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Oil Billionaires Ride to Rescue Impeached AG Paxton

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton may be impeached, but he has friends in high places. Like, Spindletop high. The two oil billionaires funding Texas’s far-rightward shift are launching a campaign to save Paxton.

Paxton was recently impeached in the Texas House for abuse of office, a culmination of years of accusations and one state indictment for business fraud. He is the first Texas attorney general to ever be impeached. While he has tried to frame the move as a political witch hunt pushed by the woke left, a solid majority of Texas House Republicans voted to try him in the Senate for bribery, obstruction of justice, and more.

The Defend Texas Liberty PAC has sprung into action to defend Paxton. The PAC is the spiritual successor of Empower Texans, whose CEO Michael Quinn Sullivan was fined for ethics violations. Sullivan would go on to found Defend Texas Liberty, which is widely known to be funded by the same oil billionaires that financed Empower Texans: Farris Wilks and Tim Dunn.

Wilks and Dunn, probably more than any other force in the state, are largely responsible for the extremism seen in Republican politics over the last two legislative sessions. They have made it a practice to primary Republicans that they feel are insufficiently conservative, driving the party sharply right.

That is the playbook they appear to be using now to save Paxton. Shortly before the impeachment debate, the manager of the PAC, former State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, took to Twitter to threaten Republicans.

“There will be one helluva price to pay for voting w/ @DadePhelan and Dems,” he tweeted on May 26. “Wait until you see my PAC budget … A vote to impeach @KenPaxtonTX is a decision to have a primary. Can’t wait to see who sides with Democrats.”

Once the impeachment was done, Stickland tweeted that it was all a plot to keep Paxton from fighting Big Pharma and President Joe Biden.

Also in the fight is Republican Party of Texas Chair Matt Rinaldi, who founded the closely aligned Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, another group widely known to be fueled by Wilks and Dunn money. He released a statement following the impeachment.

“The impeachment proceedings against the Attorney General are but the latest front in the Texas House’s war against Republicans to stop the conservative direction of our state,” it read. “This sham impeachment is the result of the [House Speaker Dade] Phelan leadership team empowering Democrats, allowing them to hold leadership positions and letting them control the agenda.”

The impeachment of Paxton further opens the rift between the extreme right wing of the Republican Party and the traditional conservatives. Driven by a fundamentalist Christian nationalism, Wilks and Dunn, through Rinaldi, Sullivan, and Stickland, have paved the way for a massive rollback of rights of marginalized people in the state. It appears they are ready to punish Republicans who ousted Paxton, regardless of the evidence piled up against him, because Paxton has been incredibly effective at executing their agenda. 

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.


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