying job in a case so tangled it’s hard to tell if it’s bribery or extortion.
- Multiple reports of bribery still under investigation that have not yet been detailed.
There’s also a state bar association investigation into lies Paxton told in court in an effort to overturn the 2020 election, but it’s unlikely the Republican legislature was upset by that point.
Both the legislature and the voters of Texas have supported Paxton over the years as he carried on a crusade of lies and distortions, becoming the poster boy for how a state attorney general’s office could be used to prosecute a political agenda. It's impossible to briefly list all the efforts Paxton has made to sue federal agencies, from the EPA and Homeland Security to Health and Human Services. However, among the “highlights,” Paxton has:
- Repeatedly had a go at overturning aspects of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
- Tried to enact a complex system for collecting child support payments, including another failed attempt to sue the federal government that ended up going hundreds of millions over budget and left children without support payments for months.
- Led the charge to try and keep COVID-19 restrictions on immigration even though he also led the charge to sue the federal government over COVID-19 restrictions.
- Sued hospitals for treatment of trans youth well before other Republicans got on board with the persecution.
- Sued four other states for failing to run their elections according to Paxton’s view of the law, an effort that garnered a scathing reply from the attorneys general of those states, as well as a blunt rejection by the Supreme Court saying that Paxton had “not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections.”
Hard to believe he lost, considering that Paxton’s lawsuit included “evidence” from the debunked film, 2,000 Mules.
Somehow, through all this, Texas voters still put Paxton in office by a wide margin. That includes returning him to office in 2020 despite three felony indictments and a public investigation by the FBI. Paxton has the biggest selling point of any Republican candidate: He knows how to hate the right people. So don’t be surprised if being impeached is not his last act.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos
Yellowhammer Files: Inside Alabama's Crumbling, Inhumane Prison System
Lice so severe that even kerosene couldn’t kill them. Shoeless feet padding aimlessly. Gross malnourishment.
That’s how people described the Yellow Hammers, a semi-isolated colony of the ostracized and downtrodden in Illinois that developed during the Reconstruction Era.
The history of the Yellow Hammers is murky. As the legend goes, a Colonel Brodie of the Civil War — it doesn’t include a first name — came home to Alabama, the Yellowhammer State, and relocated to Wilmington, Illinois where he purchased several acres of wooded land and invited anyone from his home state to come live on it, creating essentially an encampment people called “Brodie’s Woods.” Those people who relocated to Wilmington from Alabama were impoverished, almost permanently, and made pariahs in the community as they huddled on Brodie’s land.
The pariahs’ poverty prevented those among them who were employed from purchasing their own equipment so they used company tools — when they were able to work — whose handles were painted yellow.
These stories, reported by a high school student, can’t be confirmed. First, the only nineteenth century colonel named Brodie was about 12 years old when the Civil War started. One William Brodie from Alabama fought in the Civil War but there’s no record of his being a colonel. A now defunct local Chicago newspaper, the Surburbanite Economist, reported in 1970 that an area of Wilmington, Illinois was known as Brodie’s Woods, but that’s one of very few verifiable mentions of the area.
The more likely story of the root of Yellowhammer is that a cavalry of soldiers from Huntsville went to Kentucky during the Civil War to aid Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s — history will call him both a Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and an innovative warrior — Company A of the Confederate Army. They wore new sharp gray uniforms adorned with brilliant yellow trim. A Confederate soldier in tatters said they looked like the bird the yellowhammer, a type of woodpecker, which was made Alabama’s state bird in 1927. The Yellowhammers ended up becoming valuable team members; they supported several of Gen. Forrest’s victories, one of which frustrated Gen. Ulysses Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign.
That the history of the Yellow Hammers is so hard to pin down says quite a bit about the state today; tracing what really happens proves difficult. Even though Alabama media tries to cover events inside the prisons, the state of news in 2023 dictates that coverage isn’t as complete as anyone would like.
Just as the history of the Yellowhammers is unclear, the view into Alabama’s prisons is muddied by the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) and its commitment to opacity. The officials who run that system do not like looksies. Early this year, ADOC stopped releasing the number of in-custody deaths on a monthly basis, ostensibly because there were so many that they either couldn’t keep up or didn’t want to be embarrassed by their inability to protect the state's wards.
Nevertheless, the reports of carnage that keep dripping out — two men were murdered on May 15, 2023, an additional pair added to a list of over 60 since January 1, 2023 — have contributed to a narrative that men and women in Alabama prison are incorrigible, even feral, when all they’re doing is adapting to the environment that the state has established for them.
The truth is that a good number of them are quite high-minded. When they staged a strike last fall, they didn’t even protest the squalid conditions they live in, which happen to be deplorable. Instead they sought policy reform on sentencing and parole which will ultimately benefit people beyond them.
Their strike demands were imminently reasonable, despite Gov. Kay Ivey’s disagreement. But the demands were really only part of the story of the strike. My sources tell me that — under the guidance of some dedicated leaders who I won’t name now — rival gangs and sworn enemies convened in good faith to hammer out what they needed to ask for. In that respect, they’re behaving better than many of us on the outside if they can display that type of comity. They came together despite the fact that they worry every day — along with family and friends — that they’ll be killed or starved. They’re fighting back non-violently. Bravely.
And even effectively. Because of the strike demands, lawmakers introduced two bills poised to pass the Alabama legislature. First is a bill that would mandate the right to attend one’s own parole hearings by video (they can’t attend these crucial proceedings now) and second is a bill that would allow people serving life sentences to petition to have their punishment reduced. Most prison work stoppages achieve nothing. This group of men and women convinced people to listen and act. Do not count these people out.
That doesn’t mean the wind is under their yellowhammer wings. Gov. Ivey just signed a bill into law that reforms the so-called “good time” statute by making it harder to earn time off one’s sentence because ADOC failed to take the good time of someone who attempted escape. Their resilience doesn’t mean they’re safe now or being treated justly. It’s just the opposite.
Alabama’s prison population reflects a lot of their yellowhammer history. Like woodpeckers, they’re tenacious fighters. Much like the Yellowhammer Cavalry in 1862, they're nimble, capable of putting up a few wins, but then ultimately forgotten.
And they aren't living much differently than Brodie’s Yellow Hammers. Some aren’t supplied shoes and therefore aren’t allowed in the chow hall. As I have reported before, the ADOC intentionally starves them when they assert their rights. They wander, often squatting in dorms where they’re not assigned because they want to avoid being raped. The violence doesn’t cease; I hear reports of outright beatings that all too often result in lost “good time” but no medical treatment. And they huddle, displaced and ostracized, in one of Alabama’s 15 state-sanctioned colonies of fear and panic.
But unlike the legend of Brodie’s Woods, these tales are true and verifiable. There’s no fiction here. It’s traceable. It tracks, all too well.
That’s why today The National Memo announces an unflinching series that goes inside Alabama’s criminal legal crisis: the Yellowhammer Files. We’re going to trace and track data and stories until something changes. Check these files as they are published and you will be stunned by what you read.
Chandra Bozelko served more than six years in a maximum-security facility in Connecticut. While inside she became the first incarcerated person with a regular byline in a publication outside of the facility. Her “Prison Diaries" column ran in The New Haven Independent. Her work has earned several professional awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Los Angeles Press Club, The National Federation of Press Women and more.Her columns now appear regularly in The National Memo.