PolitiFact: Paxton alone among indicted officials


The Austin lawyer nominated by Democrats for state attorney general saw big-as-Texas significance in Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens announcing plans to resign.

Justin Nelson said in a tweet the day that Greitens announced he’d resign on June 1: “The Missouri Governor under indictment just quit. This means our Indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton is back to being the only statewide official in the country under indictment. Texans can make their decision to fire Indicted Ken Paxton in November.”

Greitens, a Republican, revealed he’d resign weeks after being accused of sexual misconduct and being charged with felony computer tampering for allegedly using a list of donors to his charity to raise campaign donations.

Paxton, a former state lawmaker running for a second term as Texas attorney general, was indicted on charges of securities fraud in the summer of 2015. The case has been mired in a dispute over how much several appointed prosecutors will be paid.

So, does Greitens’ move make Paxton the only statewide official in the U.S. under indictment?

We inquired into how Nelson reached his conclusion. Sean Haynes of his campaign provided a spreadsheet listing statewide elected positions in all the states and followed up with a campaign document that Haynes said shows web searches conducted for indicted statewide officials in the 50 states. Over several months, Haynes said, Nelson and campaign aides searched online for news reports or other indications of indictments of state officials before concluding that aside from Paxton and Greitens, no statewide elected officials were under indictment. The document indicates specific searches for the word “indicted” and the names of officials in each state across 14 job categories, starting with governor.

Along with Paxton, the document indicates, an Oklahoma official was under indictment in 2016-17. Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma’s elected state superintendent of public instruction, was indicted in November 2016 for allegedly raising campaign donations illegally and coordinating attack ads against her predecessor before the 2014 Republican primary. But those felony charges were dropped Aug. 1, 2017.

Haynes also pointed out an August 2017 arrest in Arizona leading Joe Hart, Arizona’s elected mine inspector, to be accused of domestic violence after a fight with his nephew. That charge was dismissed by the Kingman, Ariz., city attorney.

Next, we searched for indictments of statewide officials in news stories compiled by the Nexis news database in 2017-18 — and found no indications of indicted statewide officials beyond Paxton.

We also reached out to the Associated Press, Governing magazine, the Almanac of American Politics, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, the Center for Public Integrity, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the Institute for Corruption Studies at Illinois State University. No one said its researchers tracked indicted officials across the land.

Our inquiries turned up a statewide elected official recently acquitted of criminal charges and another perhaps at risk of more scrutiny.

In January, U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was acquitted of charges alleging he had accepted bribes in return for political favors, and the Justice Department dismissed remaining charges against him.

A federal judge in April found Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, in contempt of court for failing to carry out the court’s orders in an elections matter. Perhaps Kobach is in hot water, but a contempt finding is not the same as a criminal indictment.

Our ruling:

Nelson tweeted that Paxton, his November election opponent, “is back to being the only statewide official in the country under indictment.”

We didn’t find an authoritative database or research effort bearing out this statement. But interviews of experts and searches of news stories using the Nexis database didn’t yield contradictory information.

We rate this claim True.



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