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After slamming impeachment attempt, Republicans want to know how much Paxton's trial cost

A man in a suit stands in the foreground in front of a microphone with two men and a woman standing behind him.
Ricardo B. Brazziell
Pool via American-Statesman
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick presides during the sixth day of the impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton in the Senate chamber at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on Tuesday, September 12, 2023. Paxton pleaded not guilty last week to numerous articles of impeachment.

Just 48 hours after the Texas Senate concluded its impeachment proceedings of state attorney general Ken Paxton, Republican lawmakers have asked the state auditor’s office to review how much the Texas House and Senate spent during the investigation and trial.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s requested an audit Monday afternoon. Patrick acted as judge in the trial and then fiercely criticized the process after its conclusion. A request from state Rep. Brian Harrison, R-Midlothian, to audit the expenses came a couple hours earlier.

The Texas Senate Saturday acquitted Paxton of 16 articles of impeachment delivered to them by the Texas House earlier this year.

In his request to Texas State Auditor Lisa Collier, Patrick said: “To be clear, the goal is to determine the absolute total cost to the state of preparing for and conducting this trial from the beginning through its conclusion. This must detail all expenses, including but not limited to, investigators expenses, document production and assembly, attorney expenses, witness fees, travel, food and lodging.”

‘Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted’

While acting as judge in the impeachment trial, Patrick remained uncharacteristically quiet, not commenting before or during proceedings. But just minutes after Saturday’s verdicts were delivered, Patrick unleashed a diatribe slamming what he called a rushed — and expensive — process.

“Millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this impeachment. Thirty-one Senators and a large Senate staff that made this trial possible have put their family life, jobs, and businesses on hold for three months after being here already from January to June,” he said, referring to the regular and special legislative sessions of the 2023 Texas Legislature.

Paxton was suspended from office in May after the Texas House General Investigating committee presented articles of impeachment to the chamber, alleging Paxton abused his office and committed bribery to aid a friend and campaign donor. After a two-week trial in the Texas Senate, Paxton was acquitted of the charges and reinstalled as attorney general, a position he was reelected to for the third time last year.

Rep. Harrison was also one of several Republican officials to denounce the impeachment proceedings after Paxton’s acquittal, calling it a proceeding that “tarnished the reputation of the entire Texas House.”

“Please consider the transmission of this letter to be my formal request for the State Auditor’s office to conduct a full, thorough prompt audit to determine how much tax money was spent on the impeachment process of Attorney General Ken Paxton,” Harrison wrote to Texas State Auditor Lisa Collier, according to a post on social media.

What’s next?

An official at the state auditor’s office told The Texas Newsroom that when a lawmaker requests an audit, the request is sent to the Legislative Audit Committee, which is the agency’s governing authority.

This is where politics might again come into play. The audit committee is currently comprised of six Republicans. Besides Patrick, one member is House Speaker Dade Phelan, who supported Paxton’s impeachment and fired back at Patrick’s criticism after the acquittal, saying “his tirade disrespects the Constitutional impeachment process.”

“The inescapable conclusion is that today’s outcome appears to have been orchestrated from the start, cheating the people of Texas of justice,” Phelan added.

The audit committee also includes:

  • State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, who voted to acquit Paxton on all charges.
  • State Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, one of only two Texas Senate Republicans to vote for Paxton’s impeachment on most of the articles.
  • State Rep. Morgan Myer, R-University Park, who was on the House board of managers which brought forward the articles of impeachment.
  • State Rep. Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, who was appointed to the powerful position by Speaker Phelan.

In his request, Patrick asked for a “special audit,” which under the Texas Government Code is described as a “a financial audit of limited scope.”

It’s unclear if that request circumvents the normal committee process. Patrick’s office did not respond to several requests for comment about his audit request, and Phelan’s office said it had no comment as of Monday afternoon. The offices of Nichols, Huffman and Meyer did not immediately respond to similar requests.