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Throwback Thursday: Ken Paxton’s Troubled Past
Those just now hearing about criminal charges against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton may not realize that concerns about Paxton's shady business dealings go back – way back. The recent announcement by special prosecutors that they will present evidence to a Collin County Grand Jury that Paxton engaged in first degree felony crimes is just the latest and most serious episode in his long history of shady business transactions and unethical activity.
As a state senator and state representative, Paxton long ago earned a reputation as a politician who has parlayed his public service into private financial gain. As the Houston Chronicle has reported, Paxton entered the legislature in 2003 with interests in only two private businesses. Since then, the number has grown to over two dozen.
Of course, there is nothing wrong or unusual about a legislator engaging in and doing well in business. However, Paxton often blurs the line between his private actions and his public service. The criminal investigation now underway is not surprising when taking into account the history laid out below:
Paxton’s hides ties to state contractor
Before entering the Texas State Senate, Ken Paxton invested in a company, Watchguard/Enforcement Video LLC, that was given a $10 million contract with DPS to provide digital cameras for patrol cars. At the time the contract was awarded, some speculated that other bidders did not receive a fair shot.
One reason why Watchguard/Enforcement Video may have had an improper edge was their self-proclaimed "influential shareholder group" which included Ken Paxton and state Rep. Byron Cook. Media reports point to the Texas contract as the driving force behind building the strength of the company.
Even though the Watchguard/Enforcement Video bragged that members of the Texas Legislature were part of their "influential shareholder group," Ken Paxton failed to disclose his investment in the company on his required state ethics disclosure documents.
Paxton tried to exempt his business from state sales tax
Another business Paxton joined while in the Texas Legislature was Premiere Vertical Properties, a cell phone tower operator.
During the 80th and 81st legislative sessions, Paxton introduced legislation to exempt cell phone tower companies from paying any sales taxes. Stated plainly, Paxton authored legislation to exempt one of his business from paying state taxes.
Paxton ignores Texas disclosure laws
Paxton has consistently failed to disclose financial interests in his many business as required by Texas ethics law. Paxton even failed to disclose ownership in a Collin County professional football team even though the team itself publicized his participation in the franchise.
Given the number and seriousness of Ken Paxton’s unethical actions over the years, his shady service deserves a Throwback Thursday. And, now that special prosecutors are pursing first degree charges against Paxton that carry penalties of up to life in prison, Texas voters may get a do-over to decide who serves as our Attorney General.