From depositions in a civil lawsuit, we learn more about Ken Paxton’s dealings with Nate Paul, the Austin real estate developer who’s at the root of Paxton’s current problems.
In a transcript of the deposition obtained by The Texas Tribune on Wednesday, Paul said that he could not recall exactly when he met Paxton but that it was “several years ago.”
Paul said he considers “the relationship, you know, positive,” when asked by a lawyer in the deposition whether they were friends.
The two sometimes ate lunch together, but Paul could not say how many times, he said in the deposition. He also said they had been in touch recently, when he offered condolences to Paxton, whose mother died in late October.
Paul did not answer several questions during the hourslong deposition, which came as part of a legal dispute between Paul and the Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte Foundation, an Austin-based nonprofit that provides grants to charitable organizations and academic scholarships for financially needy students. The nonprofit sued Paul’s firm in 2018, claiming he wasn’t sharing financial information about jointly owned investments managed by his businesses.
Paxton’s office took the unusual step of intervening in that lawsuit this summer, but reversed its decision shortly before the senior aides’ complaints were made public.
The agency handles tens of thousands of cases a year, so it was highly unusual that Paxton took such a close interest in so many low-profile matters tied to Paul, according to former agency staff and legal experts.
Paul’s attorney, Michael Wynne, did not respond to several questions from the Tribune, including inquiries about the nature of the investigation at the attorney general’s office. A spokesperson for Paxton said the agency is investigating some of the whistleblowers who reported Paxton to law enforcement for “making false representations to the court, illegally leaking grand jury materials, and violating numerous agency policies” but did not provide further details.
The attorneys also asked Paul about some of the legal matters in which actions of the attorney general’s office have benefited Paul.
The Austin American-Statesman reported that Paul faced foreclosure on a number of properties this summer — but that the foreclosure sales didn’t take place after Paxton rushed a legal opinion that made it harder for such sales to proceed.
Paxton’s involvement in the case was not just unusual, but unethical, said Shane Phelps, who worked in the attorney general’s office under Dan Morales and was deputy attorney general for criminal justice under former attorney general John Cornyn.
“The only reason an AG would get involved in a case like that, if they were not minding their ethics P’s and Q’s, would be because they’ve got a donor who’s got an interest in it,” Phelps said. “If they have a donor who has an interest in a case, any ethical and appropriate attorney general is gonna say, ‘I can’t do that’ and is not gonna do it.”
See here for some background, and go read the rest because there’s a lot that I couldn’t include. There’s been a ton of information about this case, all of which sounds deeply fishy, though it’s hard to summarize. We’d probably not know about any of it had it not been for the shocking and explosive allegations by Paxton’s now-former aides, all of whom deserve a lot of credit for taking action in the face of significant consequences. When we finally free ourselves of Ken Paxton, they’ll be a big part of the reason why.