Texas AG Ken Paxton Tried To Get Disaster Relief Money Taken Away From Own State
So we just found out something fun. If by "fun," you mean dumb and horrifying.
Back in May, when CARES Act funds were being doled out by the feds, indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote a letter to Trump Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin about the money that would be going to state and local governments in Texas.
Now, upon seeing that a state AG reached out to Treasury about money going to his state, it would be reasonable to presume that he was trying to get more money for his state and his constituents.
But "reasonable" is not a word anyone has ever used to describe Ken Paxton.
Absolutely astoundingly, the Texas Attorney General wrote to the US Department of the Treasury to request money be taken away from the biggest, most populous county in his state.
But wait, it gets better.
Paxton's reason for wanting money to be taken away from his own constituents? He was mad that Harris County (where Houston is located) was trying to make it easier for people to vote during the pandemic.
This is one of those things that is SO FUCKING STUPID AND INSANE that if it weren't 2020, I almost wouldn't believe it was happening. These guys are really just trying their best to be cartoon villains — and Ken Paxton sees himself in a starring role.
What is it, asshole day?
Ken Paxton has had a busy year! When he's not out committing a whole bunch of crimes (allegedly) or challenging Sidney Powell for the dumbest coup-attempt lawsuit, he has been trying to make it harder for people to vote.
So, in May, Paxton penned this adorable letter to Treasury overlord Mnuchin to whine about Harris County trying to make voting easier and asked him to "seek return of any amounts improperly spent on efforts to promote illegal mail-in voting."
Predictably, the letter is almost as dumb as Ken Paxton himself.
"We respectfully ask the Department to scrutinize its award of CARES Act funding to Harris County in light of the County's stated intent to use federal funding in violation of state law, and to the extent possible, seek return of any amounts improperly spend on efforts to promote illegal mail-in voting."
In case you were wondering, we checked, and yes, Ken Paxton IS, in fact, the Attorney General for the entire state of Texas, and not just the people who voted for him.
Despite the fact that there is ZERO EVIDENCE, NONE, that absentee or mail-in ballots result in widespread fraud and actual evidence showing neither Republicans nor Democrats benefit from mail-in voting, Ken Paxton actually claims that, by providing federal disaster relief aid during a pandemic, the Treasury Department is aiding and abetting election fraud.
"Without implementing adequate protections against unlawful abuse of mail-in ballots, the Department could be cast in a position of involuntarily facilitating election fraud."
Harris County spent about $33 million administering the election, with about $24 million coming from CARES Act funding. Most of the money paid for PPE and staffing costs. And it worked! Five days before Election Day, it had already exceeded its entire 2016 turnout. 1.66 million voters cast ballots in Harris County this year, resulting in nearly 70 percent turnout.
Like Harris County Elections Administrator Isabel Longoria said:
"Just as intended, voters had more options to vote without jeopardizing their health. We invested in public safety that resulted in record voter turnout. We're proud to show Ken Paxton what it looks like to invest in public safety rather than politicized letters."
The fact that Ken Paxton wants to make it harder for his constituents to vote is no secret — Paxton was almost as fanatical as Trump about trying to stop people from safely voting in November. He went to extraordinary lengths to make it more difficult for Texans to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic, suing Harris County. Even now, he is threatening to sue the county again over Ms. Longoria's appointment.
Why does the Texas attorney general hate the people who live in its largest county so much? (That was a rhetorical question. It's because it's a very diverse population that tends to skew blue.)
But despite his busy schedule this year screwing the people, Paxton apparently found time to get his MD, writing to Treasury that,
"In addition to breaking state law, spending federal funds to haphazardly expand Texas's mail-in ballot system is not a thoughtful response to the problems created by COVID-19."
And why is that?
Apparently, it's because "various partisan groups and individuals" (I guess including the Harris County clerk?) have been trying, through the court system and the state legislature, to do things like expand access to mail-in balloting and allow more early voting polling places. And, says the man who recently filed a lawsuit trying to overturn the results of a presidential election,
"This flood of litigation seeks to use COVID-19 as a pretext to judicially overhaul Texas's election system on the eve of a presidential election. Viewed in this context, the Harris County Commissioner Court's push to expand mail-in balloting is merely a continuation of a long-standing goal to revamp Texas's election law."
Well, I never! Can Ken borrow Lindsey Graham's fainting couch?
The letter was obtained by government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) as part of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Treasury Department. To quote CREW:
"It's one thing for Paxton to publicly wage his war against mail-in voting in the courts; it's another for him to privately urge the federal government to rescind scarce aid given to his state amid a global pandemic. That's beyond the pale, even for Paxton."
Paxton's office refused to offer any statement about the letter, saying it "speaks for itself." Governor Greg Abbott, the Harris County Republican Party, and the Texas Republican Party also refused requests for comment.
You mean Texas Republicans don't want to talk more about about their state attorney general trying to take federal disaster relief money away from his own constituents?! SHOCKED I AM SHOCKED.
Let's give Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo the last word on this one:
Taking emergency relief funds from the people of Harris County would have knocked the floor out of our citizens’ ab… https://t.co/U5g7mEKYcs— Lina Hidalgo (@Lina Hidalgo)1608674487.0
Here's the letter, in all its horror:
As a holiday treat to yourself, you should probably follow Jamie on Twitter.