foreclosure
Ken Paxton

The Televangelism of Ken Paxton is a Great Article about How the Shy Church-Going Texas Attorney General Stepped Into Politics with Pistol Packin Mamma (Angel-a Paxton) and Silenced the Conversation about his Fraud Indictment

If the attorney general’s office were a private law firm, it would be among the largest in Texas, with more than seven hundred lawyers, 30,000 cases in progress, and a two-year budget of $1.15 billion.

The sun had not yet risen when Ken Paxton stationed himself in downtown Dallas. This was the July morning after a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest had ended with a sniper’s killing five police officers and wounding nine others, and the city center had become one massive crime scene.

Paxton stood inside the yellow police tape, but he wasn’t there to investigate. The attorney general is often referred to as Texas’s top law enforcement official, but that description is incorrect. While divisions within the agency do hunt down sexual predators and human traffickers and, when requested, assist local district attorneys in prosecuting criminal cases, the attorney general is actually the state’s top lawyer.

Paxton himself has no law enforcement background. As an attorney, he’s specialized in estate planning as well as probate and corporate transactions. In fact, his most extensive experience with the criminal justice system has come on the wrong end of it. In July 2015, seven months after taking office, he’d been indicted for securities fraud, including two first-degree felonies.

So that morning in Dallas, Paxton had no official role—the city’s police and prosecutors were handling the case, and if they needed help, they could call upon the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Dallas County sheriff’s office, and even the FBI. But Paxton had driven downtown for a specific purpose. He was there for the exposure.

With the crime scene as a backdrop, Paxton gave one television interview after another. What the reporters and anchors wanted in the confusing whirlwind of that early morning was information, but each interview revealed that Paxton was hopelessly out of the loop.

On CBS This Morning at 7:09, Paxton had to answer questions with phrases like “I don’t know,” “I’m not sure of that,” and “I have not gotten an update.” Even by late morning, Paxton had to tell one reporter, “Actually, I don’t know a lot of details yet.” Perhaps no exchange was more revealing than the one with ABC’s Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos.

For that interview, Paxton stood in front of a police car, its flashing lights bouncing off the pavement in the dark morning. At age 53, Paxton has a receding hairline, and his appearance is soft, with the complexion of someone who doesn’t spend much time outdoors. A sports injury in college left him with a sleepy right eyelid and a crooked smile that can look like a smirk.

“What more can you tell us about those injured officers now in the hospital?” Stephanopoulos asked.

“Let me just say, this is a sad day for Texas,” Paxton replied. “It’s a resilient state. But we’re praying for the families as well. We’re not going to forget these fallen heroes, and we want the families to know that we support them. I don’t have a lot of details yet on the condition of some of the people who were injured, but I think we’ll have that relatively soon.”

Stephanopoulos pressed for details. “Do we know if it was two or if there were more [shooters]?” Paxton had a vague expression on his face. “There are still many, many policemen down here investigating that. I don’t think they’ve made a final determination.” Were all the suspects in custody, Stephanopoulos asked. “I’m not sure we totally know that,” the attorney general said. Paxton, with a bang of hair falling down toward his eyes, resorted to stating the obvious.

“This is still a major crime scene,” Paxton said. “It’s the largest one I’ve ever seen. I used to work a couple of blocks from here. It’s very surreal, and it’s like nothing I’ve seen in downtown Dallas in the twenty-five years or so that I’ve been here.”

Texas’s top two elected officials were also in Dallas that day. Governor Greg Abbott had cancelled a family vacation and returned to Texas and offered up the resources of the Department of Public Safety to the city. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick consoled families of the fallen and wounded officers at Parkland and Baylor hospitals (later in the day, he made a controversial statement blaming protesters, in part, for inciting the shooting).

As Abbott dealt with a serious injury—unbeknownst to the public, he had suffered severe burns to his legs and feet while on vacation—and Patrick comforted victims that morning, Paxton used the Dallas tragedy to appear as often as possible on television.

As the day wore on, there were more interviews: Fox & FriendsCNN New DayMorning Joe, Glenn Beck TV. Paxton conducted eighteen television interviews before taking a break at 5 p.m. to stand behind Abbott at a news conference with Mayor Mike Rawlings, and then did four more appearances that evening. And he was back at it four days later.

On the Tuesday after the shootings, Paxton sat for four morning interviews, then paused to attend a memorial service for the officers led by President Barack Obama. Forty minutes after the service ended, Paxton was back on CNN with host Jake Tapper.

Paxton’s affinity for the spotlight was a recent development. In fact, two months before the shooting, he’d used state funds to hire a public relations firm to help burnish his image. But prior to that, Paxton had been an elusive figure for the media, especially the state’s major newspapers.

After securing the Republican nomination in 2014, he’d barely bothered to campaign in the general election, shunning media appearances and candidate forums. The Houston Chronicle described him as running a “shadow campaign.”

Even recently, while he frequently appears on television, he has offered few interviews to the mainstream print media. (Paxton refused numerous interview requests for this story over two months, though he answered a few questions submitted by email.)

But by watching hours of video of his speeches and interviews, by speaking with agency insiders, and by culling hundreds of pages of documents obtained through open-records requests, we saw a portrait emerge of Paxton’s first two years in office.

He appears to be a politician more interested in having the title of attorney general than being attorney general. He has used his office as a cudgel in the culture wars for the Christian right.

He’s continued to live in McKinney, about thirty miles north of Dallas, rather than move to Austin for the daily duties of running his office.

As a result of his absence from the office, he’s grown jealous of aides, who have received the positive media attention that has eluded him, a feeling that apparently intensified after he was indicted.

In March, he got rid of his top staffers, replacing them with religious-right activists, and hired two public relations firms that specialize in crisis management.

Suddenly, the once-reclusive Paxton was often popping up on television and at press conferences, discussing lawsuits and events—like the Dallas sniper case—with which he had little direct involvement. With his own criminal trial now approaching, publicity, it seems, has become Paxton’s affirmation.

If the attorney general’s office were a private law firm, it would be among the largest in Texas, with more than seven hundred lawyers, 30,000 cases in progress, and a two-year budget of $1.15 billion.

Its lawsuits range from enforcing mundane actions by state regulatory agencies to protecting the state’s authority to carry out death sentences.

The agency is also charged with collecting delinquent child support payments; it took in $3.8 billion last year that was owed to about 1.7 million children.

And the state’s new open carry law gives the office power to sue local governments that block the carrying of firearms on government property.

The AG’s office also offers legal opinions, represents state entities in court, determines which government documents can be released to the public, prosecutes political corruption and voter fraud, and protects Texas consumers from predatory businesses.

In short, the office has broad authority. It could be argued that the attorney general has a greater influence on the daily lives of Texans than the governor.

In political philosophy, Paxton is similar to his two most recent predecessors, Abbott and current U.S. senator John Cornyn. Paxton has continued to fight the Obama administration on numerous fronts in court, picking up where Abbott left off.

Paxton’s lawyers won court rulings halting an Obama immigration order and lost in the defense of the state’s anti-abortion law and the ban on same-sex marriage.

Paxton noted, in a speech to Texas delegates at the Republican National Convention in July, that his office had filed a dozen suits against the federal government in his first eighteen months in office. “So we’re on a really good pace,” he said.

But while their ideologies may be similar, Paxton’s predecessors had far more distinguished résumés. Before they became attorneys general, Cornyn and Abbott had been accomplished litigators, and both had served terms on the Texas Supreme Court.

And once they were elected attorneys general, both had reputations in the office for making the final edits on the state’s largest lawsuits, and Abbott confidently allowed his chief appellate lawyer, solicitor general Ted Cruz, to shine in public, putting Cruz on the path to winning election to the U.S. Senate.

Paxton, meanwhile, wasn’t exactly a towering figure during almost a dozen years in the Legislature, as a representative and later a senator.

He passed few bills of statewide importance. Perhaps the most notable piece of legislation that he passed was one requiring “Welcome to Texas” highway signs to include the phrase “Proud to Be the Home of President George W. Bush.” (Paxton later amended the statute to remove the phrase after Bush left office.)

Before the 2011 session, he ran against incumbent Joe Straus to become Speaker of the House, but he surrendered before the vote was taken because he’d failed to rally enough support in the Republican Caucus.

However, the bills Paxton didn’t get passed were probably more important to his political ascension. He carried a bill to prevent school districts from obtaining sex-education materials from organizations like Planned Parenthood, and he co-authored a state constitutional amendment to protect from lawsuits individuals and businesses that refused to provide services because of religious objections.

And he rallied support for legislation to require women to get a sonogram before an abortion. These proposals made Paxton a favorite of religious conservatives, and they aligned with his own fundamentalism.

Paxton has been married to his wife, Angela, for thirty years, and they have four children. They met as undergraduates at Baylor University, and she refers to June 1 as “I Love You Day,” the anniversary of the first time Paxton spoke those words to her.

They were among the founders of the nondenominational evangelical Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, just west of McKinney, where Angela would mentor young women, teaching them how to dress modestly but with style.

He’s served on the board of the Prestonwood Pregnancy and Family Care Center, an agency dedicated to steering women away from abortion.

The Paxtons later moved their worship to Prestonwood Baptist Church, a mega-congregation on two campuses in the northern Dallas suburbs, which is built on the “inerrant truth of the Bible.”

With the exception of the fraud indictments against him, Paxton is a pillar of his community, a fundamentalist who wears his Christianity on his sleeve.

Former law partner George Crumley said Paxton is one of the last people he would have expected to go into politics. “I can’t say that he’s shy, but he’s certainly not the guy who is the life of the party,” Crumley said. Paxton is “solid and trustworthy” but, if anything, spreads himself too thin. “If Ken had a fault in all of this it was that he had too much going on, too much on his plate.

You need to make sure you don’t let things slide. Ken is probably a victim of his own success and popularity.”

When Abbott decided in 2013 to run for governor, an opportunity opened for Paxton. His main Republican primary opponent in the spring of 2014 was state representative Dan Branch, a respected Dallas lawyer with close ties to Speaker Straus.

Both Branch and Straus were seen as insufficiently conservative by many Republican primary voters, and Paxton had pastors, tea party groups, and the rigidly conservative Cruz on his side. “My strategy was very simple . . . get the church out to vote,” Paxton told an audience at the First Baptist Church in Denison this past August.

He was referring to his first run for the House, in 2002, but it’s also exactly how Paxton defeated Branch in a runoff. More than two thirds of Republican voters in the primary and runoff attended church at least once a week, if not more, according to a survey by the Republican consulting firm Baselice & Associates.

With Democrats perpetually overmatched, winning the Republican nomination was tantamount to capturing the office in November.

A dark specter lurked in the background during that election, though. Paxton conceded that he had failed to list all his business interests on a financial disclosure document. Even more damning, he admitted to the Texas State Securities Board that he hadn’t registered as a securities dealer promoting investments.

He received a reprimand and a $1,000 fine. Partisans, reporters, and political junkies knew of Paxton’s transgressions before the election, but the allegations didn’t sink in with the general public until after he was in office.

In July 2015 a Collin County grand jury indicted Paxton on two first-degree felony counts of securities fraud and a third-degree felony for failing to register as a securities dealer.

The indictments charged Paxton with improperly encouraging investors in 2011 to invest more than $600,000 in a technology firm called Servergy Inc. Paxton allegedly didn’t disclose to his clients that he was getting paid for steering investors to Servergy.

The company also allegedly lied to potential investors about its funding sources; for example, its CEO told investors that Amazon was ordering Servergy’s products, when, in fact, a single Amazon employee had merely wanted to test one product, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents. (It’s not clear if Paxton knew about these alleged misrepresentations.)

Paxton’s appeals and legal filings have delayed the case for more than a year, but the state’s highest criminal court recently threw out his latest challenge, clearing the way for a trial in the coming months. “There is an indescribable peace in our family when, in the depths of our being, we know that I am innocent,” Paxton wrote in response to questions from Texas Monthly.

Paxton is the first sitting Texas attorney general to be indicted in more than thirty years, and his fate may hinge on whether he was merely being sloppy or intentionally misleading clients. Two years ago, before his indictment, Paxton claimed it was the former, attributing his problems to legal ignorance.

“Listen, there’s no lawyer who’s an expert on every area of the law,” Paxton told KERA, the Dallas NPR affiliate, in 2014. “Securities laws are very complicated.”

 

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Photograph courtesy of ABC

 

When Paxton took office in January 2015, there was concern among Austin’s cadre of elected officials and lobbyists about whether he was prepared to handle one of the most important jobs in state government.

But they were reassured when Paxton started surrounding himself with respected political and governmental veterans. The office, it seemed, would not be bumbling.

Paxton hired Chip Roy as his first assistant, Bernard McNamee as his chief of staff, and Scott Keller as his solicitor general. All three had been part of Cruz’s Senate office staff; Roy had been Cruz’s chief of staff and before that had worked for Cornyn and former governor Rick Perry.

For communications director, Paxton hired Allison Castle, who had done the same job for Perry. It was an undeniably solid team with years of experience in state and federal government, the kind of staff Paxton would need, especially after deciding to continue to live in North Texas and visit the agency just a few days a week.

From his own campaign staff, Paxton hired Michelle Smith to oversee outreach to voters. Smith had previously been a member of the Rockwall City Council and the state director for Concerned Women for America. Her CWA biography states she has “worked hard to elect Christian conservative leaders.”

Though the rest of the team was based in the attorney general’s headquarters, Smith was assigned to a Dallas office so she’d be readily available to Paxton.

While legal, Paxton’s decision to live in McKinney instead of Austin has been costly to taxpayers. As with other statewide officials, Paxton receives personal security from DPS, but when the officers are outside Austin, they incur travel expenses.

Through May 2016, the extra cost of providing security for Paxton at his Collin County home exceeded $57,000, according to records from DPS.

In written comments, Paxton defended his decision to stay at home in McKinney, arguing that with modern technology there was no reason for him to work most days in Austin. “I spend every day tirelessly defending, promoting, and serving our great state, whether in Austin, traveling around Texas, or close to home with my family.”

The first major case facing Paxton after he took office was defending the state’s ban on same-sex marriage before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit while a similar case was pending before the Supreme Court. When the nation’s high court ruled that same-sex marriage was a constitutional right, Paxton’s response created confusion.

In an official opinion, he outlined how a county clerk who had religious objections to same-sex marriage could pass the duty off to another clerk or simply refuse to issue any marriage licenses. In a statement, Paxton called the ruling “lawless” and urged clerks to stand against it by refusing to issue licenses, saying private attorneys would represent them for free.

This was a remarkable moment. Here was Texas’s top lawyer advising his constituents to disregard a ruling from the Supreme Court. One clerk, in Hood County, followed Paxton’s advice, and the county ended up paying almost $44,000 in legal fees when a lawsuit forced it to back down.

Though Paxton’s defiant stance on same-sex marriage was widely criticized by Democrats and progressives, his political base of social conservatives loved it.

And Paxton would draw on that goodwill later that summer when his felony indictments were handed down. After he was indicted, Paxton grew even more media-shy. His public speaking was limited to friendly audiences at churches and tea party events, and he withdrew from his office too, spending more and more time at his home in McKinney.

Often he was unavailable for days, with his aides unable to find him for needed responses to questions. All elected officeholders travel the state to speak to civic groups and promote their policies, but the difference for Paxton was that he had disengaged, according to AG office sources.

An unrelenting stream of news stories portrayed Paxton not as attorney general, defender of the unborn, individual religious liberty, and Second Amendment  rights, but rather Ken Paxton, accused felon.

Paxton became concerned that—with his absence from agency headquarters—his aides were getting more positive attention than he was.

Everything done by the attorney general’s office occurs in Paxton’s name, but after his indictments, that simply was not enough. While speaking at the Pflugerville

First Baptist Church in September 2015, Paxton praised first assistant Roy as one of the “visionaries on this religious liberties issue,” but Paxton prefaced it by self-consciously saying, “I get credit, sometimes not credit, for what happens in my office.” The speculation circulating Austin was that with Paxton not around, Roy was the actual attorney general of Texas. Meanwhile, a frustrated McNamee resigned as chief of staff in November to return to private practice in Virginia.

Then came two reports that prompted a crisis within the office. In February of this year, the Texas Tribune posted an interview with Roy and solicitor general Keller on the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court arguments challenging President Obama’s executive order shielding some undocumented immigrants from deportation.

When reporter Julián Aguilar went off topic to ask how Paxton’s legal troubles were affecting the agency, Roy responded in a way that implied that the attorney general was often absent from the office:

“We’re in constant communication with the attorney general, and we’re focused on doing our job every day to defend the state of Texas. . . . The first assistant attorney general, the solicitor general, our head of civil litigation, all of us are charged to manage the daily affairs of this agency, and that’s what we’re doing.”

On March 1, the New York Times profiled Keller and Stephanie Toti, a lawyer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, as they prepared to face off before the U.S. Supreme Court over Texas’s new restrictions on abortion clinics.

The fight to preserve the anti-abortion law was one of Paxton’s signature issues, but his name didn’t even appear in the Times piece. Castle, the communications director, and her staff had contacted about fifty national news organizations but could not get Paxton any major interviews.

Tension grew between his political aides and the agency staff. Agency insiders said that while sitting in the Supreme Court cafeteria, Smith, Paxton’s political aide, pulled up a copy of the Times article on Keller, turned to a communications deputy, and complained that she was “sick and tired” of seeing other people’s names in the papers.

Smith denies the exchange occurred. (The Supreme Court would later overturn the law’s most restrictive measures, saying it placed an undue burden on a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.)

Paxton had traveled to Washington for the oral arguments. He bought his own tickets on Southwest Airlines on a promotional “Wanna Get Away” fare, for a round-trip total of $450. And in what appears to have been a fit of petty pique, a handwritten note was included on a voucher submitted to the state that read, “Purchasing own airfare resulted in conservation of state funds.” Attached to it was a copy of Roy’s voucher, showing that his ticket had cost the state $1,176. “Comparison for what our agency would have incurred,” another handwritten note says.

Eight days after the abortion hearing, Paxton called Roy and Castle individually into his office and gave them a choice of resigning or being fired. They resigned.

And the departures set off a cascade of more bad publicity. There were repeated stories about how one senior staff member after another was fleeing an attorney general’s office that appeared in turmoil. Even worse, Lauren McGaughy, of the Dallas Morning News,reported that several staffers, including Roy, were still receiving their salaries weeks after they’d left the agency.

The agency said that Roy and Castle had been put on “emergency leave,” a provision usually reserved for health and family emergencies. There were rumors that the emergency leave pay was used improperly as hush money for Roy and Castle, though both have told the Texas news media that they received only money that they were owed.

The controversy prompted a legislative inquiry into the practice of using emergency leave as de facto severance pay, which isn’t permitted for state employees. Paxton had bungled his way into another public relations disaster, and it wouldn’t be the last.

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Photograph courtesy of MSNBC

Paxton gave his first major speech after he took office to the First Liberty Institute, a nonprofit that offers pro-bono legal support for Judeo-Christian groups or individuals who believe government has trampled on their religious liberties. This was fitting.

Paxton has a long history with the Plano-based group, crediting First Liberty president Kelly Shackelford with convincing him to enter politics, in 2002. In that first speech, Paxton played to religious fundamentalists’ fears of being victims of the tyranny of the majority and of a godless government.

Paxton said those who believe in religious liberty should stand against “mob rule” and referred to a “pop culture noise machine” on issues like same-sex marriage.

“Our Founding Fathers correctly understood that a government that mandates one opinion over another is tyrannical,” Paxton said.

The speech was also a bit of foreshadowing, because by the second year of Paxton’s administration, the attorney general’s office had started looking like a branch of First Liberty.

When more than 150 lawyers signed on to a grievance with the State Bar of Texas against Paxton because of the confusion he’d caused after the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, it was First Liberty general counsel Jeff Mateer who came to his aid, writing op-eds in the state’s newspapers defending Paxton. (The grievance was eventually dismissed.)

When Paxton was indicted, it was Midland oilman Tim Dunn—a member of the First Liberty board of directors—who wrote an editorial claiming Paxton was the victim of a conspiracy because he had once dared to challenge the reelection of Speaker Straus.

Dunn had also helped Paxton win the attorney general’s race by guaranteeing a $1 million loan to his campaign through Dunn’s Empower Texans political action committee.

After the ouster of Roy and Castle, Paxton turned to First Liberty to fill the vacancies. He hired Mateer as his first assistant to replace Roy. Paxton initially employed First Liberty chief of litigation Hiram Sasser as his chief of staff in the position left open by McNamee’s departure, but Sasser soon returned to his old job because of family health issues.

As Castle’s replacement as communications director, Paxton named management consultant Marc Rylander, who had until recently been a pastor at Prestonwood Baptist Church. (In 2003 Rylander wrote a letter to the Morning Newschastising the paper for publishing same-sex commitment ceremonies, calling it a “journalistic compromise and tasteless submission to the homosexual agenda.” Rylander went on to write,

“The thought of a homosexual couple does not stir animosity in me. But the idea of that couple being recognized and honored in your paper is appalling.”)

It was unprecedented for a Texas attorney general to name the general counsel of a religious advocacy group as his top lieutenant and a pastor as his spokesperson.

“General Paxton has demonstrated antipathy toward the separation of church and state,” said Kathy Miller, the president of the left-leaning Texas Freedom Network. Paxton is “charged with upholding the law”; instead, she said, he is trying to undermine it.

But one of Paxton’s longtime friends from the Legislature—Republican representative Dan Flynn, of Canton—said many people of faith in Texas agree with Paxton and his agenda.  

“We believe in protection of life. We believe in traditional family values, strong advocates of the Constitution,” Flynn said. “We believe in states’ rights, believe in the Second Amendment. All those issues that are important to Texans.”

Probably nothing was more symbolic of Paxton’s position on LGBT issues than the hiring of Mateer from First Liberty. The nonprofit pushed the idea that an individual’s constitutional liberties trump what they see as society’s changing morals and sensibilities.

When Plano adopted its anti-discrimination ordinance, Mateer opposed it and threatened a First Liberty lawsuit against the city on behalf of any business fined under it.

Before he became the top lawyer in Paxton’s shop, Mateer had represented Sweet Cakes by Melissa, an Oregon bakery that had refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple.

Miller said that Mateer doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state. The Freedom Network has noted that at conferences Mateer often holds up a $100 bill and says he will give it to anyone who can find the words “separation of church and state” in the Constitution. “So a fundamental principle of our nation’s founding is something he denies,” Miller said.

At a basic level, Mateer is correct. The words do not appear in the Constitution but instead are drawn from an 1802 Thomas Jefferson letter, which the Supreme Court cited in 1878 to uphold laws against polygamy. 

“To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself,” the court wrote.

Even the early Texans believed in the separation of church and state, mainly because of having lived under state-mandated Catholicism when a part of Mexico.

As Texans prepared to join the Union, in 1845, the founder of Paxton’s alma mater, R. E. B. Baylor, convinced his fellow Texans that the first state constitution should prohibit members of the clergy from serving in any executive or legislative office: 

“It seems to me further that it is calculated to keep clear and well defined the distinction between Church and State, so essentially necessary to human liberty and happiness.”

Mateer, however, said he draws on a U.S. Supreme Court dissent written by Justice William Rehnquist, “who said Jefferson’s phrase separation of church and state is a misleading metaphor . . . I want to keep minimal federal government out of religion.” 

The ties between Paxton and First Liberty are financial too. Because the criminal case against Paxton involves his private law practice, he cannot use campaign funds to pay for his defense, and any money he raises personally must be free of conflicts of interest with the attorney general’s office.

When Paxton accepted a $1,000 gift from First Liberty president Shackelford and his wife, it was listed on Paxton’s public disclosure forms as “gift . . . from family friend who meets the independent relationship exception,” although there is anything but an independent relationship between Paxton and Shackelford’s institute.

Perhaps the most revealing examples of Paxton’s close relationship with First Liberty are the five occasions in which he has used the prestige of his office to support the group, filing friend-of-the-court briefs in favor of First Liberty clients.

While such amicus briefs are really more of a political statement, they can boost the chances a court will take a case seriously, especially when that brief comes from a state attorney general.

Two of the briefs involved religious nonprofits that objected to filling out waiver forms so they would not have to pay for contraceptive insurance for employees under the Affordable Care Act. Though one pertained to Texas nonprofits, the other was on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns located in Denver.

On another occasion, Paxton filed an amicus on behalf of a Marine at Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina, who was receiving a bad-conduct discharge in part for posting a Bible verse in a work space she shared with another Marine and refusing an order to remove it. Closer to home, Paxton also supported First Liberty’s challenge to the Kountze school district over a one-time ban on cheerleaders’ putting Bible verses on banners at football games.

A district judge was prepared to dismiss the case because Kountze ISD had dropped its objection to the Bible verses, but First Liberty and a private attorney representing the cheerleaders’ families appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

A favorable Supreme Court ruling in the case not only set the stage for a permanent injunction against the school district but also opened the door to the possibility of First Liberty’s obtaining attorneys’ fees from the district’s insurance policy.

But it’s a case in El Paso that raises the most-troubling questions about Mateer’s presence in the attorney general’s office. The suit began with Mayor John Cook’s backing a nondiscrimination ordinance, which led to an effort to recall the mayor spearheaded by Bishop Tom Brown and his Tom Brown Ministries and Word of Life Church.

The recall vote failed, and Cook turned around and filed a lawsuit alleging that Bishop Brown violated state campaign finance law during the recall election by utilizing forbidden corporate money.

Before joining Paxton’s staff, Mateer represented Brown in the case on behalf of First Liberty. And, in another interesting twist, the court had once asked then–attorney general Abbott’s office whether it wanted to become involved in the case, and Abbott’s staff declined.

But after Mateer joined the staff, Paxton’s office suddenly got involved in the case, writing a letter to an El Paso court asking it to reconsider federal campaign finance laws before awarding damages. The case was settled in May. Mateer said he had nothing to do with the El Paso filing and that he had immediately recused himself once he learned about it.

“I had no discussions with anyone, so I don’t know how it came in,” he said. But an email obtained through the Public Information Act shows that Dave Welch, the head of the U.S. Pastor Council, had contacted Mateer and another Paxton aide, asking them to intervene on Brown’s behalf.

Cook’s attorney, Mark Walker, said the filing was suspicious because of Mateer’s previous involvement in the case. “It’s outrageous. I don’t care what your political leaning is, I just want you to follow the law,” Walker said. “I’m concerned about over-politicization of the [attorney general’s] office, and I’m a pretty conservative person.”

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Photograph courtesy of Fox News Channel

By the time Mateer and Rylander joined the staff in early 2015, the public perception of Paxton couldn’t have been much lower. Newspapers in Austin, Corpus Christi, Houston, and Longview had called for his resignation, while the Morning News and the San Antonio Express-News urged him to step aside until his criminal case could be resolved.

Paxton, still backed by his core supporters, was unmoved.

“Anybody remember how many papers endorsed me when I was running against a Democrat?” he asked a crowd of partisans. “The answer is none. So is it shocking to me that they’re not helping me right now?”

Still, he hired not one but two crisis-management public relations firms in March, and slowly they began to work to rehabilitate his image.

One of the firms was the Dallas-based Spaeth Communications, which, according to agency documents, was paid $2,529 by the attorney general’s office. The other was CRC Public Relations, an Alexandria, Virginia, company, which was paid $19,500 from Paxton’s campaign account.

The two Republican firms were familiar with each other. They had worked together in 2004 to organize and promote the controversial Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group that attacked Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

The Dallas firm’s owner, Merrie Spaeth, had been the director of media relations in the Reagan White House. She had also coached special prosecutor Ken Starr for his presentation to the House during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

And most recently she had been advising Starr in his handling of the media in the rape scandal that occurred while he was president at Baylor University. (By coincidence, in January Paxton protected Baylor from having to release campus police reports on one of the rapes, citing common-law privacy even though the victim already had identified herself on ESPN.)

Paxton’s PR investment soon showed results. Six weeks after Castle’s staff had been unable to get Paxton any national media interviews, he suddenly had a flurry of exposure around the state’s arguments to the Supreme Court against Obama’s immigration policies, including interviews in New York with CNN and Fox News. Solicitor general Keller was again representing the state, but this time it was Paxton in the limelight.

In April Paxton shared the stage with Keller during an appearance on Greta Van Susteren’s On the Record, on Fox. After throwing a softball question to Paxton, Van Susteren made a point of noting for her viewers that Keller was the lawyer arguing the case.

She would do the same thing again in June, when the two men appeared on her show by satellite feed after Texas won a Supreme Court ruling that upheld an injunction against the Obama immigration plan.

Paxton might not have been the lawyer arguing the case, but he was going to play one on TV.

Though Paxton’s staff changes may have resulted in his receiving more positive press, they also weakened the barriers that traditionally separate state business from overtly partisan politics.

For instance, Rick Perry’s policy as governor—including when Castle was on his staff—was to use campaign or private funds for travel to avoid any chance that taxpayers would cover the cost of politicking.

When Abbott took over the governor’s office, he adopted the same policy. But after Castle left Paxton’s office, things changed rapidly.

The most egregious blending of state business with politics at taxpayers’ expense occurred on a June trip to the nation’s capital. The dates of the trip coincided with the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference, where Paxton spoke on the final day. Paxton made the trip with Mateer, Rylander, and Smith.

Paxton tried to work in some state business. On the first morning in Washington, he held a news conference on the steps of the Supreme Court to announce that Texas was joining a 21-state lawsuit against Delaware for keeping unclaimed funds from a national check-writing service. But that hadn’t been the point of the trip.

In fact, the news conference had been added to his schedule at the last minute, and Rylander admitted it was held in Washington only because Paxton was already going to be there on other state business.

On the day after the news conference at the Supreme Court, Paxton gave a speech at the Heritage Foundation on climate change litigation involving Exxon. But besides that speech, Paxton’s schedule had numerous undocumented hours.

The Road to Majority conference is a Christian conservative political gathering that featured speeches by various Republican candidates, including GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Also coinciding with the trip was a filing by his Washington-based lawyers challenging a civil suit—separate from the criminal prosecution—filed against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission over his Servergy work.

Paxton’s lawyers did not respond to inquiries about whether he met with them during the trip.

Paxton’s own request for travel for the three days shows that the original reason for going to Washington was “for speaking event, ‘Think Tank,’ presented by Road to Majority.” But when he tweaked his travel plans on June 1, all mention of Road to Majority vanished from the travel requests for him and his entourage, becoming instead a simple “speaking event,” though the dates of travel continued to overlap with the political event.

The Road to Majority organizers posted photographs on Facebook of Paxton speaking. Mateer’s expense report listed the speech as “state business.”

The total cost to Texas taxpayers for the four days of travel for Paxton and his three aides during the political gathering exceeded $7,800.

Paxton didn’t use state funds to attend the July Republican National Convention, in Cleveland, but there too he took every opportunity to appear before an audience or a camera, even sitting for an interview with MSNBC.

Paxton spoke to Texas delegates in a hotel ballroom on the morning of the convention’s third day. Angela, who has much more stage presence and charisma than her husband, introduced him, as she often does at events, by singing a ditty she’d written in which she declares herself a “pistol-packin’ mama” whose “husband sues Obama.”

The attorney general received a warm ovation from the party faithful. “I was on Fox News last night,” Paxton gleefully told them. “I just wanted to see how many of y’all stayed up to watch me at 2:05 a.m. this morning.” Everyone laughed, and Paxton seemed to be gently making fun of himself.

But then you do have to wonder: Who exactly goes on television in the middle of the night? In this case, a politician trying to beat an indictment.

Part of his strategy seems to be appearing on television as often as possible, and it’s hard to argue with the results. His indictment is barely even mentioned anymore during his TV appearances, and he’s rarely asked about it.

When Paxton was first indicted, his political career seemed in shambles, and there was rampant speculation that he would resign, especially after he shrank from the spotlight. But his public reemergence and his television offensive make his political survival seem like a real possibility.

His trial in Collin County is expected to begin in the coming months. Even if he’s convicted of the felonies, it’s not clear that Paxton would immediately be forced from office. He would likely be disbarred, but he could still carry on; there’s no requirement in the state constitution that the attorney general have a law license. Moreover, state law is murky on whether a convicted felon can remain in office.

On the other hand, if Paxton is acquitted, he would once again be tough to beat in a Republican primary, and with Democrats offering only token resistance in the general election, he’d be likely to win another term, in 2018.

On that count, he can draw inspiration from the last sitting Texas attorney general to be indicted, from another time and another party: In 1983 Democrat Jim Mattox was charged with abusing his office. As with Paxton, many Austin insiders thought his political career was over. But Mattox persevered. He was later acquitted, and in 1986 he won reelection.

Background

Pax­ton was born in Minot Air Force Base while his fa­ther was sta­tioned in the United States Air Force. His par­ents and their three chil­dren lived in a trailer, often with­out air con­di­tion­ing, parked out­side wher­ever his fa­ther was tem­porar­ily sta­tioned. At var­i­ous times, they lived in Florida, New York, North Car­olina, Cal­i­for­nia, and Ok­la­homa. As a youth, he wanted to play foot­ball, but his fa­ther would not let him play for fear of in­jury. A life­long foot­ball fan, Pax­ton car­ried a jer­sey au­to­graphed by Bill Bates, for­merly of the Dal­las Cow­boys. Bates later was named Pax­ton’s cam­paign treasurer.

At the age of twelve, Pax­ton nearly lost an eye in a game of hide-and-seek; a mis­di­ag­no­sis led to long-term prob­lems with his vi­sion. As a re­sult, his good eye is green; his dam­aged one, brown and droopy. He was again se­ri­ously in­jured while he was a stu­dent at Bay­lor Uni­ver­sity in Waco, Texas. An elbow to his face in a game of bas­ket­ball shat­tered the bones around his al­ready dam­aged right eye. At Bay­lor, he ma­jored in psy­chol­ogy and was a mem­ber of the Bay­lor Uni­ver­sity Cham­ber of Com­merce. In 1985, he was elected Stu­dent Body Pres­i­dent of the Bay­lor Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment Association.

Pax­ton re­ceived a psy­chol­ogy de­gree in 1985 from Bay­lor Uni­ver­sity, and he con­tin­ued his ed­u­ca­tion at the Han­kamer School of Busi­ness, earn­ing a Mas­ter of Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion in 1986. Pax­ton then worked for two years as a man­age­ment con­sul­tant be­fore re­turn­ing to school in 1988. He en­rolled at Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia School of Law in Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, and in 1991 earned his Juris Doc­tor de­gree.

Pax­ton then joined the firm of Stras­burger & Price, L.L.P, where he worked from 1991 to 1995. He then went to work for J.C. Pen­ney Com­pany, Inc., as in-house legal coun­sel. In 2002, he left J.C. Pen­ney to start his own firm spe­cial­iz­ing in es­tate plan­ning, pro­bate, real es­tate and gen­eral busi­ness mat­ters and to run for of­fice in Texas House Dis­trict 70.

A res­i­dent of McK­in­ney, Texas, Pax­ton serves or has served on nu­mer­ous local or­ga­ni­za­tions and coun­cils. He is a mem­ber of the Cham­ber of Com­merce in Allen, Frisco, and McK­in­ney. He is a di­rec­tor of the Cen­ten­nial Med­ical Cen­ter. He is a mem­ber and for­mer di­rec­tor of the Collin County Bar As­so­ci­a­tion, a mem­ber of the Dal­las Es­tate Plan­ning Coun­cil, di­rec­tor at Mar­ket­place Min­istries, and a mem­ber of Ro­tary In­ter­na­tional in McK­in­ney. Pax­ton is a char­ter mem­ber of the non­de­nom­i­na­tional Stone­briar Com­mu­nity Church in Frisco, founded in 1998 by se­nior pas­tor Chuck Swin­doll.

 

Texas House of Representatives

Elections

2002

On March 12, 2002, Pax­ton ran for his first nom­i­na­tion in the Re­pub­li­can pri­mary for the Texas House in Dis­trict 70 against five op­po­nents. He cap­tured 39.45% of the vote and moved into a runoff with Bill Vitz, whom he then de­feated with 64% of the vote. He went on to face Fred Lusk (D) and Robert Wor­thing­ton (L) for the newly re­dis­tricted open seat. On No­vem­ber 4, 2002, Pax­ton se­cured his first win with 28,012 votes to Lusk’s 7,074 votes and Wor­thing­ton’s 600 votes.

2004

On No­vem­ber 4, 2004, Pax­ton faced a chal­lenge from De­mo­c­rat Mar­tin Wood­ward after run­ning un­op­posed for the Re­pub­li­can nom­i­na­tion. Pax­ton cap­tured 76% of the vote, or 58,520 votes com­pared to 18,451 votes for Woodward.

2006

On No­vem­ber 4, 2006, Pax­ton won his third term in the Texas House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives, de­feat­ing Rick Koster (D) and Robert Vi­rasin (L). Pax­ton re­ceived 30,062 votes to Koster’s 12,265 votes and Vi­rasin’s 1,222 votes.

2008

On No­vem­ber 4, 2008, Pax­ton won House re-elec­tion by again de­feat­ing Robert Vi­rasin (L), 73,450 to 11,751 votes.

2010

Pax­ton ran un­op­posed for re-elec­tion in both the Re­pub­li­can pri­mary and the gen­eral elec­tion in 2010. On No­vem­ber 11, 2010, en­ter­ing his last term as a state rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Pax­ton an­nounced that he would run for Speaker of the Texas House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives against Joe Straus of Dis­trict 121 in Bexar County and fel­low Re­pub­li­can War­ren Chisum of Dis­trict 88 in Pampa, Texas. Pax­ton said that if elected speaker, he would take “bold ac­tion in de­fense of our con­ser­v­a­tive values.”

Sens­ing cer­tain de­feat, Pax­ton pulled out of the Speaker’s race be­fore the vote. Pax­ton was one of six Texas House can­di­dates en­dorsed by Huck­PAC, the of­fi­cial po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee of Mike Huck­abee. Pax­ton re­ceived en­dorse­ments and “A” rat­ings from the Na­tional Rifle As­so­ci­a­tion and its state af­fil­i­ate, the Texas State Rifle Association.

Straus was elected to his sec­ond term as Speaker and was re-elected in 2013, 2015, and 2017.

Texas State Senate

Pax­ton was elected to the Texas State Sen­ate in 2012, and served for two years, until Jan­u­ary 2015, when his term as At­tor­ney Gen­eral began.

 

Attorney General of Texas

Paxton’s 2013 campaign announcement

Pax­ton be­came a can­di­date for Texas at­tor­ney gen­eral when the in­cum­bent Greg Ab­bott de­cided to run for gov­er­nor to suc­ceed the re­tir­ing Rick Perry. Pax­ton led a three-can­di­date field in the Re­pub­li­can pri­mary held on March 4, 2014, polling 566,114 votes (44.4%). State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Dan Branch of Dal­las County re­ceived 426,595 votes (33.5 per­cent). Elim­i­nated in the pri­mary was Texas Rail­road Com­mis­sioner Barry Smither­man of Austin, who polled the re­main­ing 281,064 (22.1 per­cent). Pax­ton faced Dan Branch in the runoff elec­tion on May 27, 2014, and won with 465,395 votes (63.63 per­cent). Branch re­ceived 265,963 votes (36.36 percent).

In the No­vem­ber 4 gen­eral elec­tion, Pax­ton de­feated a De­mo­c­ra­tic at­tor­ney from Hous­ton named Sam Houston.

Pax­ton took of­fice on Jan­u­ary 5, 2015. Pax­ton’s cam­paign raised $945,000 in the first half of 2016, leav­ing Pax­ton with just under $3 mil­lion in his cam­paign ac­count for a po­ten­tial 2018 re-elec­tion bid.

Pax­ton’s wife, An­gela Pax­ton, his clos­est po­lit­i­cal ad­vi­sor, often opens up his events with a mu­si­cal per­for­mance. She calls her hus­band “a very com­pet­i­tive person”. Pax­ton won the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s elec­tion with­out the en­dorse­ment of a sin­gle Texas news­pa­per. He gen­er­ally avoids re­porters, most of whom he con­sid­ers bi­ased against him. In 2019, An­gela Pax­ton as­sumed the Dis­trict 8 seat in the Texas Sen­ate as a re­sult of her vic­tory in the 2018 gen­eral elec­tion for that post.

In 2018, Pax­ton ran for re-elec­tion un­op­posed in the Re­pub­li­can pri­mary, and he was en­dorsed by U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. Pax­ton won a sec­ond term as at­tor­ney gen­eral in the gen­eral elec­tion held on No­vem­ber 6, 2018, nar­rowly de­feat­ing De­mo­c­ra­tic nom­i­nee Justin Nel­son, a lawyer, and Lib­er­tar­ian Party nom­i­nee Michael Ray Har­ris by a mar­gin of 4,173,538 (50.6 per­cent) to 3,874,096 (47 per­cent) and Har­ris re­ceiv­ing 2.4%.

Tenure

Immigration

In 2018, Pax­ton falsely claimed that un­doc­u­mented im­mi­grants had com­mit­ted over 600,000 crimes since 2011 in Texas. Poli­ti­Fact noted that it had de­bunked the num­bers be­fore, and that the num­bers ex­ceed the state’s es­ti­mates by more than 400%. In 2019, Pax­ton in­ac­cu­rately claimed that the con­struc­tion of a bor­der fence in El Paso led to a dra­matic re­duc­tion in the crime rate.

 

Obama executive orders

Pax­ton led a coali­tion of 26 states chal­leng­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s De­ferred Ac­tion for Par­ents of Amer­i­cans and Law­ful Per­ma­nent Res­i­dents (DAPA) ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to The New York Times, Obama’s ex­ec­u­tive ac­tions “would pro­tect mil­lions of il­le­gal im­mi­grants from de­por­ta­tion and allow them to work in­def­i­nitely in the coun­try legally.”

Pax­ton ar­gued that the pres­i­dent should not be al­lowed to “uni­lat­er­ally rewrite con­gres­sional laws and cir­cum­vent the peo­ple’s representatives.”

The Supreme Court heard the case, United States v. Texas, and is­sued a split 4-4 rul­ing in the case in June 2016. Be­cause of the split rul­ing, a 2015 lower-court rul­ing in­val­i­dat­ing Obama’s plan was left in place.

In July 2017, Pax­ton led a group of Re­pub­li­can At­tor­neys Gen­eral and Idaho Gov­er­nor Butch Otter in threat­en­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion that they would lit­i­gate if the pres­i­dent did not ter­mi­nate the De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivalspol­icy that had been put into place by pres­i­dent Barack Obama.

The other At­tor­neys Gen­eral who joined in mak­ing the threats to Trump in­cluded Steve Mar­shall of Al­abama, Leslie Rut­ledge of Arkansas, Lawrence Was­den of Idaho, Derek Schmidt of Kansas, Jeff Landry of Louisiana, Doug Pe­ter­son of Ne­braska, Alan Wil­son of South Car­olina, and Patrick Mor­risey of West Virginia.

 

Trump executive orders

In 2017, Pax­ton voiced sup­port for the ap­pli­ca­tion of em­i­nent do­main to ob­tain right-of-way along the Rio Grande in Texas for con­struc­tion of the bor­der wall ad­vo­cated by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as a means to cur­tail il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion. Pax­ton said that pri­vate landown­ers must re­ceive a fair price when prop­erty is taken for the pend­ing con­struc­tion. He said that the wall serves “a pub­lic pur­pose pro­vid­ing safety to peo­ple not only along the bor­der, but to the en­tire na­tion. … I want peo­ple to be treated fairly, so they shouldn’t just have their land taken from them,” but there must be just compensation.

In 2017, Pax­ton joined thir­teen other state at­tor­neys gen­eral in fil­ing a friend-of-the-court briefs in de­fense of both Trump’s first and sec­ond ex­ec­u­tive or­ders on travel and im­mi­gra­tion.

In fil­ings in the U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the Ninth Cir­cuit, U.S. Court of Ap­peals for the Fourth Cir­cuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court, Pax­ton ar­gued that the order—which places a 90-day ban on the is­suance of visas to trav­eled from six des­ig­nated ma­jor­ity-Mus­lim coun­tries, im­poses a 120-day halt on the ad­mis­sion of refugees to the U.S., and caps an­nual refugee ad­mis­sions to 50,000 peo­ple—is con­sti­tu­tion­ally and legally valid.

In May 2017, Pax­ton filed a pre­emp­tive law­suit de­signed to as­cer­tain the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the new Texas ban on sanc­tu­ary cities, known as SB 4, signed into law by Gov­er­nor Greg Ab­bott.

The suit asks the United States Dis­trict Court for the West­ern Dis­trict of Texas to clar­ify whether the law is at odds with the Fourth and Four­teenth con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments or is not in con­flict with some other fed­eral law.

Pax­ton said that the mea­sure “is con­sti­tu­tional, law­ful and a vital step in se­cur­ing our bor­ders. It guar­an­tees co­op­er­a­tion among fed­eral, state and local law en­force­ment to pro­tect Tex­ans. Un­for­tu­nately, some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and law en­force­ment agen­cies are un­will­ing to co­op­er­ate with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and claim that SB 4 is un­con­sti­tu­tional.”

Among those op­posed to the mea­sure are the po­lice chiefs and sher­iffs of some of the largest ju­ris­dic­tions in Texas. Crit­ics call the ban le­gal­iza­tion of dis­crim­i­na­tion against mi­nori­ties, and suits against the leg­is­la­tion are ex­pected to be filed.

 

Challenge to the Clean Power Plan

Pax­ton has mounted a legal chal­lenge to the Clean Power Plan, which is Pres­i­dent Obama’s “state-by-state ef­fort to fight cli­mate change by shift­ing away from coal power to cleaner-burn­ing nat­ural gas and re­new­able resources.” Pax­ton says the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency is try­ing to “force Texas to change how we reg­u­late en­ergy pro­duc­tion” through an “un­prece­dented ex­pan­sion of fed­eral authority.” The Clean Power Plan would re­quire Texas to cut an an­nual av­er­age of 51 mil­lion tons of emis­sions, down 21 per­cent from 2012 lev­els. Pax­ton says the re­quired re­duc­tions would cost the state jobs, push elec­tric­ity costs too high, and threaten re­li­a­bil­ity on the elec­tri­cal grid. Pax­ton says there is no ev­i­dence that the plan will mit­i­gate cli­mate change, and that the EPA lacks the statu­tory au­thor­ity to write the state’s policies.

 

Challenge to Department of Labor overtime rule

Pax­ton is suing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion over a new rule by the United States De­part­ment of Labor which would make five mil­lion ad­di­tional work­ers el­i­gi­ble for over­time pay. The new rule would mean work­ers earn­ing up to an an­nual salary of $47,500 would be­come el­i­gi­ble for over­time pay when work­ing more than 40 hours per week. Pax­ton has said the new reg­u­la­tions “may lead to dis­as­trous con­se­quences for our econ­omy.” Along with Texas, twenty other states have joined the lawsuit.

 

LGBT issues

In June 2015, after the is­suance of the Oberge­fell v. Hodges de­ci­sion, in which the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex cou­ples have a con­sti­tu­tional right to marry, Pax­ton is­sued a state­ment of­fer­ing moral sup­port for clerks with re­li­gious ob­jec­tions to is­su­ing mar­riage li­censes to same-sex cou­ples. His state­ment said in part that “nu­mer­ous lawyers stand ready to as­sist clerks de­fend­ing their re­li­gious be­liefs, in many cases on a pro-bono basis, and I will do every­thing I can from this of­fice to be a pub­lic voice for those stand­ing in de­fense of their rights.”

in 2016, Pax­ton led a coali­tion of thir­teen states that sought an in­junc­tion to block a guid­ance let­ter is­sued by the U.S. De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and the U.S. De­part­ment of Jus­tice that in­ter­preted Title IX to re­quire pub­lic schools to allow trans­gen­der stu­dents to use re­strooms that ac­corded with their gen­der iden­tity.

Pax­ton wrote in court fil­ings that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had “con­spired to turn work­places and ed­u­ca­tional set­tings across the coun­try into lab­o­ra­to­ries for a mas­sive so­cial experiment” and termed the di­rec­tive a “gun to the head” that threat­ens the in­de­pen­dence of school districts.

The states dropped the suit after the di­rec­tive was re­voked by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

 

Challenge to Department of Labor’s “Persuader Rule”

Pax­ton is in­volved in a legal chal­lenge to a rule by the De­part­ment of Labor which forces em­ploy­ers to re­port any “ac­tions, con­duct or com­mu­ni­ca­tions” un­der­taken to “af­fect an em­ployee’s de­ci­sions re­gard­ing his or her rep­re­sen­ta­tion or col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights.”

Known as the “Per­suader Rule,” the new reg­u­la­tion went into ef­fect in April 2016. Op­po­nents of the rule say it will pre­vent em­ploy­ers from speak­ing on labor is­sues or seek­ing legal coun­sel.

In June 2016, a fed­eral judge granted a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion against the rule. Pax­ton called the in­junc­tion “a vic­tory for the preser­va­tion of the sanc­tity of at­tor­ney-client confidentiality.”

 

ExxonMobil litigation

In 2016, Pax­ton was one of 11 Re­pub­li­can state at­tor­neys gen­eral who sided with Exxon­Mo­bil in the com­pany’s suit to block a cli­mate change probe by the Com­mon­wealth of Mass­a­chu­setts.

Pax­ton and the other state AGs filed an am­i­cus cu­riae brief, con­tend­ing that Mass­a­chu­setts At­tor­ney Gen­eral Maura Healey used her of­fice to “tip the scales on a pub­lic pol­icy de­bate, un­der­mine the first Amend­ment and abuse the of­fice’s sub­poena power.”

Healey had launched a probe of Exxon­Mo­bil’s his­tor­i­cal mar­ket­ing and sale of fos­sil fuel prod­ucts, re­quir­ing the com­pany to pro­duce 40 years worth of doc­u­ments re­gard­ing fos­sil fuel prod­ucts and se­cu­ri­ties.

Healey said the doc­u­ments would prove that Exxon­Mo­bil “knew about the risks of cli­mate change decades ago and fraud­u­lently con­cealed that knowl­edge from the public.”

The am­i­cus brief sup­ported Exxon Mobil’s mo­tion for a pre­lim­i­nary injunction.

Pax­ton ques­tioned Healey’s use of law-en­force­ment au­thor­ity re­gard­ing the global warm­ing con­tro­versy, which he called an “on­go­ing pub­lic pol­icy de­bate of in­ter­na­tional im­por­tance.”

Pax­ton de­scribed Healey’s at­tempts to ob­tain his­tor­i­cal com­pany records for a pub­lic pol­icy de­bate as a threat to free­dom of speech, stat­ing:

“The Con­sti­tu­tion was writ­ten to pro­tect cit­i­zens from gov­ern­ment witch-hunts that are noth­ing more than an at­tempt to sup­press speech on an issue of pub­lic im­por­tance, just be­cause a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial hap­pens to dis­agree with that par­tic­u­lar viewpoint.”

The brief por­trayed cli­mate change as an issue that was still a mat­ter of sci­en­tific de­bate, al­though in fact the sci­en­tific con­sen­sus is that the earth is warm­ing and human ac­tiv­ity is pri­mar­ily re­spon­si­ble.

U.S. Vir­gin Is­lands at­tor­ney gen­eral Claude Walker had also is­sued a sub­poena for Exxon’s records. Pax­ton is­sued a re­quest to in­ter­vene in the case, stat­ing: “What is Exxon Mobil’s trans­gres­sion? Hold­ing a view about cli­mate change that the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of the Vir­gin Is­lands dis­agrees with. This is about the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of speech and thought.” Walker dropped the sub­poena in June 2016.

 

Volkswagen, Apple, and MoneyGram lawsuits

In 2012, Pax­ton was part of a law­suit against Apple, charg­ing the com­pany with vi­o­lat­ing an­titrust laws by con­spir­ing with pub­lish­ers to ar­ti­fi­cially raise the prices of elec­tronic books. Apple was or­dered to pay $400 mil­lion to U.S. con­sumers who paid ar­ti­fi­cially-in­flated prices for e-books, and $20 mil­lion to the states in re­im­burse­ment for legal costs.

In June 2016, it was an­nounced that Volk­swa­gen would pay the state of Texas $50 mil­lion in re­la­tion to the Volk­swa­gen emis­sions scan­dal. Pax­ton had sued the com­pany in 2015 in con­nec­tion with the au­tomaker’s ad­mit­ted use of soft­ware that al­lowed its ve­hi­cles to cir­cum­vent emis­sions limits.

Pax­ton is part of a 21-state law­suit against the state of Delaware. The law­suit al­leges that Mon­ey­Gram gave un­cashed checks to the state of Delaware in­stead of the state where the money order or trav­el­ers check was bought. The case has gone di­rectly to the U.S. Supreme Court be­cause it is a dis­pute among states. Pax­ton said an audit showed that Delaware owed other states $150 mil­lion, and that Delaware un­law­fully took pos­ses­sion of un­cashed checks in­stead of send­ing the checks back to the states where the money or­ders were purchased.The state of Delaware dis­putes these claims.

 

Lawsuit over homestead tax exemptions

In 2015, the Texas State Leg­is­la­ture passed a law im­ple­ment­ing prop­erty tax re­duc­tions by in­creas­ing the home­stead ex­emp­tion to $25,000 and pro­hibit­ing lo­cal­i­ties from re­duc­ing or re­peal­ing any local op­tion home­stead ex­emp­tion al­ready on the books. After this law was passed, 21 school dis­tricts re­duced or elim­i­nated their local op­tional home­stead ex­emp­tions. In 2016, Pax­ton in­ter­vened in a law­suit chal­leng­ing the prac­tice of school dis­tricts re­duc­ing or re­peal­ing their local op­tional home­stead exemptions.

Second Amendment lawsuits

In 2016, three Uni­ver­sity of Texas at Austin pro­fes­sors sued in an ef­fort to ban con­cealed hand­guns from cam­pus. The state’s cam­pus carry law al­lows law-abid­ing cit­i­zens to carry con­cealed weapons. The law­suit brought by the pro­fes­sors seeks to block the law. Pax­ton called the law­suit “friv­o­lous” and said it should be dismissed.

In 2016, Pax­ton sued the city of Austin to allow li­cense hold­ers to openly carry hand­guns in city hall.

Voter fraud

Pax­ton has “cru­saded against voter fraud” as state at­tor­ney general; there is no ev­i­dence of wide­spread voter fraud in Texas, al­though the state’s “ef­forts to enact and en­force the strictest voter ID law in the na­tion were so plagued by de­lays, re­vi­sions, court in­ter­ven­tions and in­ad­e­quate ed­u­ca­tion that the cast­ing of bal­lots in the 2016 elec­tion was in­evitably troubled.”

Pax­ton’s of­fice is seek­ing 2016 Texas vot­ing records in an ef­fort to find voter fraud, such as po­ten­tial vot­ing by non-cit­i­zens or in the name of the de­ceased. This in­cludes in­di­vid­ual vot­ing his­tory and ap­pli­ca­tion ma­te­ri­als for voter reg­is­tra­tions.

Of­fi­cials in Bexar County say there have been no major cases of voter fraud in San An­to­nio. How­ever, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported that the top elec­tion of­fi­cial in Bexar County es­ti­mates that nearly six hun­dred af­fi­davits sub­mit­ted by vot­ers de­clined to pre­sent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and should have been de­clined.

In­stead, the of­fi­cial said such vot­ers should have been re­quired to cast pro­vi­sional bal­lots. AP pro­jected that the over­all num­ber who cast im­proper af­fi­davits as 13,500 in the largest Texas counties.

Fort Bend County’s top elec­tions of­fi­cial said that these cases are not voter fraud, not­ing that only those who were reg­is­tered to vote qual­i­fied for an af­fi­davit, and that “poll work­ers were trained to ‘err on the side of let­ting peo­ple use the af­fi­davit in­stead of deny­ing them the chance to vote.'”

The San An­to­nio Ex­press-News crit­i­cized the state’s voter iden­ti­fi­ca­tion law, which Pax­ton seeks to have re­in­stated after it was struck down by United States Dis­trict Judge Nelva Gon­za­les Ramos of Cor­pus Christ, who found the mea­sure to be a vi­o­la­tion of the Vot­ing Rights Act, and found that it was passed with the in­tent to dis­crim­i­nate against black and His­panic vot­ers. Pax­ton’s of­fice ap­pealed the decision. Ap­peals con­tinue in the case.

In March 2017, Pax­ton told The Wash­ing­ton Times that he was con­vinced that voter fraud ex­ists in Texas, and claimed that local elec­tion of­fi­cials in Texas were not on the look­out for de­tect­ing fraud. Ex­perts stated that there is no re­li­able ev­i­dence of wide­spread voter fraud in the United States, and a Texas study of elec­tions over a decade de­ter­mined that there were about three cases of fraud for every one mil­lion votes in the state.

Religion in schools

Pax­ton “has often crit­i­cized what he calls anti-Chris­t­ian dis­crim­i­na­tion in Texas schools.” In 2015, Pax­ton op­posed an athe­ist group’s legal ac­tion seek­ing a halt to the read­ing of re­li­gious prayers be­fore school board meetings. In De­cem­ber 2016, Pax­ton gained at­ten­tion after in­ter­ven­ing in a dis­pute in Killeen, Texas, in which a mid­dle school prin­ci­pal told a nurse’s aide to take down a six-foot poster in the school con­tain­ing a quote from Chris­t­ian scrip­ture. Pax­ton sided with the aide, who won in court.

In early 2017 Pax­ton ob­jected to a Texas school’s use of an empty class­room to allow its Mus­lim stu­dents to pray, is­su­ing a press re­lease that claimed that “the high school’s prayer room is … ap­par­ently ex­clud­ing stu­dents of other faiths.” School of­fi­cials said that Pax­ton had never asked them about this as­ser­tion, and that the room was a spare room used by fac­ulty and non-Mus­lim stu­dents as well as for mul­ti­ple ac­tiv­i­ties, from grad­ing pa­pers to Bud­dhist med­i­ta­tion. The Frisco In­de­pen­dent School Dis­trict su­per­in­ten­dent, in a let­ter sent in re­sponse to Pax­ton, called his press re­lease “a pub­lic­ity stunt by the [Of­fice of At­tor­ney Gen­eral] to politi­cize a nonissue.”

Congressional districts

Pax­ton has de­fended the State of Texas in a fed­eral law­suit in­volv­ing the draw­ing of Texas’s con­gres­sional dis­tricts. In 2017, a three-judge panel of a U.S. fed­eral court based in San An­to­nio ruled that the Re­pub­li­can-con­trolled Texas Leg­is­la­ture drew con­gres­sional-dis­trict to dis­crim­i­nate against mi­nor­ity vot­ers, and or­dered the re­draw­ing of Texas’s 35th and 27th con­gres­sional dis­tricts. Pax­ton is ap­peal­ing the rul­ing, con­tend­ing that the pre­vi­ous maps were law­ful, and vowed to “ag­gres­sively de­fend the maps on all fronts”; U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Lloyd Doggett crit­i­cized the ap­peal as a “des­per­ate, highly ques­tion­able Pax­ton-Ab­bott ma­neu­ver” com­ing “after yet an­other rul­ing against the state of Texas for in­ten­tional discrimination.”

Other issues

In April 2017, Pax­ton ren­dered a legal opin­ion in a dis­pute be­tween the Texas House and Sen­ate over how to close a pend­ing rev­enue gap of $2.5 bil­lion. He ar­gued that a Sen­ate pro­posal to delay pay­ment of a trans­porta­tion debt would likely be de­ter­mined in court to be con­sti­tu­tional. State Sen­a­tor Jane Nel­son of Flower Mound asked for Pax­ton’s opin­ion. The House, how­ever, was un­moved. House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee chair­man John Zer­was of Rich­mond said that there must be other ways to fi­nance the bud­get with­out “spend­ing money twice from state high­way funds.” Speaker Joe Straus of San An­to­nio com­pared the Sen­ate pro­posal to ac­count­ing tricks like those of the de­funct Enron Cor­po­ra­tion of Hous­ton.

Affordable Care Act

Pax­ton ini­ti­ated a law­suit seek­ing to have the Af­ford­able Care Act (Oba­macare) ruled un­con­sti­tu­tional in its entirety.

Indictment and securities litigation

State securities-fraud charges

On July 28, 2015, a state grand jury in­dicted Pax­ton on three crim­i­nal charges: two counts of se­cu­ri­ties fraud (a first-de­gree felony) and one count of fail­ing to reg­is­ter with state se­cu­ri­ties reg­u­la­tors (a third-de­gree felony). Pax­ton’s in­dict­ment marked the first such crim­i­nal in­dict­ment of a Texas At­tor­ney Gen­eral in 32 years since Texas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jim Mat­tox was in­dicted for bribery in 1983. The com­plainants in the case are Joel Hochberg, a Florida busi­ness­man and Byron Cook, a Re­pub­li­can mem­ber of the Texas House of Representatives. Pax­ton and Cook were for­mer friends and room­mates while serv­ing to­gether in the Texas House, who were mem­bers of the same in­vest­ment club. Three spe­cial pros­e­cu­tors are lead­ing the state’s case.

The state pros­e­cu­tion against Pax­ton stems from his pro­mo­tion of Servergy Inc., a tech­nol­ogy com­pany, to in­vestors in 2011. Pros­e­cu­tors al­lege that Pax­ton pro­moted Servergy to in­vestors (rais­ing $840,000) while fail­ing to dis­close that he was re­ceiv­ing com­pen­sa­tion from the com­pany in the form of 100,000 shares of stock in re­turn. Pax­ton says the 100,000 shares of the stock of the com­pany that he re­ceived from Servergy’s founder and CEO were a gift, and not a sales commission.

On Au­gust 3, 2015, fol­low­ing the un­seal­ing of the grand jury indictment, Pax­ton was ar­rested and booked. He pleaded not guilty, and has por­trayed “the case against him as a po­lit­i­cal witch-hunt.” Pax­ton and his sup­port­ers claim that the pros­e­cu­tion has its ori­gin in a dis­pute among Texas Re­pub­li­cans, with con­ser­v­a­tives like Pax­ton on one side and mod­er­ates like Cook on the other, and sug­gest that Cook’s com­plaint, sev­eral years after the Servergy deal, was po­lit­i­cal payback.

Pax­ton un­suc­cess­fully sought to quash the indictments. This chal­lenge was re­jected by the trial judge, the Texas Court of Ap­peals, and the Texas Court of Crim­i­nal Ap­peals, Texas’ crim­i­nal court of last resort.

In March 2017, Dis­trict Judge George Gal­lagher, a Re­pub­li­can from Fort Worth, granted the pros­e­cu­tion’s mo­tion for a change of venue, mov­ing the trial to Hous­ton. Gal­lagher also de­nied Pax­ton’s mo­tion to dis­miss one of the charges against him be­cause of is­sues which arose about the grand jury. On May 30, 2017, the Fifth Court of Ap­peals of Texas agreed with Pax­ton that the trans­fer of Pax­ton’s trial to Hous­ton re­quired as­sign­ment of the case to a new judge to re­place Judge Gal­lagher and all or­ders is­sued by Judge Gal­lagher after the change of venue were voided. Pax­ton’s new judge is De­mo­c­rat Robert John­son of the 177th Dis­trict Court in Har­ris County. John­son was cho­sen at ran­dom to preside.

Be­cause of a fight over the fees de­manded by the spe­cial pros­e­cu­tors, Pax­ton’s trial has been de­layed three times.

In No­vem­ber 2018, the Texas Court of Crim­i­nal Ap­peals in­valided the trial court’s order ap­prov­ing of pay­ments of at­tor­neys’ fees to the spe­cial pros­e­cu­tors in the case, and di­rected the lower court to issue pay­ments “in ac­cor­dance with an ap­proved fee sched­ule,” sid­ing with county com­mis­sion­ers in Pax­ton’s home county of Collin County, who had re­jected the pros­e­cu­tors’ invoice.

The spe­cial pros­e­cu­tors in the case have sug­gested that if they are not paid, they could with­draw from pros­e­cu­tion of Paxton. The spe­cial pros­e­cu­tors filed a mo­tion for re­con­sid­er­a­tion in the Texas Court of Crim­i­nal Ap­peals in De­cem­ber 2018.

 

Securities and Exchange Commission complaint dismissal with prejudice

On April 11, 2016

the U.S. Se­cu­ri­ties and Ex­change Com­mis­sion filed a civil en­force­ment ac­tion against Pax­ton in the United States Dis­trict Court for the East­ern Dis­trict of Texas. The SEC’s com­plaint specif­i­cally charged Pax­ton with vi­o­lat­ing var­i­ous pro­vi­sions of the Se­cu­ri­ties Act of 1933 and var­i­ous pro­vi­sions (in­clud­ing Rule 10b-5) of the Se­cu­ri­ties Ex­change Act of 1934 by de­fraud­ing the Servergy investors.Pax­ton de­nied the allegations. One of the de­fen­dants and Servergy it­self reached a sep­a­rate set­tle­ment with the SEC, agree­ing to pay $260,000 in penalties.

On Oc­to­ber 7, 2016

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Amos L. Maz­zant III con­di­tion­ally dis­missed the SEC’s civil fraud charges, find­ing the SEC had not al­leged Pax­ton had any legal oblig­a­tion to in­form in­vestors that he was re­ceiv­ing a com­mis­sion and giv­ing the SEC two weeks to re­file with any new allegations. Maz­zant said that the SEC was try­ing to fit a “square peg into a round hole.”

On Oc­to­ber 22, 2016

the SEC re­filed its se­cu­ri­ties fraud claims against Paxton. The SEC made the ad­di­tional al­le­ga­tions that Pax­ton and Cook’s in­vest­ment club re­quired all of its mem­bers to ac­cept the same risks on all in­vest­ments and that it specif­i­cally for­bade mem­bers from mak­ing money off in­vest­ments of other members. The SEC fur­ther al­leged that Pax­ton did not prop­erly dis­close his Sev­ergy own­er­ship stake on his taxes and that he at­tempted to con­ceal the stake by at dif­fer­ent times claim­ing it was his fee for legal ser­vices, that it was a gift, and that he had only re­ceived it after in­vest­ing money. Cook later back­tracked on these claims, un­der­min­ing the SEC case against Pax­ton, when Cook’s at­tor­ney con­ceded there was never a “for­mal in­vest­ment group” in­volv­ing Cook and Pax­ton but rather an “ad hoc arrange­ment where, from time to time, good friends might in­vest in the same trans­ac­tion” with the par­tic­u­lar par­tic­i­pants vary­ing from trans­ac­tion to transaction.

On March 2, 2017

Maz­zant dis­missed the civil se­cu­ri­ties fraud case against Pax­ton for a sec­ond time on grounds that the at­tor­ney gen­eral had “no plau­si­ble legal duty” to in­form in­vestors that he would earn a com­mis­sion if they pur­chased stock in a tech­ni­cal com­pany that Pax­ton rep­re­sented. With the sec­ond dis­missal of the case with prej­u­dice, the SEC can­not bring new ac­tion on the same claim against Paxton. The dis­missal of the SEC case does not have a di­rect im­pact on the state crim­i­nal case, which re­mains pending.

Credit: Wiki2

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Laws In Texas is a blog about the Financial Crisis and how the banks and government are colluding against the citizens and homeowners of the State of Texas and relying on a system of #FakeDocs and post-crisis legal precedents, specially created by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to foreclose on homeowners around this great State. We are not lawyers. We do not offer legal advice. We are citizens of the State of Texas who have spent a decade in the court system in Texas and have been party to during this period to the good, the bad and the very ugly.

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