Committee Hears of AG’s Alleged Misdeeds

Texas AG Ken Paxton | Image by Kaylee Greenlee Beal, Texas Tribune

Sweeping allegations of lawbreaking and ethics violations were leveled at Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton during a three-hour Texas House committee meeting on Wednesday.

The House Committee on General Investigating heard accusations of retaliation against aides who claimed Paxton was using his office to benefit a campaign donor.

Erin Epley, lead counsel for the committee, testified that her team looked into possible criminal and unethical activity on the part of the attorney general. She referenced Paxton’s relationship with Austin real estate investor and campaign supporter Nate Paul.

Paxton allegedly passed on law enforcement information to Paul, who was under FBI investigation at the time. Alleged whistleblowers claimed that Paxton directed staff to withhold details from law enforcement.

Testimony also alleged Paxton tried to hide an affair, played loosely with office protocols and built a culture of fear and retaliation in the AG’s office.

The committee also discussed a securities fraud case against Paxton from eight years ago before going into executive session just after 11 a.m. It then ended the meeting without making recommendations on next steps, which could include recommendations for censure or impeachment.

State Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Kerrville) described the revelations as alarming.

“I’m still soaking in many of the facts you have provided us,” he said.

Wednesday’s committee meeting took place against the backdrop of House members’ consideration earlier this session of whether the state should pay $3.3 million of taxpayer money to settle lawsuits lodged against Paxton by the alleged whistleblowers.

House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) said he opposes using state funds to pay it. Lawmakers in both parties have balked at the request.

The hearing was also held less than a day after Paxton accused Phelan of being drunk while overseeing legislative proceedings and called on him to resign once the regular session comes to an end, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

“It is with profound disappointment that I call on Speaker Dade Phelan to resign at the end of this legislative session,” Paxton said in a statement. “Texans were dismayed to witness his performance presiding over the Texas House in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication.”

Paxton’s call came after the House committee subpoenaed records from Paxton. The investigation itself started earlier in the legislative session.

A Phelan spokesperson suggested Paxton’s comments were unfounded.

“The committee is conducting a thorough examination of the events tied to the firing of the whistleblowers, in addition to Ken Paxton’s alleged illegal conduct,” the spokeswoman, Cait Wittman, said Tuesday. “Committee minutes show that subpoenas have been issued. Mr. Paxton’s statement amounts to little more than a last-ditch effort to save face.”

In a statement, Paxton said Wednesday’s testimony was false.

“It is not surprising that a committee appointed by liberal Speaker Dade Phelan would seek to disenfranchise Texas voters and sabotage my work as Attorney General,” Paxton said in a written statement.

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