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Lone Star Project Report

Ken Paxton's "Televangelism"

Texas Monthly details how Ken Paxton is using TV time in effort to avoid jail time

For more than two years, the Lone Star Project and respected Texas media outlets have detailed the felony criminal fraud prosecution and other ethics problems of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Texas Monthly contributor R.G Ratcliffe recently published an in-depth recap and analysis of Paxton’s two years in office.  Ratcliffe recounts Paxton’s many legal problems, but also highlights how Paxton has used the resources of his office to deflect attention from the criminal charges pending against him. 

The Texas Monthly column is a long read but well worth the time spent on it.  We’ve also provided below some key excerpts:  

Paxton’s ongoing prosecution for felony fraud 
Ken Paxton’s “most extensive experience with the criminal justice system has come on the wrong end of it” wrote Ratcliffe. Since taking office, Paxton has been indicted for “for securities fraud, including two first-degree felonies”. In the summer of 2015, a Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton for failing to register as an investment adviser and for securities fraud. Paxton has now used every legal maneuver to delay the case and avoid facing a jury. However, Paxton’s options are running short; the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals recently threw out another delay tactic and federal prosecutors have refiled a federal civil security fraud case against Paxton.

Taking cover with “televangelism”
While originally facing accusations that he failed to register as an investment advisor, Paxton hid from the press to avoid scrutiny. The Houston Chronicle correctly described Paxton’s campaign as a “shadow campaign”. However, as Paxton’s legal and ethical problems have persisted, he has instead begun “seeking salvation one live television interview at a time” wrote Ratcliffe. According to an analysis by the Texas Monthly, in the wake of the tragic Dallas police shootings last summer, Paxton did over 20 media interviews. Sadly, as other public officials comforted victims, Paxton “used the Dallas tragedy to appear as often as possible on television”, often giving the media non-answers leading R.G Ratcliffe to write that Paxton “appears to be a politician more interested in having the title of attorney general than being attorney general.”  

Abuse of state funds
Months after assuming office, respected newspapers from Longview to Houston called for the resignation of Paxton as it became clear he broke the law. In response, the Attorney General’s office hired a Republican public relations firm that famously worked during the 2004 election to attack Vietnam veteran, John Kerry.

Paxton’s taxpayer funded public relations campaign came as he was also being forced to defend other abuses of taxpayer money. For example, taxpayers have been forced to pony up nearly $60,000 for DPS protection of Paxton’s McKinney home, where he works instead of Austin. Paxton’s office is also under investigation for the misuse of emergency funds by continuing to pay senior staffers who no longer work for the agency.

Inability to serve as Attorney General 
It appears that the ongoing scrutiny over Paxton’s crimes has also impacted the Attorney General’s performance on the job. During a Texas Tribune interview with former agency heads, a former senior official appeared to imply that Paxton was absent from the daily duties of Attorney General. However, even when actively involved in the daily decision making of the office, Paxton has failed on the job.

There is no better example of Paxton’s on-the-job failures than issuing a legal opinion following the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision. After the Court ruling, Paxton stated Texas county clerks could discard the ruling; however, Paxton’s negligent opinion resulted in Hood county taxpayers being forced to pay $44,000 in legal fees.

Read the full article here.