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Weekly Updates from Attorney General Ken Paxton: March 10, 2017

Friday, March 10, 2017 – Austin


In every democracy, there is a risk that public passion will turn against the cause of liberty.  Alexis de Tocqueville, when writing about a young America, put a name to this fear. He called it “the tyranny of the majority.” De Tocqueville observed that the United States, more than most, was able to fend off the tendrils of impatience that led to majority oppression. Not only did our Constitution divvy up power among the branches and between the states, but Americans were also quick to form associations, which could muster resources to fight illegal and corrupt conduct.

Heeding de Tocqueville’s advice, I joined the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) for their annual winter meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. To quote their website, NAAG is the professional association, which attorneys general rely upon “to assist in the delivery of high quality legal services” as well as “respond effectively . . . to emerging state and federal issues.” Indeed, on multiple occasions, the connections my staff and I made at NAAG and the trainings we attended gave us the resources we needed to counter threats to individual liberty, particularly those that emanated from darkly lit chambers in Washington, D.C..

NAAG designed this winter meeting to introduce state attorneys general to the Trump administration and the legal questions it expected to materialize under the new leadership. No one, however, quite realized how successful that endeavor would prove. To our surprise, President Donald Trump had heard that NAAG was meeting in the city. He took it upon himself to not only invite us to the White House but also to give us a personal tour of the West Wing. I’ll admit there was part of me that couldn’t get over the outer worldliness of the whole appearance. There we were. Democrat and Republican, young bucks and the old guard, all being briefed by the president himself in the East Room on the challenges our country faces and what we could do to help.

It was a complete 180 degree turn from what came before under President Obama. In the two years our terms overlapped, my office could hardly procure a returned phone call from the Obama administration, much less a personal audience. Yet, barely two-months in, President Trump went out of his way to meet all the state attorneys general, regardless of party, and listen to our concerns.

What’s more, President Trump acted on what he learned. This is true of his entire administration. My short stay in Washington, D.C. allowed me to touch base with multiple high-placed officials, including Administrator Scott Pruitt, the recently confirmed head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). About two days before our meeting, my office sent the EPA a letter asking that it suspend a prohibitively expensive information request directed at oil and gas companies. When I walked into his office, that letter sat right there on the desk. Administrator Pruitt thanked me for bringing the matter to his attention and promised he would look into it. A mere 24-hours later, the EPA withdrew the request. That, my friends, is how a responsive national government should work.

I left Washington, D.C. with my spirits uplifted. Many politicians talk a good game about cooperation and the need to cultivate relationships that cross political party and among the states. Very few are willing to follow through with deeds. In a handful of interactions, President Trump and his administration did more to develop a collaborative government than his predecessor achieved in eight years. President Trump respects the role states and civic associations play in keeping America free. From that respect will come the opportunity to recreate a federal government that empowers rather than confines.

Very Truly Yours,

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Ken Paxton