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Paxton beats SEC rap again

Not a surprise.

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A federal judge has again thrown out securities fraud charges against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, effectively ending one of two legal battles that have dogged Paxton for close to a year.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant on Thursday dismissed the case “with prejudice,” making a final judgment on the charges that had been brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Mazzant first threw out the charges last year but gave the SEC the opportunity to file amended allegations — which it did in October, keeping the case alive.

[…]

In its amended allegations, the SEC had sought to bolster its argument that Paxton had a legal duty to disclose to the investors that he was making a commission. Mazzant said Thursday the SEC had still not been persuasive enough.

“This case has not changed since the Court conditionally dismissed the Commission’s Original Complaint,” the judge wrote. “The primary deficiency was, and remains, that Paxton had no plausible legal duty to disclose his compensation arrangement with investors.”

See here, here, and here for the background. After the charges were dismissed the first time, I was skeptical of the second effort, but you never know what might happen. So much for that. This is a win for Paxton, but the big game begins May 1, in Collin County or somewhere else. That’s what will really matter. The Press has more.

UPDATE: RG Ratcliffe’s overview of the Paxton saga is well worth your time.

More Paxton-versus-SEC stuff

Keeping the lawyers busy.

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Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton say the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission cannot “shoot first and investigate later” as they seek to block 15 new subpoenas issued by the SEC.

It is the latest argument by Paxton’s attorneys in their effort to show the SEC is scrambling to save its civil securities fraud case against the attorney general, who is headed to trial later this year on similar criminal charges at the state level. Fighting the SEC charges, his team has already cast doubt on the credibility of a key witness in both cases, State Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana.

The new subpoenas, issued Tuesday, largely seek communications Paxton may have had with any other investors in Servergy, the North Texas start-up whose investors Paxton is accused of misleading from a period before he was elected Texas’ top law enforcement official in 2014.

“The SEC cannot now attempt to bolster its faltering case … by fishing around in discovery for information about other potential investors whom the SEC has not pled with any particularity that Mr. Paxton defrauded,” Paxton’s lawyers wrote in their latest filing.

See here, here, and here for some background. This is all separate from the criminal trial that is now scheduled. Such busy days for our AG.

Paxton’s trial date set

Mark your calendars, and stock up on the popcorn.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s trial on criminal securities fraud charges is set to begin May 1.

Jury selection will be held April 20-21 and April 27-28, according to a recent order by George Gallagher, the judge presiding over Paxton’s case. He also scheduled a hearing on pretrial motions for Feb. 16.

The trial will unfold in the heat of the legislative session, which began Tuesday and ends on May 29, and as campaigns get underway for the 2018 elections. Paxton plans to seek another term.

[…]

In the criminal case, Paxton faces three felony charges of breaking Texas securities law. If convicted, he could be sent to prison for five to 99 years.

Last year, Paxton exhausted his options in trying to put an end to the criminal case. The final blow came in October, when Texas’ highest criminal court declined to hear a Paxton appeal.

I think you know the background on this one. I’m not one for making predictions, but I will make one here: If Paxton gets convicted, he will not lose the support of any current statewide incumbent. They will rally around him, they will blame everyone but him for the outcome, and they will endorse him next March when and if he draws a primary opponent. I fully expect that he will be on the ballot next November. What happens if he wins re-election and loses his appeals, and has to serve time in jail? I guess we’ll find out. The DMN, the Chron, and the Lone Star Project have more.

Paxton wants SEC’s documents on him

More twists and turns.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s attorneys have gone to court, seeking to force the Securities and Exchange Commission to produce notes of their interviews with the investors whose allegations form the basis of the civil case against him.

Paxton’s attorneys filed the motion to compel the SEC to turn over the documents Wednesday. SEC officials have refused to turn over the documents calling them “work product.”

His attorneys contend an SEC attorney told him that turning over the interview notes would show “the direction that we steered (the witness) with our questions would give away our strategy,” the motion states.

[…]

The SEC’s amended filing claims that Paxton alleged that members of the group had a standing policy that “no member makes money or otherwise benefits off the investment of another member.” It states that “Investor 1 ‘informed and expressly’ told Mr. Paxton about supposed policies of the group,” the motion states. (Paxton’s attorneys contend that Investor 1 is a reference to Cook.)

The SEC’s prior filing did not mention the existence of any such policy.

In Paxton’s motion, lawyers for Paxton state that they received an email from Cook and Hochberg’s attorney stating that there “was no formal group,” but rather an “ad hoc arrangement for time to time, good friends might invest in the same transaction.”

“This is a dramatically different story than the tale the SEC has spun about a decades-old investment group with established policies and practices,” the motion states.

The motion says the attorney for Cook and Hochberg also stated that they did not consider Paxton to be their broker.

Paxton’s attorneys want notes of the SEC’s meeting with Cook and Hochberg to determine “where and how this divergence in stories occurred.”

The motion also notes that Paxton’s sworn statement was taken back in December 2014, yet the SEC did not take sworn testimony from potential investors in Servergy.

The SEC interviewed Cook and Hochberg before filing its original case in April, but did not take statements under oath.

See here and here for some background. “Cook” is State Rep. Byron Cook, “Hochberg” is another investor named Joel Hochberg. I have no idea what to make of any of this, but at this point I don’t expect much from this case. I’m waiting for the real trial, which will happen next year. The Chron and the Trib have more.

Paxton asks for SEC charges to be dismissed again

Once more, with feeling.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday asked a federal judge to once again dismiss a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission complaint accusing him of defrauding investors in private business deals in 2011.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III dismissed the SEC’s original complaint on Oct. 7, saying it contained allegations that weren’t supported by federal securities law. The SEC responded two weeks later with a revised complaintthat added details to the allegations that Paxton committed fraud by soliciting investors in Servergy Inc. without disclosing that the tech company was paying him to hawk its stock.

Paxton lawyer Matthew Martens said the new complaint still falls short.

“As the court said four weeks ago, the SEC’s original complaint had no legal basis. Our motion to dismiss filed today explains why the SEC’s new complaint fares no better. The reason is simple — Mr. Paxton did not commit securities fraud,” Martens said.

Paxton’s lawyers told Mazzant that the SEC’s revised complaint failed, again, to show that Paxton had a legal duty to tell potential investors about his sales commission deal with Servergy.

“The commission to date has been unable to cite a single example where a court has recognized such a disclosure duty,” they told the judge.

See here and here for the background, and here for a copy of the Paxton motion. I’m not a lawyer, but I have a hard time imagining what the SEC could have added that they didn’t include in the first place that might make a difference. But what do I know? We’ll see what the judge says this time. The DMN and the Chron have more.

SEC to try again with Paxton

If at first you don’t succeed

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is not giving up on its case against Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The commission filed amended civil charges against Paxton on Friday, two weeks after a federal judge dismissed the case. Paxton, who is also fighting similar criminal charges at the state level, is accused of misleading investors in a company years ago.

“We are disappointed by the SEC’s decision to continue this case, given the court’s opinion and the clear infirmities the court found with the commission’s original complaint,” Paxton lawyer Matthew Martens said in a statement. “We will evaluate the revised complaint and respond accordingly.”

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III threw out the SEC case against Paxton but gave the commission 14 days — until Friday — to file amended allegations.

The updated charges contend that the group of investors Paxton allegedly duped when he persuaded them to invest in a tech start-up called Servergy “reasonably expected” him to disclose he was receiving a commission. According to the SEC, the members of the group had a standing policy that “no one member makes money or otherwise benefits off of the investment of another member.”

The amended allegations also amplify the SEC’s argument that Paxton did not simply fail to disclose but “actively concealed” his commission agreement from the investor group. He did so, the SEC says, by not mentioning it in filings with the Texas Ethics Commission and the IRS, ignoring efforts by the group to learn about his relationship with Servergy and mischaracterizing the compensation as a kind of gift when asked about it by the SEC.

See here for the background. I have no idea if this is a necessary technical correction to allow otherwise-viable charges to go forward, or if it’s a “what the heck, we may as well give it one last try” situation. Paxton still has the criminal charges to deal with, so if nothing else this is a distraction from that. Trail Blazers has more.

Paxton beats SEC rap

Two down, one left.

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A judge has thrown out the federal civil case accusing Attorney General Ken Paxton of securities fraud, giving him his biggest legal victory yet since the allegations surfaced more than a year ago.

U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III on Friday granted Paxton’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit but gave the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 14 days to amend its allegations against the attorney general. Paxton is still fighting similar criminal charges at the state level.

Paxton is accused of misleading investors in a company from before he took office as Texas’ top lawyer. One of the central allegations is that he persuaded a group of people to invest in the company, a technology startup known as Severgy, without disclosing that he was receiving a commission.

“This case is not about whether Paxton had a moral obligation to disclose his financial arrangement with Servergy to potential investors,” Mazzant wrote in a 29-page ruling. “This case is also not about whether Paxton had some general obligation to disclose his financial arrangement to his investor group.”

Rather, Mazzant concluded, the case is about whether Paxton had a legal obligation to make a disclosure, and he did not — at least according to the facts put forward by the SEC.

See here for the background. No question, this is a big win for Paxton. I’m not qualified to say whether this result tells us anything about how the state case may go, but the bottom line is that the state case is now the only thing he has to worry about. The Chron and the Press have more.

A good day in court for Paxton

He may well get those SEC charges dismissed.

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Lawyers for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission received skeptical treatment Friday from a federal judge who is considering whether to dismiss the civil fraud case against Attorney General Ken Paxton.

From the outset, U.S. District Judge Amos L. Mazzant III noted that the SEC’s case against Paxton was unlike those he usually sees from the commission. Mazzant came across as less than persuaded by one of its central arguments. At one point, Mazzant suggested the SEC was trying to fit a “square peg into a round hole,” basing its case on precedents that do not back up their arguments.

“The court’s hard-pressed to find a case that fits into the allegation the SEC is making,” Mazzant said, “and that troubles the court.”

The judge did not rule immediately at the end of the 90-minute hearing inside a Sherman courtroom. He said he instead plans to issue a decision in 30 days.

[…]

Largely at issue Friday was whether Paxton committed securities fraud by simply leaving out information in his dealing with investors, not necessarily making misleading statements. Paxton lawyer Matthew Martens argued that the attorney general’s actions did not amount to fraud, leaning heavily on the argument that every court that has previously looked at the issue has rejected the SEC’s argument. Meanwhile, SEC lawyer Matthew Gulde asked Mazzant to look more broadly at Paxton’s actions as a “pattern of conduct” in which he acted as a “secret broker” and had at least two duties to tell investors he was being compensated.

“It doesn’t matter what we call it,” Gulde said. “It is a secret quid pro quo that needs to be disclosed.”

They sparred less extensively over another charge in the case involving Paxton’s failure to register as a securities broker. Paxton’s side argued that his action did not meet any definition of the term, while SEC lawyers countered that they were downplaying how active of a role Paxton had in recruiting investors. “Mr. Paxton is not someone who’s walking into this blindly,” Gulde said.

Mazzant often appeared more sympathetic to Paxton’s arguments, suggesting that Gulde was reaching to find case law to support the SEC’s case — at least with the current facts alleged. “I don’t know how we get there,” Mazzant said at one point.

See here and here for the background. The state charges against Paxton are higher stakes, because the SEC case is a civil one, for which only a fine could be levied. Getting the charges tossed, if that is what happens, would still be a pretty big win for Paxton, as at the very least it lends credibility to his whole “I’m being persecuted” schtick. He needs his supporters to keep the faith, and his underwriters to keep those checks coming. He’s already beaten the Bar Association grievances, so this would give him two in a row. The third one is way bigger than the other two, though. We should know where he stands in a month. The Chron has more.

Paxton’s day in SEC court

That’s a slightly misleading headline, but you get the point.

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Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will argue Friday morning in a Sherman courtroom that the federal civil fraud case against him should be dismissed, their latest effort to unwind the legal troubles that have dogged Paxton for more than a year.

[…]

In the SEC case, Paxton’s lawyers have argued the allegations represent a “dramatic overreach and lack any basis in law.” The SEC lawsuit, they also say, does not claim he made any false or misleading statements to potential investors in Servergy, a technology startup at the center of both cases.

“Mr. Paxton should not be left to labor under a cloud of suspicion while enduring years of costly discovery to refute claims that are meritless on their face,” Paxton’s lawyers wrote in their June motion to dismiss the SEC lawsuit.

They will get the chance to press that argument at 9 a.m. Friday in federal district court in Sherman before U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III. Paxton’s team is being led by Matthew Martens, a former top lawyer for the SEC.

James Spindler, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said he would not be surprised if the court dismisses at least some of the charges before trial. He said SEC lawyers “have their work cut out for them” in specifically proving the charges of fraud, which he called “factually dense inquiries” in the context of a case like this one.

“Overall, it seems a little questionable,” said Spindler, an expert in securities regulation. “It depends really on what the facts are, and they haven’t disclosed a lot of the facts of the case yet.”

See here for the background. Let’s wait and see what the government’s case is before we make any guesses about his odds of success.

In the meantime, this also happened.

The state’s highest criminal court Wednesday morning dismissed all three appeals filed on Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s behalf, saying his lawyers neglected to include everything needed on the petitions.

The Court of Criminal Appeals gave Paxton 10 days to add what was missing — a copy of the concurring opinion from the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals, which in June rejected Paxton’s request to dismiss criminal charges related to private business deals from 2011 and 2012.

Defense lawyers corrected the mistake a little more than two hours after the court issued the unsigned order, which was opposed by Judges Barbara Hervey and Michael Keasler.

“We inadvertently left off attaching to our petition a copy of the concurring opinion from the court of appeals. We have cured the oversight and have refiled,” Paxton lawyer Philip Hilder said.

The error isn’t expected to significantly delay the handling of Paxton’s appeal.

[…]

A trial on the SEC’s accusations has been tentatively set for Sept. 11, 2017, and is expected to last about two weeks.

Lawyers have said a trial on Paxton’s criminal charges, if upheld by the Court of Criminal Appeals, could take place in the spring of 2017.

An oops, but not a big deal. The schedule information at the end of the story is more interesting. If Paxton isn’t successful in getting charges against him dropped, next year is going to be very busy for him. Judge Mazzant is not expected to rule today, so it will be awhile before we know this part of Paxton’s fate.

Paxton rejects settlement talks with SEC

Not a surprise.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton, facing charges he duped investors in a North Texas startup, is refusing to engage in settlement talks with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission – and could be the last holdout in the case if it goes to trial.

William Mapp, the founder and CEO of the company for which Paxton is accused of illegally selling securities, is open to negotiating a legal settlement with the SEC, according to court records.

“From Mr. Paxton’s standpoint, there’s nothing to settle and that’s a big difference between our position and Mr. Mapp’s position,” said Bill Mateja, Paxton’s lawyer. “We expect to be exonerated. We want our day in court and we believe we will be exonerated.”

Paxton, who indicated to the court this month he would refuse to negotiate, would be the lone defendant left to fight charges from the SEC should Mapp agree to a settlement.

[…]

The parties are due in a Sherman federal district court Friday to give oral arguments on whether the SEC charges should be dismissed.

Unless the case is dismissed or Mapp signs a settlement deal, Paxton and Mapp will be tried together, likely in the fall of 2017.

Charges filed by the SEC in April also named former Servergy director Caleb White and Servergy. Both have settled with the SEC.

White paid $66,000 he received in commissions and returned 20,000 shares of stock to the company. Servergy paid a $200,000 penalty.

See here, here, and here for the background. Whatever the merits of the SEC case against him, Paxton cannot afford to settle this case. He’s bet everything on getting off the hook on the state charges, and settling with the SEC would send a very mixed signal to the vocal supporters who have been loudly insisting he’s being railroaded. Politically, losing this case is a better outcome for him than a slap-on-the-wrist settlement, because it’s in keeping with the narrative of him being a fighter that’s being persecuted. The best outcome, of course, is for the charges to be dismissed. We’ll see how it goes.

State Bar dismisses other complaint against Paxton

No matter what else happens, our ethically challenged Attorney General can say he beat at least one rap against him.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton telling county clerks they do not have to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is not a sign of “professional misconduct,” according to the State Bar of Texas.

The organization last week dismissed a complaint filed against the embattled top prosecutor by more than 200 Texas attorneys, who argued that he “violated his own official oath of office” by issuing a written opinion stating that clerks and public officials could ignore the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage if it conflicts with their religious beliefs.

In an Aug. 3 notice obtained by The Texas Tribune, the State Bar said, “The Chief Disciplinary Counsel has determined that there is no just cause to believe that [Paxton] has committed professional misconduct.”

[…]

Steve Fischer, a former director of the State Bar of Texas and one of the attorneys who filed the complaint, said that while he didn’t get the result he wanted, there is “no further interest to continue the grievance.”

“We sort of made our point that he can’t tell clerks to disobey a Supreme Court’s ruling,” he said. “It’s the law of the land. He’s entitled to his own personal opinion, but he should draw a line.”

See here for the background. This may not have risen to the level of misconduct, but it was hardly exemplary conduct either, especially from the Attorney General. I don’t think a mild slap on the wrist of some kind would have been out of place, but whatever. Everyone who wants to get married in Texas can do so, and the matter hardly raises any eyebrow any more. Whatever happened with this complaint, Paxton lost the real fight, with barely a whimper. I’ll take that.

Meanwhile, in other Paxton-trouble news, the special prosecutors have filed their response to his petition to the Court of Criminal Appeals to have the felony charges against him dismissed.

Defense lawyers raised issues that cannot be appealed before trial or were correctly decided when the Dallas-based 5th Court of Appeals upheld criminal charges accusing Paxton of securities fraud and failing to register with state securities regulators, prosecutors told the Court of Criminal Appeals.

“The Court of Criminal Appeals grants less than 4 percent of all petitions for discretionary review filed by criminal defendants. Our reply makes it clear that Mr. Paxton’s petition is not one of them,” prosecutor Brian Wice said.

The prosecutors also argued that Paxton, who filed his appeal Aug. 1, waited too long to challenge the two felony fraud charges, requiring that portion of his appeal to be automatically dismissed.

You can see the state’s reply here. They rebutted each of the defense’s specific claims in addition to asserting that the defense filing was too late, but the legalese was too thick for me to make it all the way through without my eyes glazing over. Suffice it to say, the prosecution begged to differ.

And finally, Paxton is asking the SEC for more time in his fraud case on their docket.

Contemplating an aggressive round of depositions, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked for an additional 3½ months to question potential witnesses about allegations that Paxton defrauded investors in private business deals five years ago.

The additional time, if granted by U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III, would delay until at least September 2017 a civil trial on fraud allegations made by federal regulators.

In a recent court filing, Paxton’s lawyers told the judge they will need more time to question as many as 46 potential witnesses, including state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, and his wife, Kay.

[…]

Another reason to grant a delay, lawyers told Mazzant, is that Paxton could face a criminal trial as early as spring 2017 on state felony fraud charges related to his actions on behalf of Servergy.

“Mr. Paxton respectfully submits that, as a matter of fairness, the trial of his criminal matter should occur prior to the trial of this matter,” his lawyers said.

Paxton’s lawyers also informed Mazzant that they are not interested in reaching an out-of-court settlement with the SEC. Neither side has requested or made a settlement offer, they added.

SEC lawyers told Mazzant they expect to finish their depositions — which would include questioning Paxton and his wife, Angela — by Feb. 6. Paxton’s lawyers pressed for a May 26 deadline on depositions.

See here and here for the background. Paxton has also filed a motion to dismiss the SEC charges against him, which still awaits the judge’s ruling. You have to admit, defending himself from a myriad of charges relating to his bad behavior is a full-time job, so Paxton has a compelling case for delay here. We’ll see if the judge grants it.

Paxton moves to dismiss SEC charges against him

We’ll see if he has any more luck with this than he has had with the state charges.

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Lawyers for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton have asked a federal court to dismiss the federal securities fraud charges against him.

[…]

Paxton’s lawyers in the federal case filed a motion Thursday seeking to dismiss the charges, arguing that the SEC has failed to show that Paxton lied to investors and arguing that the investors did not lose any money.

“In short, the SEC’s claims against Mr. Paxton are a dramatic overreach and lack any basis in law,” says the motion filed in the Eastern District of Texas. “Mr. Paxton should not be left to labor under a cloud of suspicion while enduring years of costly discovery to refute claims that are meritless on their face.”

Paxton reiterated Thursday his belief that he is innocent. “I did not violate the federal securities laws, and I intend to defend myself vigorously against these allegations,” Paxton said in a statement.

See here and here for the background. A copy of the Paxton motion is here. These are civil charges, meaning the worst Paxton will face if he loses is a fine, but also meaning that the standard of proof against him is less cumbersome. History suggests the odds are against him, but we know he was never going to do anything other than fight to the finish. He needs his image to be that of the poor persecuted True Conservative, and that is not compatible with making a deal. No indication at this time what the timeframe for this might be, so who knows how long this could take. The Chron and Trail Blazers have more.

This week in Ken Paxton Dishonesty

What else has he been lying about?

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Ken Paxton told federal investigators a tech CEO gave him $100,000 worth of stock five years ago, but he never disclosed the shares as either a gift or income, an issue ethics experts agreed could spell more trouble for the attorney general already facing state and federal fraud charges.

According to federal fraud charges filed against Paxton last month, the embattled first-term Republican AG told investigators from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that in 2011 he was given 100,000 shares of stock in the North Texas tech startup Servergy by the firm’s then-CEO Bill Mapp.

While Paxton said he intended to invest in the company and pay for the shares, Mapp allegedly wouldn’t accept, telling him during a meeting at a McKinney Dairy Queen that “God doesn’t want me to take your money,” according to the SEC charges.

“Consequently, Paxton claims, he later accepted the shares as a gift,” the charges added. Yet Paxton, who was a state representative at the time, never disclosed the stock as a gift on annual personal financial statements elected officials are required to file with the state.

Federal investigators doubt the shares were given as a gift, instead alleging Mapp handed over the stock to Paxton as a “sales commission” for convincing other people to invest in his company.

[…]

State law says elected officials who receive a gift worth more than $250 must disclose it on the “gifts” section of their annual personal financial statements. On his 2011 statement, Paxton for the first time disclosed that he held 10,000 or more shares in Servergy.

He did not also list the shares in the “gifts” section.

Several ethics experts said if an elected official receives stock as a gift, they must disclose the shares in both the “gifts” and “stock” sections on the personal financial statement. The gift section, unlike the stock section, requires the official to divulge the name of the donor.

The only exceptions to this disclosure rule, according to state law, are for gifts that come from a relative by blood or marriage within two degrees, political contributions or lobbyist expenditures.

“It specifically requires that a gift be reported if it is in excess of $250,” said Tim Sorrells, a private practice attorney who served as the general counsel of the Texas Ethics Commission for a dozen years. Renea Hicks, an Austin attorney who specializes in ethics issues, added, “If it was a gift, it seems obvious to me it would have to be listed in the gifts section.”

Paxton did not list the stock under the “gifts” section of his personal financial statement that year or in any year since.

See here and here for some background. This, again, is why Paxton is writing legally meaningless threat letters to Target about bathrooms. It’s all to keep his core supporters focused on the things they like, and not on these unpleasant little allegations about Paxton’s utter lack of moral character. A scoundrel’s gotta do what a scoundrel’s gotta do.

One more thing:

The Texas Ethics Commission can fine someone who breaks disclosure laws $5,000 or three times the amount at issue. Criminal charges for perjury or making false statements would also be possible, said former assistant attorney general Fred Lewis. Failing to file a personal financial statement correctly in accordance with state law is a Class B misdemeanor.

Progress Texas? Texans for Public Justice? This is your cue.

Paxton’s pity party

Oh, boo hoo hoo.

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Attorney General Ken Paxton has blasted his indictments and other legal problems – including a previously undisclosed IRS investigation and frozen accounts – as a political witch-hunt fueled by fellow conservatives and the media.

At a Tarrant County tea party meeting Saturday that also featured Glenn Beck and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, Paxton asked the crowd to imagine a trusted neighbor who gets a new job and then is plagued by all kinds of problems – including having his accounts frozen and being subject to an IRS audit.

“He’s got some of his bank accounts have been shut down. Some of his retirement accounts are being shut down,” said Paxton. “You find out the guy is being investigated by the Travis County DA, and then the Dallas County DA, and then the Collin County DA. And then you find out the person is being investigated by the SEC.”

He then added, “You have to ask yourself, ‘Is there a character problem here? This person has been no trouble for 35 years and then, suddenly, they’re having all this trouble.’ Well that’s, in that sense, what’s happened to me. I have no speeding ticket in my life. Never been audited by the IRS. Never been investigated by—never, no bar grievances with the state bar. I get sworn into office and everything I just mentioned happened.”

[…]

Also on Saturday, Paxton said that one of his biggest challenges in state government has been Republican disunity.

“Since been running for AG, you may have noticed I’ve been under a little bit of a political attack. You might have noticed the media doesn’t cover me very well, says a few unflattering things,” he said. “The reality is when you go down to Austin and you’re going to stick to your conservative principles, there are people in our own party often times that find that too enlightening.”

Poor, poor baby. There’s audio at the link if you can stomach it. It may well be that Ken Paxton was a complete choirboy for the first forty-something years of his life, and then he got corrupted by his years in Austin. We know Paxton has made a tidy little fortune since first being elected, it’s hardly a stretch to imagine. And isn’t that “power corrupts” narrative something that teabaggers love to believe?

Anyway. Turns out Paxton is not being audited, just hyperbolic. That link has video of the speech, if you’re even more morbid. It may well be that Texas voters will tolerate a scoundrel or two – or at least, it may well be that the current Republican voting majority will tolerate a Republican scoundrel – but a whiner? There’s also the inconvenient fact that our scoundrels have for the most part not gotten themselves convicted. Someone who gets accused and gets off is an underdog who beat the system. Someone who gets convicted (if it sticks, anyway), is just another crook. That story has not yet been written about Ken Paxton.

More on Paxton’s SEC troubles

The short answer is, he’s gonna lose.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton may have some history on his side, but as of this week the numbers appear to be against him.

Paxton, who is trying to become the latest in a long line of Texas officials to beat prominent allegations, unwittingly entered treacherous waters Monday when the federal Securities and Exchange Commission announced it had sued him for allegedly committing securities fraud, the same charge he is facing in a state district court.

Over the past two years, the SEC has won 95.9 percent of the cases not related to insider trading that it has taken to a federal courtroom, according to a new study from Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance.

“If we were in Vegas making book, the odds would be that the attorney general is going to lose,” said Joseph Grundfest, a senior faculty member at the center and a former SEC commissioner.

Part of the reason for those odds is that the SEC does not make formal accusations until giving defendants a chance to argue in writing and in person why a case should not be filed – a process Paxton almost certainly exhausted before the commission moved forward, experts said.

The attorney general’s challenge is heightened by the fact that two of his co-defendants already have agreed to large financial settlements.

[…]

Although it has taken place more quietly, the SEC investigation has been going on for at least [as] long [as the state criminal investigation]. Its existence first was reported by the Associated Press in early last July.

Paul Coggins, a former federal prosecutor who now leads the white-collar criminal defense practice for the Dallas-based Locke Lord law firm, said the SEC process dictates that the agency long ago had to notify Paxton of its intent to file a lawsuit and offer him an opportunity to submit a brief and to argue in person that nothing should be filed.

The federal complaint filed Monday quotes Paxton defending himself, statements that may have been taken from a brief or from testimony.

During the SEC’s investigative process, two of Paxton’s co-defendants agreed to settle their cases by paying a combined $266,000, according to the federal government. Those settlements, by Servergy and former firm official Caleb White, were signed in mid-March, court records show.

White, who was accused of the same crime as Paxton but received one-fifth of the shares in the company, paid the SEC $66,000, suggesting Paxton could be on the hook for at least that much.

That could be a problem for Paxton, who already is spending heavily on a five-person defense team and faces legal barriers to raising money through donations.

In cases that were not settled, a 2015 analysis by the Wall Street Journal found, the SEC won 69 percent of cases litigated in federal courts from October 2010 through March 2015.

Grundfest, the Stanford professor, said the SEC’s win rate has improved recently. He also pointed out that the newspaper’s analysis included insider trading cases, which are much harder for the commission to win.

In insider trading cases, the agency loses about half the time. In cases unrelated to insider trading, the SEC almost always wins, the professor said.

See here for the background. As the story notes, this could be a precursor to federal criminal charges being filed. Even if that doesn’t happen, he’s going to lose this lawsuit. I feel a song coming on:

One way or another, this is not going to end well for Ken Paxton. If he deserved any sympathy, I’d feel it for him, but he doesn’t.

SEC files charges against Paxton

Bam!

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been charged in federal court with allegedly misleading investors in a technology company.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed the charges Monday in a Sherman-based court. They are similar to the allegations Paxton faces in a pending indictment handed up by a Collin County grand jury last year.

Paxton is named in the SEC’s complaint along with William Mapp, the founder and former CEO of Servergy Inc. Paxton is accused of raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for Servergy without disclosing he was making a commission. The case stems from when Paxton was a member of the Texas House — before he was elected attorney general in 2014.

“People recruiting investors have a legal obligation to disclose any compensation they are receiving to promote a stock, and we allege that Paxton and White concealed the compensation they were receiving for touting Servergy’s product,” Shamoil T. Shipchandler, director of the SEC’s Fort Worth regional office, said in a news release on the complaint.

See here for more on the Paxton/Mapp/Servergy relationship, and see here for a copy of the complaint, which as the Chron notes is a civil lawsuit, which may result in a fine for Paxton if he loses. The bit from the complaint that directly relates to Paxton begins on page 17. Here’s a key quote from that section, which is paragraph 78:

Among the people Paxton recruited were his friends, business associates, law firm clients, and members of an investment group to which he belonged. Despite a duty to do so, Paxton knowingly or recklessly failed to inform the individuals he recruited that he was being compensated to promote Servergy to investors.

Basically, this is saying that Paxton lied to his friends, colleagues (including Rep. Byron Cook), clients, and coworkers by exhorting them to invest in Servergy without telling them that he would get a kickback if they did. What a guy, right? We are very early in this story and there is sure to be much more to come, so stay tuned. One thing we can say, though, is that Paxton’s fellow Republicans really don’t want to talk about him.

Top leaders including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have been mostly silent on the issue, giving Paxton the benefit of the doubt and allowing the legal battle to play out with the AG still in power.

What’s more, the people who were instrumental in his election don’t care about the charges against him. They support him because his conservative credentials are in line with the grassroots activists that now dominate the GOP.

In the past, donors like Bob Perry, Fred Meyer and Louis Beecherl had tremendous influence because their money could make or break candidates for public office.

Today, grassroots candidates who aim to shake up the establishment don’t need money from old-line political donors. They are boosted by folks like Midland oilman Tim Dunn and the billionaire Wilks brothers out of Cisco.

So candidates like Paxton have not only support at the ballot box from activists, but also a fundraising base to hold potential opponents at bay.

Fine by me. I’ll say again, I hope he’s on the ballot in 2018 as a convict. It would sum up the state of the state’s Republican party perfectly. Trail Blazers, TPM, the Lone Star Project, the Current, Newsdesk, PDiddie, and the Press have more.

Former Servergy CEO sues over Paxton-related costs

What a tangled web.

Best mugshot ever

Best mugshot ever

The former CEO of the technology startup named in Ken Paxton’s indictments is suing the company he founded for costs associated with the attorney general’s criminal investigation and ongoing legal battle.

William Mapp III, the founder and ex-CEO of McKinney tech firm Servergy Inc., says he “incurred and continues to incur attorney’s fees and expenses and may in the future incur other liabilities” from “grand jury proceedings and criminal indictment of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.”

Mapp also claims to have shouldered costs associated with an ongoing U.S. Securities and Exchange investigation into whether the company defrauded investors when he was CEO. Mapp is asking for more than $150,000, plus damages from Servergy for expenses he already has incurred and anticipates as Paxton’s court battle continues.

“It is routine for corporations to agree to advance and reimburse current and former officers and directors for legal fees in such circumstances, and Servergy is obligated through its bylaws to do so in this case,” said Kirby J. Smith, Mapp’s attorney. “Servergy has so far failed or refused to do so, leading to Mr. Mapp’s conclusion he had no choice but to file this lawsuit to obtain payments overdue to him.”

[…]

The SEC began investigating Servergy in 2013, and after the company failed to produce information demanded in multiple subpoenas, it sued in December 2014, to compel the production of records in an investigation of “possible misstatements and omissions related to Servergy’s purported business relationships and technology.”

At the same time, a group of investors, including House State Affairs Committee Chairman Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, also sued the company for access to Servergy’s books and records. Both suits ultimately were dropped after the documents were produced, but Mapp’s lawsuit suggests the SEC investigation is ongoing.

“Mapp has incurred and continues to incur attorneys’ fees and expenses and may in the future incur other liabilities in connection with the investigation of Servergy by the Securities and Exchange Commission,” the lawsuit reads. “Mapp has retained the law firm of Greenberg Traurig to aid in his defense of the SEC investigation.”

See here, here, and here for more on Servergy and William Mapp, who testified during the grand jury proceedings but has some potential credibility issues. His lawsuit was filed in Nevada, as that is where Servergy is incorporated, though its corporate office is here. I have no idea what if any effect this will have on the criminal case against Paxton – the possibility that the SEC is still investigating Servergy is intriguing but not necessarily relevant – I just thought it was worth noting.

Paxton girding for indictment

So are we, Kenny. So are we.

Ken Paxton

A Collin County grand jury is expected to weigh evidence brought by two temporary district attorneys assigned to the case. Paxton’s advisers are furiously preparing for a criminal indictment.

The looming showdown has the camps bickering. Anthony Holm, a spokesman for Paxton, contends the AG should not face criminal prosecution.

“As we’ve said for 14 months now, there was no criminal action because there was no crime,” Holm said. “This was solely a civil event with a $1,000 civil penalty.”

Holm took aim at the special prosecutors assigned to the case, calling Houston lawyers Kent Schaffer and Brian Wice lawyers “whose careers are built on defending the sort of child molesters and Mexican drug cartel leaders that Attorney General Paxton was elected to prosecute.”

Holm also accused a local lawyer who provided information about Paxton to a previous grand jury of having a vendetta.

“The Collin County situation is a drastic departure from objectivity, legal precedent or common sense, and it’s time for people to understand a respected public official is the target of a political vendetta,” Holm said. “This witch hunt must end.”

In a written statement, Schaffer and Wice fired back, saying their investigation was “neither a political vendetta nor a witch hunt.”

“The PR shell game Mr. Paxton’s hired gun employs once again seeks to change the conversation from his client’s conduct to personal attacks on us,” they wrote. “He knows full well that we were appointed by a Republican judge in one of the most conservative counties in Texas to conduct a full, fair and impartial investigation, and that is exactly what we intend to do.”

As the story notes, Paxton admitted to breaking the law to avoid a campaign issue. In his mind, that means the matter was settled, even though it had not yet come to the attention of any prosecutor. Now as we know a complaint has been filed and a special prosecutor appointed with a grand jury waiting in the wings, but Team Paxton wants everyone to believe that it’s all ancient history. It doesn’t work like that, I’m afraid. At least, not for normal people.

But prosecutors now say that at the least, there’s evidence that Paxton violated securities law by not registering with the securities board, a third-degree felony. And Schaffer has said he’ll ask for a first-degree felony indictment, though he won’t elaborate on the charge.

The prosecutors could submit evidence of the securities law violation that Paxton admitted to as a slam dunk case. But at least one legal expert says few people are criminally prosecuted for such offenses.

The state securities board did not refer the case for criminal prosecution.

“It’s technically a violation, but you don’t often see that type of violation charged criminally,” said Dallas lawyer Jeff Ansley, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas and a former Enforcement Attorney for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. “That’s very rare.”

So the key question remains: What’s the evidence of a first-degree felony?

I assure you, we are all on pins and needles waiting to find out. One hopes that these two career defense attorneys will not pursue excessive charges on flimsy evidence – you know, the sort of thing they are critical of other prosecutors for – so we’ll see what goods they have.

That Paxton is in legal trouble can be attributed in part to the efforts of a watchdog group, and the determination of a local lawyer.

The public integrity unit within the Travis County district attorney’s office said it lacked jurisdiction and forwarded information to Dallas and Collin counties for lack of jurisdiction. Dallas County District Attorney Susan Hawk didn’t touch the case either, saying she was not aware of any alleged crimes being committed in the county.

That left Collin County, where Paxton’s friend and business partner, Greg Willis, is district attorney.

After receiving a complaint from Texans for Public Justice, Willis stepped aside and said that “appropriate investigation agencies, including the Texas Rangers,” should handle the allegations against Paxton.

“As soon as we saw what he signed with the State Securities Board, it was obvious that he was admitting to felony conduct,” said Craig McDonald, executive director for Texans for Public Justice. “If Greg Willis hadn’t stepped aside, this thing would have died.”

Meanwhile, Dallas lawyer and blogger Ty Clevenger took the extraordinary step of sending information about Paxton to members of a Collin County grand jury, including three from the same church. He said he also dropped off information to a grand jury member’s home. He got their names from Collin County officials by asking; in Dallas, Hawk declined to release the grand jury’s names.

The grand jury that will hear the Paxton evidence from the special prosecutors is not the same as the one Clevenger sought out. One should always be a little wary of crusaders, no matter how enticing their claims are, but again, one hopes that the evidence will back up whatever comes out. There’s been a lot of trash talk from Team Paxton, which is either bravado or whistling past the graveyard. That grand jury is now in, and it’s put up or shut up time. The Observer suggests what may be coming.

William Mapp, the disgraced founder of Servergy, Inc., was identified at the courthouse by WFAA reporter Tanya Eiserer. Servergy, based in McKinney, claimed to produce energy-efficient servers for corporate clients. The company made extraordinary claims about its core product, the Cleantech-1000, claiming it consumed “80% less power, cooling, and space in comparison to other servers currently available.” But there was a problem: The federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) alleges that Servergy’s claims about its product were false. And the company, the SEC says, produced fraudulent pre-orders from tech companies like Amazon and Freescale to sell itself to investors.

Servergy raised some $26 million from selling stock between 2009 and 2013, as detailed by information released by the SEC. And it profited from grants from the McKinney Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), a local fund that reinvests money collected by local sales taxes. Servergy continued to receive money from MEDC even after a formal SEC investigation began in 2013. Servergy is also connected to a wide variety of other improprieties and shady activities.

Paxton was a prominent Servergy shareholder, owning at least 10,000 shares. But while other investors simply lost their shirts, Paxton’s role in the Servergy case has generated lingering interest from authorities. In 2014, Paxton’s name was included in a list of search terms used by the SEC to subpoena the company, along with several other prominent figures in McKinney. Mapp’s presence at the courthouse today suggests that Servergy’s case is connected to evidence special prosecutors are presenting against Paxton.

That would be a significant escalation in the case against the state’s AG. A large part of the public defense laid out by Paxton’s spokesman Anthony Holm revolves around the assertion that Paxton’s original violation of securities law, regarding his legal clients, was a simple mistake and civil matter that he corrected when it was brought to his attention. The Servergy episode is a whole different kettle of fish, and while it remains to be seen what the prosecutors have against Paxton in connection to this particular episode, it should be a source of significant concern in the AG’s office.

See here for the background. All I can say is “oh please, oh please, oh please”. We’ll see what happens.

Paxton involved in another scam

When it rains, it pours.

Ken Paxton

The name of Attorney General Ken Paxton, facing potential indictment by special prosecutors in Collin County for first-degree felony securities fraud, has surfaced in a federal probe of a company in which he is an investor.

The investigation, first reported late Tuesday by the Associated Press, centers on whether McKinney-based Servergy defrauded investors with false claims about the sales of its data servers and their technological capabilities. According to court filings by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company is suspected of “potential misstatements” about having preorders for the servers from the online retailer Amazon and the semiconductor giant Freescale — and in assertions that the product needed up to 80 percent less cooling, energy, and space compared to other servers on the market.

Paxton’s email address appears with about 70 other contacts in one list of search terms in a subpoena of Servergy from the SEC. His name is also included in an October 2014 letter from Servergy to the SEC describing the search terms used to produce the documents the company turned over in response to a subpoena.

According to Paxton’s 2014 personal financial statement filed with the Texas Ethics Commission, he owns at least 10,000 shares in the company. The SEC filings do not indicate it is seeking documents involving Paxton or the scores of other investors and additional parties.

You can see the original AP story here. At this point, it’s hard to say what if anything this may amount to, and what if any role Paxton may have played beyond duped investor. He’s been duped before, and there’s no reason to believe he’s learned from the experience. So we’ll see. This has already been a bad year for Ken Paxton. It has the potential to get a whole lot worse.

TPJ refiles complaint against Paxton

We’ll see if they have any better luck this time.

Ken Paxton

Texans for Public Justice on Monday re-filed its criminal complaint against Attorney General Ken Paxton with local prosecutors in Dallas and Collin Counties, arguing the latter should recuse himself because of conflict of interest concerns.

“Mr. Paxton’s conduct demands a thorough and independent investigation,” Craig McDonald, executive director of Texans for Public Justice, wrote to Collin County District Attorney Greg Willis.

“We further believe that as a friend and business associate of Mr. Paxton that you should recuse yourself from this matter. To ensure independent and impartial judgment, you should forward our complaint to the proper judicial authority to appoint an independent special prosecutor to investigate Mr. Paxton’s conduct.”

[…]

McDonald has accused Collin County of “stonewalling” his group’s efforts because of Willis’ long-time friendship and business relationship with the new attorney general. The two men have known each other for more than 30 years and have invested in at least four different ventures together.

The conflict of interest problems McDonald cites in his letter also have concerned lawmakers considering a proposal to move the Public Integrity Unit outside of Travis County. Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, on Friday also called for Willis to recuse himself, and said the concerns the Paxton case raises illustrate the pitfalls of handing public corruption cases to hometown prosecutors who inevitably have deep ties with local politicians.

See here for the background. A copy of the letter sent to Collin County DA Greg Willis is here, a copy of the letter sent to Dallas County DA Susan Hawk is here, and a copy of the complaint sent to Collin County is here. I can’t wait to see what if any response they get. What recourse TPJ may have if no action is taken is not clear to me.

Paxton evades prosecution

In Travis County, anyway.

Ken Paxton

New Attorney General Ken Paxton, who in 2014 was found to have violated the Texas Securities Act, will not be prosecuted by the state’s office that investigates public corruption, officials said Thursday.

Paxton, a former state senator from McKinney, violated the Securities Act by soliciting investment clients without being registered, as required by law, according to a disciplinary order last year from the State Securities Board. Under the order, Paxton was “reprimanded” and fined $1,000. But Thursday’s announcement signals that the case may be closed.

“Our investigation did not find any additional criminal activity over which our office has venue, so we are concluding Travis County’s involvement in this matter,” said Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, whose office includes the state’s public integrity unit.

[…]

Lehmberg’s office said it had forwarded a portion of its investigation to prosecutors in Collin and Dallas counties, which could investigate the securities board’s findings further.

See here for the background. In addition to possible action in Collin and/or Dallas Counties, there’s also still the SEC complaint, the state bar grievance, and the lawsuit to get his records from the State Securities Board out there. Paxton may have dodged one bullet, but he shouldn’t feel lucky just yet. Trail Blazers and the Statesman have more.

TPJ files criminal complaint against Ken Paxton

From the inbox:

TPJ Calls for Formal Investigation of AG Candidate Ken Paxton – Criminal Complaint Filed With Travis County DA’s Office

TPJ has filed a criminal complaint with the Travis County District Attorney against State Senator and Attorney General candidate Ken Paxton. The complaint, filed on July 18, seeks a formal investigation into allegations that Paxton committed one or more felonies when, over several years, he failed to register as an investment adviser representative of Mowery Capital Management as the state securities law requires. Paxton previously admitted to state regulators that he solicited clients and was compensated for his services when he was not a registered agent. Paxton also admitted hiding the income he received on his state personal financial disclosures.

Here’s the letter they sent to DA Rosemary Lehmberg and Public Integrity Unit lead prosecutor Gregg Cox. It’s pretty straightforward so I’ll reproduce it here:

Dear Ms. Lehmberg and Mr. Cox,

I believe that Mr. Kenneth Warren Paxton, Jr. has committed one or more criminal felony offenses related to his activities as an investment advisor representative for Mowery Capital Management, LLC (MCM). I encourage your offices to investigate and, if warranted, appropriately prosecute Mr. Paxton for his felony criminal conduct.

The public record appears to be unambiguously clear that Mr. Paxton violated provisions of the Texas Securities Act in 2004, 2005 and 2012 by failing to register as an investment adviser representative of Mowery Capital Management as the law requires.

As widely reported in the media, on April 30, 2014, by sworn acknowledgement, Mr. Paxton admitted to conduct that violated the Texas Securities Act. His sworn acknowledgement resulted in Disciplinary Order No. IC14-CAF-03 entered against him on May 2, 2014 by Texas Securities Commissioner John Morgan.

By agreeing to the Disciplinary Order Mr. Paxton has acknowledged that he solicited clients for MCM and was compensated by MCM for each client he delivered. Mr. Paxton also acknowledged that he was not registered with the Texas Securities Board as a representative of MCM during 2004, 2005 and 2012 when he actively solicited clients and potential investors.

The Texas Securities Act prohibits a person from acting as an investment adviser representative for an investment firm in Texas unless the person is registered as a representative for that particular firm. The Texas Securities Act provides that any person who renders services as an investment advisor representative without being registered as required by
the Act is guilty of a felony of the third degree.

I therefore request that you fully investigate this matter and prosecute any violations if justified by the law and the facts.

Respectfully,

Craig McDonald
Director, Texans for Public Justice

See here and here for the background. That disciplinary order was little more than a slap on the wrist, unless this develops into something. There’s also an SEC complaint pending against Paxton. That’s an awful lot of baggage for a candidate to carry, and one imagines it will have to take a toll on him. I figure at least a few Dan Branch supporters are going to avoid voting for Paxton in November, though how many that may be is anyone’s guess. The one thing about all this that worries me is that once the Democratic District Attorney from Democratic Travis County gets involved, Paxton and his supporters can claim it’s all about partisan politics and that he’s the real victim here. He’s already traveling down that road. If there’s one thing that can overcome revulsion against an ethically-compromised candidate, it’s tribal identity. Still, the facts here are quite plain – Paxton signed legal documents stipulating to what he did – and for sure someone was going to file a complaint. Now we wait and see what Lehmberg and her staff make of it. The Statesman has more.

The Trib on the AG race

What do you do when you have an ethically compromised candidate on your ticket? Thank your lucky stars that you’re the majority party and hope like hell the challenger can’t get any traction.

Sen. Ken Paxton

A political candidate’s troubles are supposed to be a gold mine for the opposition, but that has not been the case with state Sen. Ken Paxton, the Republican nominee for attorney general.

His easy win in the Republican primary runoff in May was either a bafflement or a relief, depending on whether you were rooting for Paxton or his rival, state Rep. Dan Branch, of Dallas.

For Branch, it looked like a perfect setup. He’s a veteran legislator, a partner in a well-known Texas law firm, a member of the establishment.

And Paxton was in trouble.

The job in question is attorney general, the functional head of the state’s in-house law firm. Candidates like to talk about it as the top law enforcement position in the state — a bit of a stretch, since most criminal cases fall to local district and county attorneys, but a useful and effective exaggeration in a campaign.

Paxton committed a foul by failing to tell his clients and the State Securities Board about his relationship with a securities investment adviser. He looked into it, admitted the wrongdoing, amended some reports and paid a fine, then left Branch, who hoped to benefit from the revelations and admissions, in the dust. Branch received 36.6 percent of the vote to Paxton’s 63.4 percent.

That result was a vindication. Republican voters ignored the blot on Paxton’s résumé and looked instead to his conservative credentials, including a near endorsement from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Ideology trumped biography, and it will take some new twist to get voters to reconsider.

Now Sam Houston, the Democratic nominee (no relation to the 19th-century soldier and politician), lies in wait. He starts from a weaker position, with less money, no experience in state office and no natural political base. It makes sense that Paxton, in a competitive primary and runoff, had to raise money and Houston did not. Experience is a mixed bag at a time when voters find incumbency suspect.

This time, the Democrats are trying to stir the pot, suggesting that prosecutors are looking at Paxton’s file and could act at any time. They are hoping to succeed where Branch failed, but an investigation or an indictment — especially in Travis County, that blue Democratic smudge on the bright red Republican map of Texas — could bounce the wrong way.

Those suggestions come from the Lone Star Project, which sent out this email last week with those claims. Among other things, they say that emissaries for House Speaker Joe Straus have met with Travis County prosecutors to urge quick action against Paxton. I’ve got to say, I find this all highly dubious. For one thing, it’s not clear that any criminal laws were broken by Paxton – the original story gave no indication that there was something for a DA’s office to look into. Paxton’s already received a slap on the wrist from the Texas State Securities Board, and again it seemed like that’s all the action there was going to be at the state level. There’s still the matter of the SEC complaint that was filed against Paxton. That could certainly turn into something, though I’m sure Paxton and his buddies would be just as happy to run against the evil federal government trying to persecute him as they would be running against the evil Travis County DA’s office. Whether that would work for him or not I couldn’t say, but it’s certainly a possibility.

Strategy-wise, to me the best tactic is to raise enough money for Sam Houston for him to run ads featuring these quotes from that same email the LPS sent out:

If that draws out Dan Branch to denounce Houston for implying that he now opposes Paxton’s November candidacy, that’s fine. I seriously doubt the publicity would be anything but a net positive for Houston. One million dollars is enough to run a week’s worth of TV ads statewide. Surely that’s not too much to ask for. This accompanying story on Houston quotes Republican operative Matt Mackowiak saying that $5 to $10 million is needed for “first-rate, truly competitive” race for attorney general. That would be ideal, sure, but give him enough for a week’s worth of ads plus some faith in the outrage machine driving some earned media of it, and I’d take my chances.

SEC complaint filed against Paxton

We’ll see if anything comes of this.

Sen. Ken Paxton

Days after Texas regulators fined Sen. Ken Paxton $1,000 for working for a financial firm without registering with the state, a plaintiff’s lawyer filed a similar complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Paxton, a McKinney state senator and the Republican front-runner in the primary runoff for attorney general, said through a spokesman the complaint is baseless and politically timed to drum up negative media against his campaign just 11 days before early voting begins.

[…]

The claims and counterclaims by Branch and Paxton began last month.

It was fueled further recently when the State Securities Board slapped Paxton with a $1,000 fine for acting as an “investment adviser representative” for Mowery Capital Management, which provides estate planning and investment management, without obtaining state registration.

Following the state action, Longview lawyer John Sloan filed a complaint with the SEC.

“I couldn’t see the guy getting away with that,” Sloan said. “He must feel like he’s above the law.”

The Paxton campaign questioned the timing of the complaint.

Sloan represented a Dallas couple in a 2009 lawsuit against Paxton that was voluntarily dismissed.

Former U.S. Attorney Matt Orwig, in a statement made available by the Paxton campaign, said the Sloan complaint in the middle of a “hotly contested political campaign” is suspicious.

“It appears to be more of a political stunt than a serious complaint given that the issues appear to have been resolved in other venues,” Orwig said.

Former state and federal regulators said it was doubtful the complaint would trigger an SEC investigation.

See here and here for the background. It would be nice to have an objective opinion on the complaint instead of just one from someone that is apparently connected to Paxton’s campaign. As far as the timing goes, when exactly was it supposedly to be filed? We only just found out about Paxton’s peccadilloes and the wrist slap he received for them. And as for the SEC not being likely to act on the complaint, is that normal or is it a statement about the complaint’s merit? Sure, this could be a political stunt – Sloan would appear to have motive – but I can’t get a feel for that from this story. What do you think?

On a tangential note, this Trib story sees a parallel between the current GOP runoff for AG and the one in 1998, when John Cornyn overtook Barry Williamson after the latter got bogged down in stories about his law license lapsing. I wasn’t paying very much attention to that race so I can’t say just how much alike that one is to this one, but for what it’s worth Paxton just lost the endorsement of another law enforcement group for his travails. So who knows?

It’s official: WVU to Big XII

The Big East takes another body blow.

The Big 12 welcomed West Virginia from the Big East and bid goodbye to Missouri before the Tigers even had a chance to finalize their move to the Southeastern Conference.

Now that the poaching of the Big East seems to be over, the beleaguered league is not backing down. It has been busy courting six schools and says it was braced for the latest loss. And despite what the Big 12 says, the Big East plans to keep West Virginia for two more years — just as it has vowed to keep Pittsburgh and Syracuse away from the Atlantic Coast Conference until 2014.

The latest round of conference realignment appears to be winding down, but tug-o-war over who goes where when likely will take a while to sort out.

The Big 12 completed its work Friday by adding West Virginia to become its easternmost member, joining Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, TCU and Iowa State.

The Big 12 said it expects to have 10 schools for the 2012-13 season, listing West Virginia but not Missouri, which is expected to complete its move to the SEC any day now.

“I wouldn’t say that there won’t be further expansion,” interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas said on a conference call Friday evening. “But our mission was … to move forward with 10 teams at this point. That doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be further consideration. But right now, we’ve got our house in order. We’ve got everybody signed up. We’re looking forward to a very aggressive conference.”

So for now at least, Louisville will remain in the Big East despite a late push from Sen. Mitch McConnell to push them ahead of West Virginia. The Big East continues to insist that WVU, along with Pittsburgh and Syracuse, will be held to their conference commitment through the end of the 2013 season, but I think we all know that that’s a problem that can be resolved by a judicious application of the checkbook.

Given that, what will the Big East do? The sidebar on this ESPN story says it will continue forward with an expanded version of its expansion plans.

The Big East plans to announce Central Florida, Houston and SMU as future members of the conference, likely in 2013, as early as Tuesday, the source said. Navy and Air Force are being more deliberate and methodical in the process, but the conference is hopeful both soon will follow, along with Boise State.

The conference has statistics it believes shows those six teams in addition to Louisville, Rutgers, UConn, South Florida and Cincinnati would qualify the conference as a continued automatic qualifier for the BCS. As a 12th member, the schools under discussion include BYU, Army, Temple, East Carolina and Memphis. BYU would be part of a logical Western Division of the Big East.

The Big East believes it would qualify for the BCS because of the depth of the football success of proposed teams in terms of Top 25 appearances and an overall lack of traditional bottom-feeding schools.

While some may suggest an independent school like Navy or Air Force could be available as early as next season, a conference official warned that those schools are committed to large schedules for next season that would create complications as challenging as adding a school from a conference that has exit fee and timeline complications.

I think if the Big East gets the schools it wants that it can survive and could continue to be a BCS conference, but it will be a conference of convenience and not much more. I don’t see a whole lot of traditional rivalries in that group, and the ones that I do see all involve newcomers. What will hold anyone to the conference in the event that one or more of the ACC, SEC, and Big XII decide that 14 and 10 members are awkward numbers to schedule around? That’s the decision that UH now faces.

University of Houston Chancellor and President Renu Khator was granted authority to make decisions regarding the school’s athletic conference affiliation during a board of regents meeting on Thursday at UH.

School officials did not publicly discuss any particular conferences. However, the school has interest and an invitation from the Big East Conference, which is looking to expand to 12 football-playing members.

“We certainly want to thank chairperson (Nelda Luce) Blair and the board of regents for their decision to grant our chancellor authority to make any decisions regarding conference membership, conference affiliation that are in the best interests of our student-athletes, staff, head coaches and our athletic department,” UH athletic director Mack Rhoades said.

The timetable for when UH might take its next step in determining its conference future is unclear.

“We’ll wait and see,” Rhoades said.

I think if you feel reasonably certain that the Big East gets all the schools it is targeting, and that the other conferences are satisfied with what they have for the foreseeable future, then you make the move and hope for the best, even if it means that your biggest rivalry game goes the way of UT-A&M. I have no idea how to evaluate those odds, and no idea how risk averse UH will be. I’m just glad it’s not my decision to make.

Shunning A&M

It’s not just the UT-A&M football game that’s on the endangered list.

The SEC-bound Aggies have said they’d love to keep playing UT as a non-conference foe, but Longhorns athletic director DeLoss Dodds has said the school’s football schedule is full at least through 2018. That isn’t the case for all sports, but so far A&M has come up dry in scheduling future contests of any sort with UT.

“There doesn’t seem to be nearly as much interest from the other side,” A&M athletic director Bill Byrne said Monday.

[…]

Byrne has instructed his coaches to contact their UT counterparts about scheduling future non-conference games – with no luck to date.

“I reached out about four weeks ago to Texas and emailed and said we’d love to keep the series going,” A&M soccer coach G. Guerrieri said. “I haven’t heard back.”

A&M baseball coach Rob Childress said he and UT counterpart Augie Garrido have yet to discuss whether to continue playing as non-conference foes.

I’d speculated about this before, and I can’t say I’m surprised to see UT give A&M a cold shoulder. There’s no real incentive for them to do otherwise. The question now is whether any other Texas-based school will follow the Longhorns’ lead. At least one so far seems to be doing so.

As for the Aggies perhaps playing another soon-to-be former Big 12 mate in Baylor, Bears athletic director Ian McCaw said via email Monday, “At this time, our future non-conference football schedules are filled through 2020. With regard to scheduling Texas A&M in other sports, it will be considered on a sport-by-sport basis.”

Anyone know what the status of future games between A&M and Texas Tech is? How about TCU, SMU, and UH? Rice has played A&M fairly regularly in baseball lately, and occasionally in basketball, but has not played them in football since the demise of the SWC. I don’t expect any changes there. Looks to me like the Aggies will be racking up the frequent flyer miles in the coming years.

WVU to Big XII?

The Big XII appears to have a replacement in mind for when Missouri makes its move to the SEC.

The Big 12 has approved bringing in West Virginia to replace Missouri when the Tigers complete their move to the Southeastern Conference, a person with knowledge of the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the school nor the Big 12 had announced that its board of directors unanimously approved inviting West Virginia when Missouri’s spot comes open.

The move would allow the Big 12 to maintain 10 members and is another blow to the embattled Big East, which already has lost two members and one member-to-be in the last six weeks.

The Big East is trying to reconfigure as a 12-team football league and has been courting Boise State, Navy and Air Force as football-only members and Central Florida, SMU and Houston for all sports. Commissioner John Marinatto met with officials from some of those schools Sunday in Washington.

Since there is no timetable for Missouri to complete its expected departure from the Big 12 — and the league’s board of directors announced that it expressed “a strong desire” for Missouri to stay during a Monday meeting — there is no timetable for West Virginia to receive a formal invitation, the person said.

But the school will accept an invitation once it is offered, the person said.

That news comes at a time when the powers that be at UH are considering their invitation to the Big East, or whatever may be left of it.

UH’s board of regents called for a special meeting at 4 p.m. on Thursday regarding the school’s athletic conference affiliation.

On the meeting agenda is a request for approval to “delegate authority to the Chancellor to negotiate and execute a contract for athletic conference affiliation and to negotiate and provide notice of contract cancellation as necessary.”

The agenda does not specify a particular conference, but a person familiar with the Big East’s expansion discussions told the Chronicle last week that UH received an invitation to the Big East Conference.

If school chancellor and president Renu Khator is granted approval to act on conference affiliation on Thursday, the timetable for when UH might take its next step in determining its conference future is unclear.

“Thursday’s meeting is to give our board members an update on conference realignment as it pertains to the University of Houston,” UH athletic director Mack Rhoades said in a statement. “There is a great deal of speculation out there, and this meeting will allow us to provide our leadership with up-to-date information.”

The NYT says that the schools that were targeted by the Big East had been told about the possibility of WVU departing, so one presumes this is not a surprise. The question is whether it’s the last domino, and if so for how long.

While Big East officials and athletic directors are confident they will rebuild, there are troubling lingering issues. Does Notre Dame risk further Big East defections? It’s reasonable to expect the Big 12 to grow when it renegotiates its ESPN deal, which expires after the 2015 football season. That would put Louisville at risk of getting grabbed.

And Connecticut is yearning to be in the ACC. So again I say there may not be a Big East for anyone to join. Good luck with that decision, y’all.

RIP, UT-A&M

Tradition, schmadition.

This Thanksgiving one of college football’s oldest and most storied rivalries will be put on indefinite hold when Texas and Texas A&M meet for the last time as Big 12 foes.

The Aggies wanted to continue the series when they left for the Southeastern Conference in July, but the Longhorns told the Aggies that their non-conference schedule is full through 2018.

[…]

Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin, who led the charge for the Aggies to move to the SEC, has been vocal about his desire to continue playing Texas throughout the conference realignment process.

“We’re able to accommodate them anytime they want to make that happen,” he said of the rivalry. “It’s their choice, obviously, if they don’t want to do that, and I have to respect that choice, but it will be a loss to both of us and the state of Texas.”

Loftin pointed out that most states have key instate rivalry games that take place each season despite conference boundaries.

Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds emailed Texas A&M athletic director Bill Byrne late last week to tell him the Longhorns couldn’t fit A&M into their schedule through 2018.

“What we have right now is a full schedule, but if any future options are available, the decision will not be made by just one person,” Dodds said in a statement.

Loftin hopes they can renew the rivalry when Texas has room on its schedule.

“It’s open at any time,” Loftin said. “There’s no doubt in our minds to accommodate this kind of game at any time now or in the future.”

My sense, as someone who is neither a Longhorn nor and Aggie and who doesn’t really care one way or the other about this is that A&M is more interested in continuing this rivalry than UT is. From A&M’s perspective, their income will increase in the SEC, but so will their travel costs. Being able to play a few non-conference games in any sport in Texas will ease that a bit. I’ve mentioned before that if UT wanted to be a bit vindictive towards the Aggies, they’d refuse to play them at all, and would encourage other Texas schools to do the same. (Kim Mulkey, for one, does not need to be convinced of this.) The Horns can always offer games against themselves, with perhaps some exposure on the Longhorn Network (to the six homes that receive it, anyway) as incentive. I’m just spinning a scenario here, so don’t take any of this too seriously, but I will be interested to see what A&M’s nonconference schedule in men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, and volleyball look like next year and in 2013.

UH to get Big East invitation

Change is coming, one way or another.

UH’s hope of joining an automatic-qualifying Bowl Championship Series conference may soon come to fruition after the Big East Conference extended an invitation to UH on Monday evening.

The league extended an invitation to UH after a conference call on expansion with the Big East’s presidents and chancellors according to a person familiar with the Big East’s expansion discussions.

UH chancellor Renu Khator and athletic director Mack Rhoades will head to New York later this week to meet with Big East officials. UH officials declined comment.

If UH makes the move and leaves Conference USA, it could take effect as early as the 2013 football season and it would be for all sports.

The report that UH has already received an invitation is a bit premature, but the plan is for them to get one. There are a number of “howevers” that come with this. The first is the biggest:

The University of Missouri is heading down a path to join the Southeastern Conference, said a university official with direct knowledge of the situation.

The person said that Missouri’s decision to apply for membership to the SEC was “inevitable and imminent,” although a specific timeframe has yet to be set. Missouri’s Board of Curators will meet on Thursday and Friday at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where the process of withdrawing from the Big 12 and applying to the SEC is expected to begin. Expansion is not listed on the agenda, but there is a private session scheduled Thursday afternoon and Friday morning.

After it applies, the person said that Missouri expected “no problems” with gathering enough votes among SEC presidents for it to become a member.

What does that have to do with UH and the Big East? This:

A source with direct knowledge of the Big 12’s expansion panel’s plans told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz that if Missouri departs, the Big 12 still must decide if it wants to go to 10 or 12 members. The source said Louisville and West Virginia are two of the top candidates to replace Missouri if it leaves.

Needless to say, if the Big East winds up being the raided instead of the raider, their attempt to expand is likely to fall apart. The Big East did vote to double its exit fee, from $5 million to $10 million, which was supposed to be a sign that the remaining schools were committed to staying. However:

The increase is contingent on Navy and Air Force joining, said another official in the Big East who also asked to not be named because of the sensitive nature of the talks.

Not clear who’s the chicken and who’s the egg here. It should be noted that the Big XII is also targeting BYU as a replacement for Missouri, and that if they get BYU and stop at ten teams, that might be the end of the domino tumbling for now. But there’s still another factor in play.

If Louisville and West Virginia leave, Big East basketball members also could decide that the proposed football additions wouldn’t add enough value on the basketball side and look to split from the remaining football schools.

Notre Dame also will be watching these moves closely since it could decide it’s time to move to a conference, either the ACC or the Big Ten. The ACC, at 14 schools, is believed to be holding a couple of spots open in case Notre Dame decides it’s time to join a conference. Connecticut already has expressed its interest in the ACC.

All these possibilities have been out there for weeks. However, Missouri’s potential move has been viewed all along as a trigger – a much-feared one in Big East circles.

Isn’t this fun? We ought to know in a couple of days what Missouri will do. Raise your hand if you ever believed that Mizzou would someday be the linchpin for all of college football. And finally, as a reminder that the fallout from all of this extends well beyond the schools at the epicenter, UTSA will be sitting by the phone waiting for a call from C-USA in the likely but not yet inevitable event that it needs to refill its membership.

TCU to join Big XII

For now. Until something better comes along, of course.

TCU accepted an invitation to join the Big 12 on Monday night, seizing an opportunity to be a part of a conference with natural geographic rivals despite the league’s recent instability.

The board of trustees unanimously approved the move and Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. made the expected announcement in front a packed room of more than 200 people. Athletic director Chris Del Conte fought back tears as he recalled receiving the phone call from the Horned Frogs’ new conference last week.

“This is living proof that dreams do come true,” he said.

They’re quitting the Big East before ever officially joining it, thus becoming the Britney Spears and Jason Alexander of college football. (I’ll leave it to you to decide if that means that the Big XII is K-Fed.)

The move could provide some much-needed stability for the Big 12, which lost Nebraska (Big Ten) and Colorado (Pac-12) over the summer and will lose Texas A&M to the Southeastern Conference next year. Missouri is also exploring a move to the SEC.

Yes, we’ll see how long that stability lasts. And if the SEC ever wags a finger at TCU, don’t get between them and the exit clause. Now we wait to see who the Big East will go after to fill the holes left by TCU, Syracuse, and Pittsburgh. Everyone in Conference USA, either brush up your resumes or hold onto your seats.

Missouri on the move?

Still no stability for the Big XII.

It wasn’t too long ago that Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton spoke of “working every day to hold the Big 12 together.” Now he’s been tasked with helping decide whether the Tigers are the latest program to leave a troubled conference fighting for its future.

University curators voted unanimously Tuesday night to consider leaving the Big 12 instead of committing to the league for the long term. The governing board’s members agreed unanimously after a 4-hour closed meeting at the system’s St. Louis campus to give Deaton authority to look elsewhere, specifically “any and all actions necessary to fully explore options on conference affiliation….which best serve the (school’s) interest.”

And Deaton, the conference’s public face through its recent turmoil, is resigning as chairman of the Big 12’s board of directors to avoid the obvious conflict of interest.

Just one day earlier, the conference announced that presidents and chancellors of the remaining nine members — including Deaton — had agreed to equal revenue sharing and to seek approval from each university to hand over the most lucrative television rights to the conference for six years.

Now it looks as if the Big 12 might be losing two members for the second straight year.

“The University of Missouri is a member in good standing in the Big 12 Conference, and I anticipate the University will continue to be a member of the Big 12,” interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas said in a statement released soon after Missouri announced its intentions.

[…]

Speculation has centered on a possible Missouri move to the Southeastern Conference, which recently agreed to accept Texas A&M from the Big 12 starting next year

Deaton declined to specifically answer a reporter’s question about interest in the SEC on either the school’s part or the other conference. He said there is no timetable for the decision, whether by a self-imposed deadline or a Big 12 loyalty demand.

“We’re going to be exploring options generally and will be making no comments about specific areas where we have begun to look at,” he said.

Conceivably, Missouri could remain in the Big 12, Deaton said, but the Tigers are officially on the market now. And the SEC could use a 14th member to balance a league that now has an odd number of teams.

“We certainly are not ruling out continuing in the Big 12,” he said. “But we want to be sure to do what is best for our university.”

That boat sure has a lot of leaks, doesn’t it? It’s unclear at this point if or when an invitation for Missouri to join the SEC might come; they are wrestling with how to preserve rivalries in the event of another western school joining. Who knows how long that might take? In the interim, the Big XII is now seeking to expand as well.

Leaders of the Big 12 Conference cleared the way Thursday to add TCU, a move that would bring in a rising program and potentially shore up a league that seemed ready to fall apart just a few weeks ago.

The Big 12’s presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to authorize negotiations with the Horned Frogs, who play in Fort Worth, Texas, and boast the defending Rose Bowl champion.

TCU was planning to leave the Mountain West for the Big East next year, though the Big East is reeling from the loss of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC.

TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini Jr. suggested a move to the Big 12 might be a better decision for his school, a former member of the old Southwest Conference that once included current Big 12 members Texas, Texas Tech and Baylor. It also included Texas A&M, which is leaving the Big 12 for the SEC next year.

“These discussions with the Big 12 have huge implications for TCU,” Boschini said. “It will allow us to return to old rivalries, something our fans and others have been advocating for years. As always, we must consider what’s best for TCU and our student-athletes in this ever-changing landscape of collegiate athletics. We look forward to continuing these discussions with the Big 12.”

More here and here. The Big XII, assuming it continues to exist as a viable entity, is surely a better option for TCU, which is to conference affiliation what Liz Taylor was to marriage. Never mind the Big East’s own issues with volatility, the Frogs’ travel budget will be much more manageable in the Big XII. One wonders if the Big XII will look for another school to invite in the event Mizzou bolts. And one wonders how embarrassing it would be in the event TCU says “thanks, but no thanks” to the Big XII. Has that ever happened to a BCS conference before now? Anyway, the ongoing drama of As The Conferences Turn seems unlikely to end any time soon.

Who’s number 14?

As the SEC welcomed Texas A&M as its 13th member, commissioner Mike Slive says they have no immediate plans to invite a 14th.

Slive said the SEC wasn’t looking to expand, but that A&M was too attractive of an option to ignore.

“We were very happy at 12,” Slive said. “When Texas A&M came to us and indicated their interest in joining the SEC, we said to ourselves: ‘That is a great institution, academically, athletically, culturally and in every way, and a real fit.’ So we decided even though we were content with 12, that we had the opportunity to have Texas A&M as part of the SEC was something that we just did not want to give up.”

Slive acknowledged that scheduling a 13-team league will be difficult but said it wouldn’t expand just to make things easier.

They won’t expand for 2012, but I cannot believe they won’t expand shortly thereafter to balance the conference. Thirteen is just an unwieldy number to deal with, and while making the scheduler’s life easier may not be a top priority, I’m sure it’s on the to do list. I also figure that the schools that will be in a seven team division will be thinking that their mates in the six team division have it easier than they do, and will want to rectify that. If they don’t add a 14th team by the start of the 2013 season, I’ll be surprised.

Meanwhile, there’s angst about the future of the UT-A&M game.

College football needs Texas-Texas A&M just like it needs rivalries like Ohio State-Michigan and Auburn-Alabama and Texas-OU and Lane Kiffin-NCAA. They’re as much a part of the fabric of college sporting life as Beano Cook, the Rose Bowl parade and Lee Corso’s costumes. Take ‘em away, and college football isn’t nearly as compelling.

And a lot of people are sad now that A&M’s gone to the SEC, and Texas-A&M is probably dead.

But John Sharp’s beyond sad. He’s borderline mad. Or he at least halfway sounded like it. Good for him.

“We want to make it abundantly clear we will play the game anywhere, any time,” the new Texas A&M chancellor told me Monday morning. “If that game dies, it will not be on us. That game is bigger than Texas and bigger than A&M. That game belongs to the people of Texas, and if it goes away, it’s not going to be on our watch.”

The Aggies are on record as saying they want to continue the series, come rain, shine or the Longhorn Network. A&M’s president and chancellor both say they want to play Texas every year.

[…]

Both sides are talking about how difficult it will be to fit in that game with conference schedules and all. Poppycock. Isn’t A&M in the third year of a 10-year series with Arkansas? Well, that will become an SEC game, which opens up a spot for Texas. Weren’t the Aggies and Longhorns supposed to play every year until the end of time or Joe Paterno’s next birthday? So now it’s a non-conference gig like all those pre-Big 12 Texas-OU shootouts in Dallas, no problem.

You see how easy it is.

Do not let pride and ego and raw emotion get in the way of the best thing in sports since the State Fair corny dog.

But DeLoss Dodds doesn’t sound as if he’ll budge either.

“As we have said before, scheduling them would be problematic,” the Texas athletic director said. “We have contracts for three non-conference games each year that run until 2018. We also don’t know what the configuration of the Big 12 will be.”

Then, DeLoss adds this for a zinger:

“We didn’t leave the conference. They did,” he said. “We’ll make a decision that’s best for Texas.”

The irony is that while A&M bolted for the SEC in large part to escape UT’s shadow, keeping this game probably means more to them at this point than it does to UT. The Longhorns still have a signature rivalry game with Oklahoma every year. They also now have an incentive, as do other schools in Texas, to minimize A&M’s presence within the state. I’m neither an Aggie nor a Longhorn, so the loss of this game would have no special meaning to me, but I do think that having severed conference ties with Texas, A&M is in no position to blame them for the end of this tradition if that happens. (For that matter, if either school actually cared about tradition, the Southwest Conference would still be a going concern.) The Aggies shouldn’t be surprised or offended that as they have moved on, so has UT.

Well, assuming the Legislature lets them move on, of course.

Texas has a long-standing tradition of creating odd laws to fit nearly every circumstance. Hell, we have an official song for our state flower. But one has to wonder if State Senator Tommy Williams (R-The Woodlands) may be taking things a bit too far with his proposal to draft legislation that would require the University of Texas and Texas A&M University to play an annual football game every Thanksgiving as they have for many years.

With A&M moving to the Southeastern Conference and the future of the Big 12 very much in doubt, Williams and State Rep. John Otto, who will sponsor the bill in the House, have decided this is a tradition that must be preserved and the best way to go about doing that is making it law.

We’re a long way out from the next legislative session, and for all we know neither Williams nor Otto may be in the next Lege, so to say this is all a bit premature is to understate. I’m not surprised someone has taken this up, but neither will I be surprised if it winds up going nowhere.

And finally, just because it’s such a weird story, we have the possibility of a merger between Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference.

A football-only federation – involving 22 to 24 schools – would offer C-USA and Mountain West a “strength in numbers” response to recent conference realignment.

“It’s an intriguing concept,” Rice athletic director Rick Greenspan said. “It’s one that is probably a bit unique in college athletics.”

A C-USA-Mountain West merger would involve the two leagues remaining separate. At the end of the season, the two champions would meet in a championship game with the hope the winner receives a BCS bid.

No timetable has been set for when a decision could be made. C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser on Monday that the possibility of a merger for 2012 is premature but “the following year is something that is possible.” The current BCS contract runs through January 2014.

I guess the idea is that the winner of this mega-conference championship game would be seen as BCS-worthy? Or maybe that they figure either the Big XII or the Big East will implode between now and then, and they would like to be first in line to fill that slot? Seems to me there’s a bit of an underpants gnomes problem here, but maybe they’ve put more thought into this than I’m giving them credit for. All things considered, it’s not the craziest thing I’ve heard this week.

Still room for discontent in the Big XII

Texas A&M is on the way out, OU and UT are settling back in, but what’s left of the Big XII still isn’t quite a happy family.

Contrasting pictures of the stability of the Big 12 were highlighted by OU president David Boren and Missouri chancellor Brady Deaton during dueling head-to-head news conferences Thursday night. Their comments reflected contrary viewpoints on whether the conference’s problems have been fixed.

Deaton’s news conference was held at the same time as Boren’s. Both used the same audio servicing company and Boren’s voice boomed over Deaton’s during part of the teleconference for media members across the nation.

It might have been a technical glitch, but it seemed more symbolic than that.

Boren projected an air of unity with most of the Big 12’s problems settled; Deaton talked about working to reconcile those differences.

Most importantly, the Missouri chancellor didn’t provide a long-term commitment to remaining in the conference. Some reports have the Tigers interested in joining Texas A&M as a new member of the Southeastern Conference.

“That’s a hypothetical that could occur,” Deaton told reporters. “In a sense, anything is possible. That’s all recognized, and that’s what has led to the discussions that we’ve had over the last several weeks.”

Make of that what you will. For its part, the SEC is going to have 13 teams, which seems to be mighty awkward from a scheduling perspective. Adding one more school might help with that.

South Carolina president Harris Pastides would like to see the Southeastern Conference cap expansion at 14 teams.

Pastides and the other SEC presidents have voted to accept Texas A&M as the league’s 13th member, once the Aggies resolve legal issues regarding their departure from the Big 12. The presidents have not decided whether to add a 14th team.

“I don’t think 13 is a sustainable number, but I think 14 is,” Pastides said. “I’m not in favor of 16 personally right now. You begin to lose what is a very special quality.”

Pastides spoke with the Associated Press this week about SEC expansion and his role in an NCAA summit this past summer regarding reform in major college athletics.

Pastides is favor of the SEC growing after Texas A&M joins “because 14 works better than 13,” he said. “But if it were Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech [together], to me, I’d be saying, ‘What happened to the SEC?’ ”

[…]

The president said identifying a 14th school is just speculation and rumors right now. He’d like for SEC members to have some time out of the glare of conference realignment to find a similarly good match as Texas A&M. Pastides knows that might not happen.

I’m not really sure how much better 14 is. With 12, it’s easy – two six-team divisions, each team plays all five division mates plus three teams in the other division. All rivalries are maintained, no teams go more than two years without facing each other, no muss no fuss. With 14, you either skip some in-division games as shown in the 13 team scenario, or you forget about even scheduling across divisions. Seems to me 16 would be easier to deal with, but that has other problems as we well know. I’d have stayed with 12, but no one asked me. As for who lucky number 14 might be, we’re left to our own devices for the time being. Mizzou would like for it to be known that they would not turn down an invitation.

Can this conference be saved?

Here’s your latest Big XII speculation.

Several reports indicate that Texas would be willing to share its Tier I revenue provided through the Big 12’s television contracts for football to help preserve the conference. That would not affect the $15 million provided each year to the school by the Longhorn Network.

But the key to keeping the Big 12 together still appears to be convincing Oklahoma to stay. The Sooners appeared ready to bolt to the Pac-12 with Oklahoma State in tow for most of the last week.

Even with the recent comments of OU president David Boren saying his school wouldn’t be “a wallflower” in a possible realignment scenario, the Sooners may be convinced to stay put after some initial apprehension.

“We just have to tap on the brakes and try to slow down,” a person familiar with the negotiations said. “There is still value in this conference. We all just have to realize that.”

This may already be obsolete, of course; indeed, it may be too little, too late. To be honest, I really don’t understand the mad rush towards 16-team super conferences. Speaking as a survivor of the WAC 16, there are many issues when there are that many schools. But then I’m also pretty sure that logic isn’t the driving factor here. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting episode of As The Conference Turns.