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Ethics Commission backs off on letting others pay Paxton’s legal bills

Sorry, Kenny.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

State regulators punted Monday on guidance that would clear the way for recently-indicted Attorney General Ken Paxton to accept money as a gift from out-of-state donors to finance his legal defense of felony securities fraud charges.

After a brief discussion, the Texas Ethics Commission opted to create a subcommittee to study further how to craft a legal opinion that says out-state donors are allowed to provide a gift to an employee of the attorney general’s office.

Several commissioners said they were concerned that a big dollar out-of-state gift is still intrinsically political — and could come with the potential for trying to sway influence at an office like the attorney general.

Commissioner Wilhelmina Delco said the public would automatically assume that a large monetary gift would come with strings allowing the gift giver to say: “now remember that money I gave you.”

“You just don’t walk up to somebody on the street and hand them $1 million,” she said.

Commissioner Tom Ramsay said he could not understand how someone “could be uninterested” from a political perspective “and write a check for $1 million.”

See here and here for the background. Clearly, I spoke too soon yesterday when I said Paxton was now on Easy Street as far as paying his legal bills was concerned. As the story notes, there was support for the original draft opinion, but at the meeting yesterday the Commission was persuaded to study the issue more in committee. I am sympathetic to the notion that public officials ought to be able to receive some gifts, but this was very much a bridge too far. I’m no expert in what state law allows or forbids, but if the TEC wants some guidance on this, pretty much every public corporation in existence has some kind of allowable-gift guides for its employees, in particular those in positions where decisions with major financial ramifications are made. Surely there are some best practices that can be followed there. Trail Blazers has more.

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