I’m guessing it was a pretty tense Executive Team meeting at the Texas Attorney General’s Office this Monday morning. 

Actually, I don’t even know if the Texas Attorney General’s Office has Executive Team meetings on Monday, or ever. The point is that things must be pretty tense over there. According to a story broken first by the Austin American-Statesman, on Saturday: “Seven of (Texas Attorney General Ken) Paxton’s top aides, including (Deputy Attorney General Mark) Penley, filed a criminal complaint against their boss last week, alleging improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential crimes.”

The seven Deputy Attorney Generals went to HR on Paxton, or as the Statesman explained, “In a one-page letter to the state agency’s director of human resources, obtained Saturday by the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV, seven executives in the upper tiers of the office said that they are seeking the investigation into Paxton ‘in his official capacity as the current Attorney General of Texas.”’

One has to wonder, why now? Paxton has been under indictment since July 2015, only months after he took office. The Statesman summarized that too: “The complaint comes while Paxton remains under an indictment on charges of securities violations relating to private business deals in 2011 and 2012 in Collin County.” Paxton is of course innocent until proven guilty, but whatever happened to speedy trials? Plus, the way Paxton runs the AG’s office it’s hard to tell the difference between the Texas Attorney General’s Office and a Republican campaign office. He repeatedly gets Texas involved in politically oriented lawsuits. For example, Paxton organized a group of state Attorney Generals in a lawsuit seeking to get President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional — potentially taking insurance away from 20 million people, during a pandemic. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear that case on November 10.

Embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
Embattled Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

The Statesman followed up with a peek at what may have at least partly motivated the Deputy Attorney Generals to act now. They reported that one concern of the Deputies had to do with Paxton “unilaterally” appointing a “special prosecutor” to look into complaints of misconduct by federal agents when they raided the home and offices of wealthy business man Nate Paul. The Statesman further reported that the “special prosecutor” was Houston attorney Brandon Cammack, who had already obtained at least one subponea in his inquiry. Deputy Attorney General Penley wrote to Cammack, the Statesman reported, telling him not to take any further actions and explaining, ‘“You have not been retained, authorized, or deputized by this office as such and your actions are entirely inappropriate and may be illegal.”’

There is doubtlessly more to come on the Paxton saga, but now though let’s look in on a former Texas Attorney General who famously bragged that his job largely consisted of going to work, suing the Obama Administration, then going home. That was none other than Texas’ current Governor Greg Abbott. As we have noted from time to time in the Independent, Abbott has fluctuated back and forth during the coronavirus pandemic. Sometimes he acted a little more sane and a little more engaged and competent than President Donald Trump (an extremely low bar). At other times though, he caved in to Trump, to the lunatic, I’m ready to die, ravings of Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and to other denizens of farthest right reaches of his right wing party. 

Just to quickly review the caving in front, Abbott reopened Texas in May against CDC guidelines and also rolled back the authority of local officials to require masks. These actions predictably led to a surge in Covid 19 cases, including a major crisis in Houston. Thousands of people died who would likely still be with us if not for Abbott’s pandering to the farthest right elements of his party. (And, even then, the farthest right elements weren’t satisfied, exemplified by Dallas beautician and Texas Senate candidate Shelley Luther recently calling Abbott a “tyrant.”) 

It would be difficult for Abbott to come up with an action more shameful, and more damaging to human life and public trust than his rushing Texas into reopening. Last week though the Governor gave it a really good try.

It would be difficult for Governor Abbott to come up with an action more shameful, and more damaging to human life and public trust than his rushing Texas into reopening. Last week though the Governor gave it a really good try.

Abbott issued an order that no Texas County could have more than one drop off box for mail-in ballots in the upcoming election. Travis County had planned four, Harris County, 14. The urban counties were responding to Trump’s sabotage of the United States Post Office and his constant, unfounded accusations that mail balloting is subject to massive fraud. Mail balloting is expected to dramatically increase this year as voters rationally try to avoid long lines at polling places during the Covid Pandemic. Analysis of this likelihood has led many media and governmental outlets to report that this will make it likely that many votes will not be counted on election night and that the final result may not be known until days later. 

There are also predictions that Trump will do better in the counting on election day and Joe Biden will do better on mail in ballots. This caused Trump to leap to the conclusion that mail-in ballots are fraudulent — which probably makes sense in his mind if they are not ballots cast for him. For months now Trump has had his new Postmaster General blatantly sabotaging the operations of the Post Office. That way the ballots would arrive even later and that would make it easier for Republicans to challenge them. (By the way what kind of American tries to sabotage the Post Office — which goes back to Ben Franklin?)

So county election officials around Texas, especially in urban counties came up with the plan for drop boxes. That way Texas voters could fill out their mail in, or absentee, ballots and deposit them in a drop box, easing the pressure on the Post Office and ensuring the ballots would be there by election day.

This is the effort that Governor Abbott saw fit to derail with his one drop off box order. It is a naked voter suppression action. It also builds on (so far) successful efforts by Abbott and other Texas Republicans to keep Texans under 65 from being able to vote by mail due to the pandemic.

This is all just more evidence that this year’s election boils down to a referendum on human decency. It could not be clearer that Abbott and other Texas Republican leaders want to limit the number of Texans to vote. And, they want to do so in order to stay in power themselves. Abbott, Paxton and Patrick by the way are not on this year’s ballot, but, if they choose to run for reelection, they will be on the 2022 ballot.

Of course nowadays, when someone uses the word “decency” in relation to government or politics, that is taken as an attack on President Donald Trump. And, yes that is the case here, and yes, he has provided lots more evidence for my point during the past week.

Of course nowadays, when someone uses the word “decency” in relation to government or politics, that is taken as an attack on President Donald Trump.

As everyone knows Trump announced early Friday October 1, around 1 am, that he had tested positive for Covid. The exact time he knew that he was positive has not been determined, but it appears that, at the least, he attended a fundraiser at his New Jersey golf club after realizing that his aide Hope Hicks, with whom he had been in frequent contact, had tested positive. 

Also, earlier in the week Trump spewed almost non-stop for 90 minutes at the presidential debate, endangering the health of his opponent Biden and the moderator Chris Wallace. His family sat maskless in the audience even though they had agreed to rules that all attendees wear masks. Both Biden and Wallace have since tested negative so far, but it could take longer for a positive result to occur. Trump of course expressed no remorse for endangering Biden and Wallace.

After testing positive Trump entered Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he received treatment that is not available to regular Americans, maybe to none. He emerged a few days later lecturing Americans to not let Covid “dominate” their lives. During his hospital stay, he also required Secret Service agents to ride with him in a closed vehicle so he could wave to supporters outside the hospital. Meanwhile, Mike Pence’s campaign ridiculed Kamala Harris for insisting on a plexiglass screen between the two at their debate Wednesday and Pence asked that the plexiglass on his side of the stage be removed. (The photo at the top is from WhiteHouse.gov, which described it: “President Trump participates in a call with national security leaders from Walter Reed Medical Center | October 4, 2020”)

Well, I’m running out of space, but those are just a few examples of what I mean when I say the upcoming election is a referendum on human decency.

Early voting starts October 13.


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