The day after the Texas House voted overwhelmingly to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, the ethics panel investigating his alleged misdeeds issued a dozen new subpoenas that indicate their inquiry is far from over.
The list of subpoenaed entities, which was read aloud at the May 28 public meeting of the House Committee on General Investigating, included trusts, banks, two individuals and ride-hailing company Uber. The panel members did not say at the time what information they were after or how the entities were tied to Paxton’s impeachment.
But a Dallas Morning News analysis of years of campaign reports, personal financial disclosures and real estate documents found that many of the subpoenaed entities are inextricably linked to the personal and political finances of Paxton and his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton.
They include the Paxton family’s blind trust, a bank that lent Angela Paxton’s campaign $2 million, two apartments they once appear to have leased and one of their mortgage lenders, the records show.
The House Committee on General Investigating continues to gather information. Two of the 12 subpoenas the panel issued at its last public meeting went to the Esther Blind Trust and a man named Charles Loper.
Paxton set up the blind trust in 2015 after he was elected attorney general to assume control of the companies and properties he accumulated in recent years.
Under such an arrangement commonly used by politicians, an outside party typically handles the trust’s investments without input from the trust owner in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest. The formation of the trust has also meant less transparency into the Paxtons’ business portfolio because they do not name the entities or investments included in it on their personal financial disclosures.
Through public deed records, The News found that in recent years the Paxtons shifted many of their properties into the blind trust, including a home in Austin, a condo in Austin, a house in College Station and two properties in Ocala, Florida.
Charles Loper III manages the blind trust, which lists a Frisco address. He and his father, Charles Loper Jr., have contributed a combined $50,250 to Paxton’s campaign and a legal defense fund he set up to fight securities fraud charges dating back to 2015, according to personal financial disclosures and campaign records.
The House committee also subpoenaed Bank of the Ozarks, which lent Angela Paxton’s campaign $2 million during her first bid for state Senate in 2018. The loan was backed by Ken Paxton’s campaign and appears not to have been fully paid off, according to the most recent campaign finance records filed in January. Her campaign ledger shows an existing $1.2 million balance in outstanding loans.
Another subpoena went to Benchmark Mortgage, a lender for the Austin condo the Paxtons purchased in 2015, according to Travis County real estate records and personal financial disclosures.
Texas ethics laws mandate barebones reporting for most financial transactions. Several of the subpoenaed entities show up on Paxton’s filings under a section that requires the disclosure of personal notes and lease agreements but the reports offer few other details.
The apartment complexes Marquis at Treetops in Austin and Marquis on Gaston in Dallas, which are listed on Paxton’s personal financial disclosures covering 2015 and 2016, were subpoenaed. So were First Financial Bank and Alliance Bank Central Texas. Paxton reported liabilities at both banks of at least $25,000 across multiple years.
According to The News’ analysis, the other subpoena recipients have no clear link to the Paxtons, including Uber, F&M Bank and Trust and the Madison G. Dean Trust.
The final subpoena went to Mindy Montford, former first assistant Travis County District Attorney who was hired as senior counsel for a cold case unit at the attorney general’s office in 2021. She did not respond to a request to comment.
On the one hand, this could just be the impeachment team being thorough and casting a wide net, not having anything specific in mind but chasing down loose threads because hey, you never know. Or, given who we’re talking about here, it could mean there’s more dirt to come when the Senate gets around to its part of the process. The rules committee will be meeting on Tuesday, which might give us some preliminary clues about what to expect. Paxton’s team is likely to challenge these subpoenas and any evidence they may uncover on procedural grounds, and there’s not a lot of precedent to go by. Next week is going to be fun.