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Paxton can get others to pay his legal bills

It’s Christmas in November for our felonious Attorney General.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Texas’ ethics regulator has carved a path for Attorney General Ken Paxton to tap out-of-state donors to pay his legal tab to defend against felony fraud charges.

The Texas Ethics Commission, responding to an inquiry from an anonymous employee at the attorney general’s office, is scheduled Monday to offer guidance for workers at the agency that could have big implications for how Paxton funds his team of lawyers.

A draft opinion circulated ahead of the meeting lays out proposed steps for an employee of the attorney general’s office to take to avoid violating the state’s gift-giving laws while accepting a “benefit” from a donor in certain situations.

The regulators’ preliminary finding: A state worker could accept a benefit from a donor lacking ties to Texas, like residency or business operations, and who is not believed to be subject to the agency’s jurisdiction.

“We conclude that a public servant working for the OAG would not be prohibited … from accepting a benefit from an individual who does not reside in Texas or from an entity that does not operate in Texas if the donor’s only connection with the jurisdiction of the public servant and the OAG is the act of giving the benefit,” according to a copy of the draft opinion obtained by the San Antonio Express-News.


Experts have said the ethics commission’s opinion could give Paxton and his lawyers the blueprint to make use of big-money donors for legal services. The bipartisan commission’s eight members are appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker.

Whether the attorney general’s office has oversight to regulate or investigate a donor is key to the inquiry. The agency’s jurisdiction is broad, and ranges from defending the state in court to enforcing antitrust laws.

State law prevents an official at an agency like the attorney general’s office from accepting a “benefit” from someone under the agency’s authority.

Lawyers for the anonymous official at the attorney general’s office asked the ethics commission to issue an opinion to clarify a slightly different question: Under what condition could a specific set of out-of-state donors provide a benefit if they were not believed to be subject to regulation or investigation by the agency?

The commission, in its draft, recommended the employee at the attorney general’s office conduct his or her own “diligent” internal analysis of specific facts to avoid conflicts – one that examines pending or contemplated litigation, business records and information directly from the donor. But the draft opinion cautions that “the extent of any necessary inquiry will depend upon what the public servant knows or suspects about the potential donor.”

The eight-member panel of ethics regulators is scheduled to vet the draft opinion for the first time Monday, when a vote could also be taken to adopt the guidance. A copy was circulated ahead of the meeting.

See here for the background. The person who requested this opinion from the TEC is anonymous, and if you believe it’s not Ken Paxton or someone acting on his behalf, then I have some oceanfront property in Midland to sell you. What could possibly go wrong by allowing Ken Paxton’s legal defense to be sponsored by various out of state benefactors who we all pinky-swear have no business in Texas that might possibly fall under the purview of the OAG? Pretty sweet deal, I tell you what. Hope your overlords get their money’s worth from your attorneys, Kenny.

UPDATE: Looks like I spoke too soon on this. Bad for Paxton, good for the rest of us. I’ll do a separate post on this.

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