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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 posted the day that Greitens announced he’d resign on June 1, 2018: "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 charged with felony computer tampering for allegedly using a list of donors to his charity, The Mission Continues, to raise campaign donations. As recapped by St. Louis Public Radio, that indictment occurred after KMOV-TV reported that the governor had had an extramarital affair and had allegedly taken a photo of the woman without her consent while she was bound and semi-nude. The governor, the woman said, then threatened to make the picture public if she talked about it. See Greitens’ resignation letter here.
Paxton, a former state legislator running for a second term as Texas attorney general, was indicted on charges of securities fraud in the summer of 2015 though 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?
Nelson campaign says it found no one else
We inquired into how Nelson reached his conclusion. By email, 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 by phone, 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.
Yanked charges in Oklahoma, Arizona
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, the Associated Press reported. But those felony charges were dropped Aug. 1, 2017, according to a news story in the Oklahoman. That story also quoted Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater saying the charges might be restored, "pending further investigation."
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, the Arizona Republic reported. We followed up with the Kingman, Ariz., police department whose deputy chief, Rusty Cooper, replied by email that the misdemeanor charge against Hart was later dismissed by the city attorney’s office.
Nobody tracks statewide officials under indictment
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 and entities including 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 otherwise turned up a statewide elected official recently acquitted of criminal charges and another perhaps at risk of more scrutiny.
CNN reported in January 2018 that after U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was acquitted of charges alleging Menendez had accepted bribes in return for political favors, the Justice Department planned to seek dismissal of remaining charges against him. That dismissal happened Jan. 31, 2018, according to a legal document emailed to us by Haynes.
An AP editor, Tom Verdin, responded to us by noting that a federal judge in April 2018 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. Still, the AP’s news story on that finding by U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson quotes Moriah Day, a spokeswoman for Kobach’s campaign for governor, saying the secretary of state’s office would appeal Robinson’s decision.
Matt Welch, a spokesman for Paxton's campaign, had no comment on Nelson's claim.
Nelson tweeted that Paxton, his November foe, "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.
TRUE – The statement is accurate and there’s nothing significant missing. Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.
Justin Nelson tweet, May 29, 2018
News stories, Austin American-Statesman, "Ken Paxton arrested, booked; indictment released," Aug. 3, 2015; "Ken Paxton appeal rejected, making criminal trial likely," Oct. 12, 2016; "Judge denies motion to dismiss Ken Paxton criminal case," March 30, 2017; "Prosecutors’ appeal accepted in Ken Paxton criminal case," Dec. 20, 2017
Emails, Sean Haynes, campaign manager, Justin Nelson campaign, May 30-31, 2018
Email, Rusty Cooper, deputy chief of police, Kingman (Arizona) Police Department, May 31, 2018
News story, "Justice Dept. won't retry Sen. Bob Menendez," CNN, Jan. 31, 2018
News story, "Joy Hofmeister, 4 others facing campaign charges," The Associated Press, Nov. 3, 2016 (Las Vegas Sun website)
News story, "Criminal case against Oklahoma schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, four others dropped," The Oklahoman, Aug. 1, 2017
Emails, Tom Verdin, state government team editor, the Associated Press, June 1 and 4, 2018
Phone interview, Rich Cohen, editor, the Almanac of American Politics, June 4, 2018
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