In Ken Paxton trial, money and ‘jury tampering.’ It’s a ‘crazy pants’ world | Opinion

Washington politics has come to Austin.

And the result only gets more revolting.

Two years after most Texas House Democrats bolted to Washington to basically become a national Democratic Party stage prop, Texas Senate Republicans now feel the flamethrower from outsiders stoking Texas debates into 2024 campaign fodder.

Only days before his impeachment trial, even one-third of Republicans in Texas didn’t really know much about Ken Paxton.

Now, the newly restored Texas attorney general is a national celebrity.

Thanks in part to national and global political consultants turning the licentious Paxton into a flawed American hero to be saved at all costs like former President Donald Trump, a Texas Republican rift was turned into a flaming crater of crazy and near-violent worldwide backlash.

A Texas Monthly senior editor has written about how he easily signed up with a company paying $50 each for posting social media comments about Paxton. His checks were signed by Candice Parscale, wife of Trump’s Texas-based 2016 digital guru Brad Parscale.

When Paxton was returned to office by what started as a two-vote margin, he used his personal X.com account, formerly Twitter, to thank British conspiracy promoter Raheem Kassam. His National Pulse political website aggressively campaigns for the worldwide populist-nationalist movement to weaken global cooperation, and also hosts some Steve Bannon content.

Kassam also used his X.com account to retweet a message from Florida poison-pen author Rogan O’Handley, telling his 1.1 million followers that state Sen. Kelly Hancock, a North Richland Hills Republican, is a “RINO backstabber” for voting to remove Paxton.

The same post was also shared on Trump’s own social media site, Truth Social.

This came after Arizona-based youth evangelist Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA posted to his 2.5 million followers rallying them to call Hancock and nine other senators in the middle of jury deliberations and “tell them you support the attorney general.”

Kirk lied to his followers. He said Paxton was re-elected in 2022 “even after every allegation against him was made public.”

Later, Kirk singled out Hancock again, saying the values-voting, pro-life Tarrant County senator “voted straight line Democrat.”

All this stuff is meant for one purpose and one purpose only: to enrage resentful Trump supporters to be even more rage-filled and resentful.

Don’t take it from me.

Take it from former state Sen. Konni Burton, a Colleyville Republican, former tea party co-founder and publisher of The Texan state political website.

“Voters are being used so bad and it’s actually really not the candidates nor the politicians who are doing it,” she wrote on X.com, referring to websites accusing various Republican presidential candidates of secret conspiratorial ties to China, former President George W. Bush or Democratic donor George Soros.

“It’s the online grifters who are wanting likes/engagement/prestige/influence who are” using voters, Burton wrote.

“They are not your friends. They are using you to make you crazy pants.”

After the verdict, state Sen. Carol Alvarado, a Houston Democrat, said the jury of senators “were getting bombarded with text messages from outside groups. And you could just tell that they were being influenced by that.”

State Sen. Kelly Hancock holds a vote during the impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton at the Texas Capitol on Saturday, Sep. 16, 2023.
State Sen. Kelly Hancock holds a vote during the impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton at the Texas Capitol on Saturday, Sep. 16, 2023.

In an interview to be aired at 9 a.m. Sunday on WFAA/Channel 8’s “Inside Texas Politics” and streamed on WFAA.com, Hancock said his phone “blew up at one point — filled up with text messages ... while we’re supposed to be deliberating.”

Hancock said he believes the messages were tied to political consultants working for Paxton.

“There was a lot of money trying to put pressure on this jury,” Hancock said earlier in the interview — “a lot of jury tampering, as you would call it.”

Hancock said his phone rang again Saturday with thanks for his vote to remove Paxton. According to descriptions, as many as 10 Republican senators considered voting for removal. But it would have taken 12 Republicans. Most retreated by time to vote.

Only Hancock and independent-minded East Texas state Sen. Robert Nichols were left supporting removal.

(The trial was simply over removal, not over any criminal charge, guilt, innocence or acquittal.)

Hancock told WFAA he prayed, dug deeper into the exhibits beyond what was presented in testimony, looked into other witnesses who failed to show up or defend Paxton, and “really had a peace” about voting to remove the state’s lead litigator.

Hancock voted in relative safety. He doesn’t run for re-election until 2026, and his district has been redrawn to include a lot of traditional conservatives in Fort Worth.

Plus, north Tarrant County values-voter conservatives like Burton and county commissioner candidate Matt Krause, once a Paxton opponent, had their doubts.

Even pastor Doug Page of the politically influential First Baptist Church of Grapevine, where Paxton spoke in 2015 after he was indicted in a still-pending securities fraud case, told the Texas Tribune without taking sides that “our choices have consequences” and that he hopes Paxton “will surround himself with people who will encourage him to walk with Jesus.”

Hancock told WFAA his 30-year battle with kidney failure before a 2022 transplant taught him to “just take it one day at a time.”

“And when you live a day at a time,” he said, “the most important thing to do is the right thing.”

Post that.