Statewide Showdowns: A closer look at the attorney general office

With intense media focus on Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott as he and rival gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis square off on the state’s controversial abortion and voter-identification laws, it’s easy to forget about all the other stuff the AG’s office does.

Yes, Abbott’s made his name suing the federal government over EPA, energy and healthcare regulations and other red-meat right-wing issues, and the rhetoric surrounding those lawsuits has formed the basis of his campaign message. “Abbott” is also synonymous with defending a draconian abortion law and a controversial voter identification law.

But as the Lone Star State’s top law-enforcement official, his office oversees a huge operation that includes criminal and civil divisions. And Abbott’s been an effective leader in some aspects of this job, including combating fraud. So let’s leave all those headlines and slogans aside for a moment and take a look at some nitty-gritty stuff.

October 16: Abbott’s office announced a settlement with generic drug manufacturer Ranbaxy for $17.875 million, apiece, to the state and federal government. The Civil Medicaid Fraud Division accused the company of fraudulently inflating drug prices to Medicaid. Since 2002, the year Abbott was sworn in, the Civil Medicaid Fraud Division has recovered $600 million for Texas and a combined $1.5 billion on the state and federal levels.

October 15: Abbott’s office accuses Austin resident Robert Lindsey Duncan of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Texas Education Code. Duncan appeared nationwide on television promoting herbal health practices and called himself a doctor. The problem was, his college, which is now defunct, was not properly accredited in the United States.

October 9: The Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division coordinated with local authorities in Hays County to arrest 10 parents who violated court orders for child support. Just last fiscal year, Abbott’s office collected more than $3.8 billion in child support.

Neither Republican Ken Paxton nor Democrat Sam Houston seem to be talking too much about this aspect of the office, and Paxton is barely talking at all, you know, because he admitted to violating the state’s securities act. Officials are waiting until after the election to investigate.

While Houston’s never held office, voters should question whether to support Paxton, who will be investigated for the third-degree felony post November 4. Texas’s top law official shouldn’t be under investigation from the get-go.

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