Paxton, wife traveled to Utah as Texas froze
While millions of Texans languished in their homes last week without heat, many of them racking up astronomical electricity bills, the state official in charge of consumer protection left to take an out-of-state trip.
According to a campaign spokesman, Attorney General Ken Paxton left the state during the middle of the power outage crisis to meet with a fellow attorney general in Utah for a “previously planned meeting,” reported the Dallas Morning News, which first broke the story. His wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, was also on the trip, she confirmed Monday through a spokeswoman.
The revelation marks the third instance of a Texas public official leaving the state during the disaster that affected nearly every one of the state’s 254 counties.
Last week, photos emerged showing that Sen. Ted Cruz flew to Mexico on Wednesday after losing power at his Houston home — a move he’s since said was “obviously a mistake” — and state Rep. Gary Gates, R-Richmond, traveled to Florida on a private jet.
Ken Paxton spokesman Ian Prior said that Paxton met with Utah AG Sean Reyes to discuss several matters, including their multistate antitrust lawsuit against Google.
Reyes’ spokesman Richard Piatt confirmed that Paxton was in Salt Lake City for meetings on Wednesday and Friday, and had “lengthy discussions” on the Google case.
Prior said Paxton also attended a demonstration of Utah’s law enforcement scenario simulator, which includes a wide variety of situations law enforcement must deal with and is used for training. He said Paxton is considering the program for Texas. Reyes said that meeting would have taken place in the suburb of Murray, about a 15-minute drive away.
“While there, AG Paxton had a number of meetings with the Utah attorney general over the course of several days,” Prior said. “I cannot further share additional details or the specific reasons on the need for the meeting concerning Google as it involves an ongoing investigation.”
Prior did not respond to questions about the timing of the Paxton’s trip, why the trip was not postponed or whether taxpayers funded the trip.
Angela Paxton’s spokeswoman Randan Steinhauser said in a statement that the Texas senator “joined AG Paxton on a previously planned trip to Utah, which included meetings that benefit her efforts to promote human dignity and support law enforcement.”
The Texas Legislature, for its part, effectively canceled all of its scheduled hearings last week during the outage.
A spokeswoman with the attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment nor did a spokesman for the senator.
As with Cruz, news of Paxton’s trip has already sparked an outcry, especially from Democrats.
“Does @KenPaxtonTX not have a Zoom account?” tweeted Chris Turner, the Texas House Democratic Caucus chair. “In a week when there were multiple reports of price gouging, the top official charged with consumer protection was out of state. And he wants his budget increased?”
State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, a Democrat from the San Antonio area, also tore into Paxton.
“Hey Paxton,” Martinez Fischer tweeted, “Texans are getting $15,000 electric bills — you are the state’s consumer cop and you abandoned ship when Texans needed your support?”
On Wednesday, Paxton announced he was launching an investigation into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates Texas’ electrical grid, and their “mishandling of this week’s extreme winter weather.”
“They have left 3+ million homes w/o power for days, including my own,” he tweeted. “What do they do in response? Jack up prices, go silent, make excuses, & play the blame game. It’s unacceptable!”
Prior said Paxton did lose power at his own home and did not leave Texas “until after power had returned to most of the state.”
But more than 2 million Texans were still without power on Wednesday evening — about half of the more than 4 million that lost power earlier in the week.