HARLINGEN, RGV – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton believes that if were not for the Lone Star State, the U.S. Constitution would have been left in tatters by President Obama.
In a speech to the Harlingen Area Chamber of Commerce, Paxton pointed out that in his two and a half years as AG, his office has sued the Obama Administration 22 times. He said it has also sued the Trump Administration five times, though not many people are aware of that. His predecessor as AG, Greg Abbott, also sued the Obama Administration a lot. Paxton said the main reason for the lawsuits is protection of the Separation of Powers doctrine.
As he closed out his speech, Paxton told and audience of business men and women about the importance of voting, and electing the right people who stand up and defend the U.S. Constitution.
“I can tell you that if Texas were not here we would have lost the battle, it would be over. The Constitution as we know it, the fundamental difference in the separation of powers that the Founders so deeply cared about… and why did they care about it? They built it in a way that would protect us from ourselves,” Paxton said.
“If we as Texans don’t defend that… a lot of the country has lost that because they are caught up in the forest, they see the trees and not the whole forest. Each tree is an individual policy decision. ‘Well I agree with that policy so it is okay if we break the law.’ That is not how we view it. The bigger question is, are we going to stick to this Constitution that protects all of our rights. Once we lose Separation of Powers, the first amendment, the second amendment, the fourth amendment, we start whittling away at all of our constitutional freedoms.”
Paxton said the media never focuses on the bigger issues. “They get caught up with the tree. What I am suggesting to you is think about the bigger picture, because Texas truly has, I believe, had an impact in a way that no other state has had in the last decade. Of making sure that we fundamentally stick to what our Founding Fathers gave us, which is a government that is very different to other countries. We don’t have kings and dictators, we have a representative form of government that you guys have an impact on. And that is what I am here to defend.”
Earlier in his speech, Paxton asked a rhetorical question: why does Texas file so many lawsuits against the federal government? “It is not because we don’t like President Obama or President Trump. It is because Texas has an interest in defending something very precious to all of us, no matter what your political persuasion is,” he answered.
He said other states look to Texas to take the lead.
“We fought that Texas fight, we led the way, other states trusted us because we have the ability, we have the resources, we had the desire, and we had the support to go fight this fight. They knew we could go toe-to-toe with the federal government and we did, over and over and over. But for the election I think all was lost,” Paxton said, referencing the fact that President Trump has been able to replace Justice Scalia with another conservative on the Supreme Court.
“In his first two years in office, President Obama was able to get things through Congress like Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. Well then Congress changed after two years and he pretty much gave up working with them and he decided to start making law from the executive branch. And states started fighting back for the first time in history,” Paxton said.
“We get criticized, well, you’re against the president on this, this, and this. We are really not. We are against the process being violated. If we let it happen once then any president could do it. We would not let President Obama do it, we won’t let Trump do it. It is fundamental to our process.
“You might love what President Obama did on the overtime rule, you might like what he did on immigration. But if we let go, because we liked it, then the fundamental structure of our government breaks down and your vote is meaningless, then all the power is residing in one place.”
By way of an example, Paxton cited President Obama’s executive orders on immigration.
“I honestly believe that if you look at our immigration case, where we have won all the way to the Supreme Court. Scalia had passed away, we tied 4-4, four justices told us that they were okay with Obama changing the law. Even though he admitted he was not supposed to, that he was not a king, that he was not an emperor, these were his words, and yet he came out and changed the law. So, we have to decide, do we want a government or do we have a king? Because that is exactly where we are headed,” Paxton said.
Paxton said the fight is not over just because the leadership of the executive branch has changed. He said the battle now is making sure the courts do not violate the Constitution.
“The fight is not over. The fight to defend the Constitution is never over. The battle has changed. The battle has moved away from the executive branch and has really moved to the courts,” Paxton said, citing President Trump’s travel ban. Paxton said his office has stepped in with amicus brief. He said it is wrong of courts to grant constitutional rights to those who do not live here.
“It is worth the fight. Whether you agree with the travel ban or not, it is still about the law, it is still about can the courts now just make up their own law because that is what they are doing. We are in that fight again to keep the consistency because my job, I was sworn to uphold the Constitution and that is my first obligation. I am not there to make policy decisions. I am there to call balls and strikes and enforce the law,” Paxton said.
The work of the Attorney General’s Office
Paxton started his speech with a joke, a little information about his family, including a story about running a half marathon against one of his daughters, and then an explanation about what an attorney general’s office does. The joke was about his wife writing a song called, “’I’m a pistol packin’ mama and my husband sues Obama.” The audience laughed.
Before becoming attorney general, Paxton was a state senator and before that a state representative from Collin County. He said the last two and half years have been very rewarding.
“I have been attorney general for two and a half years. It has been the most amazing experience of my life, representing the people of Texas in this really important job. It has an impact locally and on the entire state and on the entire country,” he said.
Paxton said there were four main parts to a Texas AG’s job. He said the first is law enforcement. One of the big areas there is capturing child predators, he said. “We do a lot of sting operations around the state. Obviously, we are trying to send a message to child predators. You should not be doing this in Texas and if you do, we are going to catch you. You never know what city we are going to be in.”
Another area of law enforcement the AG’s office gets involved in is arresting fugitives, he explained. “We’ve arrested over 7,000,” he said, proudly. Another area of law enforcement is preventing human trafficking, he said. “I learned as a state senator that human trafficking is a huge problem in Texas. We are No. 2 in nation for human trafficking. Obviously, that is a list we do not want to be on. Houston is the worst city in country for human trafficking.” He said education is an important part of the fight against human trafficking. “Our goal is to bring Texas off the Top Ten list. Certainly, after listening to some of the stories I’ve heard, it is a tragedy that we need to address.”
The second part of a Texas attorney general’s work is handing the distribution of funding to the victims of crime, Paxton said. And the third part is child support. He said this consumes 62 percent of the AG’s budget.
“We have over 2,000 people in child support. Just to give you an idea on how successful Texas is, we collect about $4 billion a year. California collects about $2.3 billion. We are the most efficient in the country at collecting child support. Why is this important? One, you are helping these children, two, you are helping custodial parents, and three, you are helping the state because if we can get these kids and parents the money they stay out of the state program,” Paxton said. He said that for every dollar his office spends on child support, it brings in $1.27. He said California only collects about $2.50 for every dollar it spends on child support. “We are really effective at this. The federal government has recognized us and given us awards,” Paxton said.
The fourth area of a Texas attorney general’s work is being the state’s lawyer, Paxton said. He said this has nothing to do with policy or politics.
“We represent the state based on the law, whether we agree with the law or like the law, our job is to represent the state and represent the legislature. We represent every agency in the state, from health and human services to TxDOT, there’s a few we would like to get rid of but we still have to represent them,” Paxton said.
The AG’s office is also involved in issuing legal opinions. “We get asked by legislators on certain legal issues,” Paxton said. “I have to confess I have written a lot of opinions I do not like. We don’t base our opinions on what I like. We base our opinions on what the law is. I have told my opinions team, write it the way the law is, we’ll put it out. It does not have to agree with what I would think is the best policy. We just have to make sure it is what the law is.”
The AG’s office is also responsible for open records requests. Paxton said his office has 52 lawyers that review about 27,000 open records requests, from cities and other governmental entities. He said it is important these governmental bodies are transparent with the general public.
Paxton said the lawyer side of the ledger is profitable for the state. “We have had three cases in the last two years that have saved the state about $20 billion. If you don’t have people with talent you are going to lose some of these cases. We have about 3,002 employees. 117 offices and almost 800 lawyers. It is a significant operation that is interesting, challenging and exciting to have the opportunity to manage,” Paxton said.