Texas

Ken Paxton could fight for consumers, but instead he fights people he calls “woken up”.

Don’t tell me I’m criticizing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton because he’s a conservative Republican.

Another conservative Republican who was attorney general before him had such a positive impact on my personal and professional life that when I told him about it, I burst into tears.

It was 2002 and Attorney General John Cornyn was running for the US Senate. I sat down with him for an interview unlike any I’ve had before or since with a politician.

First, I remember thanking him for his work in strengthening the state’s open archives law. He ordered government officials to provide public reports quickly, removed the threat of litigation as a pretext for refusal, and ordered law enforcement to turn over reports they wanted to keep secret to the police.

He told me: “For me, the assertion that the power of government is in the hands of the people is a conservative principle.”

All this made my job easier.

Going to the personal side. I spoke to him about his promise to redo the children’s checkout. Prior to his arrival, calls to the child support service were not answered. Thousands of idlers ignored child support orders.

I knew this because the biological father of my two stepsons owed $20,000.

Calling it “my highest priority,” Cornyn reorganized the system, slashed the wages of idlers, and raised $4.5 billion. Like many others, we got our money. It was nothing short of a miracle. That’s why I shed a tear.

paxton makes me cry

The current owner of the office, Ken Paxton, entering his third term, brings me to tears for another reason. He is probably the most infamous Attorney General in the country. He was charged with selling securities without a proper license. He is under investigation by the FBI for supporting a donor/friend. And he was a speaker at the January 6 Stop the Steal rally before the Capitol uprising.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, accompanied by his wife, State Senator Angela Paxton, speaks for two minutes at the Stop Theft rally on January 6, 2021. The Paxtons were not part of the group that stormed the Capitol after the rally.(David Lieber)

My point is that Paxton could end Texas’ reputation as a lone state. He is legally the number one consumer rights activist in the state. But you won’t know it by its priorities. In his daily newscasts, he and his staff barely mention his child support oversight or consumer protection.

“Most Political”

Paxton is the “most political” attorney general in decades, says Brandon Rottinghouse, a political science professor at the University of Houston and a college textbook author. Inside Texas Politics.

“Paxton changed the office to a purely political office,” he said. “By design, the politician he’s focused on is cannibalizing other jobs he can’t do.”

He continued, “The Attorney General doesn’t have much time to prioritize. The more you focus on one thing, the less you can focus on something else.”

Paxton’s taxpayer-funded communications department refused to acknowledge my request for information on its consumer work. But if Paxton and I were talking, he would show me all the consumer protection cases filed by his office. Some of them are undertaken alone, but others are part of a team of attorneys general in other states.

Consumer protection is not the business of Republicans or Democrats. The scammers don’t care who you vote for. The same goes for companies that don’t deliver on their promises.

Last week, Paxton added his name to a legal brief before the U.S. Supreme Court to limit the power of the federal government’s only pro-consumer agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Many Republicans hate the CFPB. But by 2021, the 13-year-old bureau has returned $13.5 billion to consumers. Paxton claims that the bureau is damaging to business and is “irresponsible and out of control.” If he had his way, I bet he would have killed the bureau.

Paxton attracts spores like lightning to a lightning rod. I have criticized him in the past for publishing an unsigned 374 page report that cleared him of any wrongdoing. It also worries me that the day the US Supreme Court struck down the abortion law, it declared the work day a holiday and told its 4,000 employees they could take the day off. He can’t do it.

More recently, without first contacting Texas Department of Public Safety officials, he asked low-level DPS officials to compile a list of people who had changed their gender on their driver’s licenses in the last two years.

Why? He won’t say.

What is “awake”?

I came up with the Watchdog Theorem on how to measure Paxton’s political obsessions. I looked at how often in the last six months he used the word “wake up” on his daily newscast?

In today’s culture, the word “woke up” is not institutionalized; it’s a political word. Paxton loves it to the point of overuse. But this illustrates my point.

Political scientist Rottinghouse defines the word “awake” as “derisively implying that a person or organization is overly committed to racial and gender equality.”

My good friend Bill Tammeus, a journalist and writer, told me that he defines the word as meaning that we, as a society, are awakened. We finally acknowledge our society’s responsibility to correct and correct a white supremacist culture in which systems such as education and health care are unequally distributed.

The word is used as “a tool for beating people up,” he said. “It’s a hammer in the hands of the extreme right.”

In Paxton’s world, according to a study of his recent newscasts, he says he fights: against social programs, against corporations, against the rules of the Biden administration, against activists and school administrators. During his campaign for re-election, his television ads cited his opponent George W. Bush as guilty of a “revival plan to rethink the Alamo”.

How about learning about the scammers who commit cybercrime on a daily basis? Or companies that inflate prices, do not deliver, refuse to return money? These bad actors don’t hit one or two people. They caused damage to hundreds, if not thousands. Local law enforcement is overwhelmed. The FBI can do so much.

I wonder if I will ever again cry tears of joy over a politician who keeps his promises to improve our lives. With regard to the overuse of the word “wake up”, I should remind you that the opposite of the word “awake” is sleep.

One last note: kudos to the open records department in Paxton’s office. Local lawyers have ruled in favor of The Watchdog on two recent requests to open records.

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