The Texas House investigation into impeached Attorney General Ken Paxton has reportedly widened to include a series of property purchases he made as he faced a federal probe over allegations that he abused his office.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Paxton, his wife and a family trust doled out nearly $3.5 million on six properties from July 2021 to April 2022 in Oklahoma, Florida, Utah and Hawaii. The timing and amount of money drew the attention of House investigators, according to the newspaper.
In late September 2020, several of Paxton’s top aides reported to the FBI that they believed he was misusing his office to help a wealthy campaign donor, Austin real estate investor Nate Paul. Those allegations are tied to most of the 20 articles of impeachment that the House approved last month.
Paxton’s lead lawyer, Tony Buzbee, told the Journal that Paxton was using “long-term savings from a brokerage account” to invest in real estate at a time when interest rates were low. “There is nothing more to it than that,” Buzbee said.
The Journal report shines light on a dozen subpoenas that the House General Investigating Committee issued on the second-to-last day of the regular legislative session. One of the subpoena targets was the Esther Blind Trust, which Ken Paxton and his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, are beneficiaries of, according to his 2021 personal financial disclosure. Another subpoena was issued for Charles Loper, the trustee.
The financial disclosure also said the trust was created in 2015 and that it has a fair market value of “at least $46,580 or more.”
Ken Paxton reported in the disclosure that he and his wife owned four properties in 2021 — two in Austin, one in McKinney and one in College Station. The disclosure did not show any properties outside of Texas.
Ken Paxton’s personal financial disclosure for 2022 is due Friday.
Local property-tax records confirm at least some of the purchases cited in the Journal’s reporting. Records in Maui County, Hawaii, show the trust owns a parcel of land there worth almost $600,000, while records in Marion County, Florida, show the trust owns a home there worth more than $200,000.
The probe could mark the latest trouble for Paxton, who was impeached by House members on nearly two dozen allegations that he made false statements, took bribes and abused his office. Rules for his Senate trial allow impeachment managers to bring additional charges up to 30 days before the trial, which is set to begin Sept. 5.
But Paxton’s attorney, Tony Buzbee, on Thursday dismissed the notion that there was anything questionable about the property purchases, which Buzbee said were made with long-term savings of Paxton’s and made at a time of low interest rates. Buzbee accused House impeachment managers of leaking information to the media to bolster a “flimsy” case.
“A guy uses money he saved for many years to purchase and finance investment properties before interest rates spiked? Other than that, I’m not sure where the story is,” Buzbee said. “If they had such a lock solid and strong case as they claim, why would they be out beating the bushes trying to come up with other (expletive) charges, and then leaking it to the press? I think we all see this for what it really is. Weak.”
According to the Journal, the purchases include:
- A $1.6 million, five-bedroom lodge in a resort area of eastern Oklahoma, which Paxton bought by putting 20 percent down and taking out a $1.28 million mortgage. It is now listed as a short-term rental on several websites.
- A $410,000 piece of land in a Maui resort town bought with cash by the Esther Blind Trust, a family trust set up in 2015.
- A $315,000 tract in Eden, Utah, near several ski resorts, also purchased by the trust.
- Two houses north of Orlando, Fla., that Paxton purchased and transferred to the Esther Blind Trust.
As attorney general, Paxton made $153,750 a year. Angela Paxton is a longtime high school teacher and makes $7,200 a year in her role as state senator.
Tony Buzbee may be right, but with a guy as clearly crooked as Ken Paxton, you have to follow the money. You never know where it may lead you. And let me say again, Angela Paxton is up for election next year, in a red-but-not-that-red district, with the possibility that maybe some of this is real financial misdealing and maybe she at least knew about it, and by the way she favors letting pregnant women die rather than be allowed to get abortions, which is an unpopular stance even here in Texas. So, you know, let’s make sure to find someone who will run really hard against her.