The Austin Chronicle

Paxton Mired in Legal, Ethical Charges

By Richard Whittaker, July 10, 2015, News

It's a good thing Attorney General Ken Paxton is a lawyer. He'll need one as a triple whammy of legal and ethical challenges face his office.

If Texas' top attorney hoped for happy headlines after BP announced a legal settlement over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Gulf, then that optimism was washed away in the deluge of bad news. First, special prosecutors Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice announced that they will ask a grand jury in Collin County to indict Paxton on first-degree felony charges relating to suspected securities violations. Then, former state Rep. Glen Maxey filed an ethics complaint with the State Bar of Texas, alleging that Paxton had violated both his oath of office and the terms of his law license with his legal opinion on same-sex marriage that flouted the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Next, the Austin American–Statesman reported that Paxton hired campaign insiders to staff his office, some filling vacancies that were never advertised, or for which they had not even applied.

The securities problems aren't new: In fact, his old Texas House colleague Dan Branch used them against Paxton during last year's primaries to little political effect (see "Branch Falls on Conflicted Paxton," May 8, 2014). Last May, Paxton signed an order by the Texas State Secur­ities Board, basically admitting that he had acted as an unregistered investment adviser on behalf of McKinney-based Mowery Cap­it­al Management on three occasions between 2004 and 2012, and was paid for his services. At the time, his staff explained that it was just an accidental oversight (much as in 2013, when the future attorney general walked off with a fellow attorney's $1,000 Mont Blanc pen from the security checkpoint at the Collin County Courthouse).

Unsurprisingly, Paxton's office has gone on the offensive. In response to Schaffer and Wice, Paxton's spokesman Anthony Holm called them inexperienced, and bizarrely blamed the prosecution on the fact they are from Houston. He went further, saying that neither the securities board nor Travis County or Dallas prosecutors had pressed for criminal charges (conveniently ignoring that the securities board had already fined Paxton).

Schaffer and Wice fired back that Dallas and Travis County demurred because neither had jurisdiction in this matter. They added that Holm's attack "recycles the usual sound bites, culled from the play book of any public official whose conduct places them in the crosshairs of a grand jury investigation."

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