It's probably not a good sign for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton when the newspaper in the state's capitol city calls for him to resign.
The editorial in the Austin American-Stateman's headline Sunday was "Leaders should urge Paxton to step down." And it's just the latest in a parade of editorials from newspapers around the state.
"Above all else, public servants should serve the public.”
"No one can argue it serves the public interest for Attorney General Ken Paxton — still under indictment for an old scandal and now under FBI investigation for a new one — to remain the state’s chief legal and law enforcement officer.”
"His integrity is tattered. His credibility is shot."
You get the idea.
Of course, the editorial urging Paxton to step down as the chief law enforcement officer in the second most populous state in the country isn't the first to call for him to step down. The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and the Houston Chronicle made that call weeks ago.
The Dallas News said Nov. 8 that "Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton must resign now. Full stop. The issue now goes beyond whether a crime has been committed, and there are mounting allegations against him. It raises questions of whether he can do the job and whether the people of the state of Texas reasonably can have faith in him to do the job."
The various editorials point out that Paxton is seeming to play favoritism footsie with a billionaire campaign contributor. That raised enough eyebrows in his office that seven of his top hand-chosen employees co-signed a letter to federal law enforcement authorities asking them to investigate.
The allegations involve Austin billionaire real-estate mogul Nate Paul, who gave Paxton $25,000 for his 2018 reelection campaign. Paul's office and home, it turned out, had been raided by the FBI in August 2019.
Paxton, according to several statements, became concerned about that and other matters, including a lawsuit between Paul and a charity. He planned to appear personally in court over the charity matter, but a top staffer, Paul Mateer, told reporters he talked Paxton out of that. But then Paxton hired a special prosecutor to investigate Paul's complaints of mistreatment by federal law enforcement authorities.
According to the Dallas News, Paul recalled in a sworn statement that he had hired a former legislative aide that Paxton had recommended. Paxton had had an affair with the woman Paul hired, two sources told the News' two reporters.
Paxton's top staffers became sufficiently alarmed by his personal involvement on Paul's behalf that it triggered their decision to call for help from federal law enforcement authorities.
Paxton has repeatedly said he's not guilty of anything. “Despite the effort by rogue employees and their false allegations, I will continue to seek justice in Texas,” Paxton said.
Another interesting call for Paxton to resign came from ultra-conservative U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, who had been Paxton's chief of staff. Roy, who recently staved off a reelection challenge from former State Sen. Wendy Davis, said even if Paxton is innocent, he's handled the situation poorly.
“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 characters are beyond reproach,” Roy said. “The attorney general deserves his day in court, but the people of Texas deserve a fully functioning AG’s office.”
The day after Paxton's employees sent their letter to the federal authorities, Gov. Greg Abbott said the charges "raise serious concerns." Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called the charges "obviously concerning."
Both declined further comment "until the results of any investigation are complete."
That wasn't enough for the Austin paper.
"Now is the time for them to stand up for Texans and urge Paxton to step down," the paper declared.