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EDITORIAL: Paxton charges prove need for smarter voting

EDITORIAL: Paxton charges prove need for smarter voting

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We’ll resist the temptation to credit Providence with the latest allegation of corruption leveled at Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton by veteran members of his very own staff, but the timing couldn’t be more instructional for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. Two years ago this newspaper pointedly reminded Central Texas voters that Paxton was damaged goods even when tea-party Republicans chose him over two eminently qualified Republican conservatives in the 2014 GOP primary election. Texas Republicans did so despite then-state Sen. Paxton’s admission that he had broken state law in failing to register with the Texas State Securities Board in investment matters. One might think voters would have more sense than to elect to such a critical, crime-busting office someone with ethical and legal questions buzzing around him.

The allegations then were that Paxton went around encouraging people to buy stock in a North Texas tech company without revealing he was being compensated by that company. Among the people the McKinney Republican reportedly deceived were friends, business associates, law firm clients and members of an investment group to which he belonged. According to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission complaint, he raised some $840,000 in investor funds for the company and received 100,000 shares of stock in return. Since then, with the aid of some judges and justices functioning as politicians beneath their robes, he has managed to long delay the justice and accountability he demands of others. Yet voters in 2018 went right ahead and re-elected him rather than cleaning house and, yes, voting into office a Democrat facing no such damning allegations.

Now, in an unrelated development, senior staff members at the Texas Attorney General’s Office — people in the business of recognizing violations of the law and pursuing lawbreakers — have brought criminal allegations against their boss, accusing him of employing government resources to serve the financial ends of an Austin real estate investor and Paxton donor. These senior officials press federal law enforcement to “investigate allegations of improper influence, abuse of office, bribery and other potential crimes.” And, yes, Johnny-come-lately Republicans of some stature such as Sen. John Cornyn have now begun to question Paxton’s fitness to serve. Yet Texas voters twice have made the decision that an arguably compromised Republican is better than an honest Democrat. Which is why our nation is fast sinking into a swamp of corruption instead of draining it.

No, Paxton isn’t up for re-election this cycle, which means that, barring some unforeseen development, a hobbled Texas Attorney General’s Office will likely limp along into our future, its decisions and rulings increasingly greeted by legitimate cynicism and suspicion, even among Republicans. It’s a spectacle worth considering as voters begin casting ballots. The first question for all should be not what party the candidates have sworn allegiance to but whether voters themselves have placed such allegiances above integrity, honesty, competence and courage.

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