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With friends like these

Who needs to worry about legal bills?

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, facing federal and state securities fraud charges, is getting more than a little help from his friends to foot his growing legal bill.

The Republican accepted more than $329,000 earmarked for his legal defense from donors and “family friends,” according to a newly released financial disclosure statement.

The document, which Paxton filed to the Texas Ethics Commission on Friday, shows gifts from more than two dozen people or couples labeled “family friends.”

That included a $100,000 gift from James Webb, a CEO of a medical imaging firm who lives in Frisco and is a major Paxton donor. He and his living trust have donated more than $355,000 to Paxton’s campaign.

[…]

Paxton has said he is not tapping campaign contributions or taxpayer dollars. Texas law bars such practices, because his case does not involve his official duties.

In his filing Friday, Paxton categorized the defense fund money as a “gift.”

State bribery laws prohibit elected officials from receiving gifts from people or entities subject to their authority, and as attorney general, Paxton’s could extend broadly. Seeking to circumvent those barriers, Paxton’s filing cited an “independent relationship” exception. That allows gifts from family members and those “independent” of an office holder’s “official status.”

You can see a copy of the disclosure form here. The key thing to note is that this is for activity through December 31, 2015, so however much it shows being given to Paxton for legal fees, it only covers last year. For sure, he has received plenty more such “gifts” since then. Which he surely needs, and will continue to need for the foreseeable future, since he’s spending boatloads on legal fees. Must be nice to have so many loaded and loyal friends.

The Chron notes another dimension to this.

Craig McDonald, executive director of the left-leaning watchdog group Texans for Public Justice, said Paxton’s legal defense fundraising points out a weakness in the state’s ethics laws.

“It’s a huge loophole in the law that needs to be closed,” said McDonald whose group advocates for a gift ban for state officials. “Where does Paxton’s circle of independent relationships end?”

State law currently prohibits gifts for the governor, lieutenant governor and legislators —as well as members of their staffs — but that prohibition does not apply to the attorney general’s office. An employee at a regulatory agency like the attorney general’s office is forbidden from asking for, accepting or agreeing to accept a gift only if the official knows the giver is subject to the agency’s authority.

Yet, all of Texas’ elected state officials can accept “a gift or other benefit conferred on account of kinship or a personal, professional, or business relationship independent of the official status of the recipient.”

The same exemption allowed for Rick Perry to amass a catalog of freebies during his time as Texas governor, ranging from Stetson hats to hunting trips. As the state’s former attorney general, Gov. Greg Abbott also reported receiving a long list of gifts from donors and friends, including a new gun, football tickets and free travel and lodging for his family.

The Legislature allows that loophole, and the Legislature could plug it if it wanted to. I’m just saying.

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4 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Maybe Paxton should just start giving $ 150,000 speeches. That way, he wouldn’t have to accept gifts that might be a conflict of interest, he would be getting compensated for a valuable service…..speeches. He could also set up a charitable foundation and take contributions from a bunch of dictators, foreign countries, and people and corporations that could use a favor from Paxton.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    On an unrelated note, will there be no discussion about the Hillary e-mail scandal here? I’m curious to know what all the regulars here have to say about it.

  3. voter_worker says:

    Philando Castile and Alton Sinclair, who both were executed by LEOs this week, certainly don’t have to worry about legal bills. I hope Paxton realizes how very damn lucky he is to be in his elevated position and immune to the vagaries of life and death meted out to the rest of us by a cold, cruel world.

  4. voter_worker says:

    Correction: Alton Sterling, my apologies.