The Plan to Derail Ken Paxton’s Prosecution and Turn Him Into a Right Wing Hero

Texas’ Attorney General Ken Paxton stole another attorneys pen. Well it was a $1000 pen. Who the heck carries around a 1k ink pen?  Attorneys usually.

It happened at a Collin County courthouse, where lawyer Joe Joplin rushed through the security stop, needing to get to a hearing. A few hours later, he realized he’d left a tray of three pens at the metal detector. One was a gift from his wife — a $1,000 Montblanc.

The Collin County Sheriff Box is a sheriff who likes to see lost items returned. He ordered up the videotape.

On the security video, the sheriff said he saw several people go through the machine after Joplin. And then he recognized the guy who picked up the pens — state Sen. Ken Paxton of McKinney.

“It looked like he took a pen and put it in his pocket out of the tray,” Box said.

He asked a deputy to call Paxton and see whether he had it. He looked. He did. A day or so later, Paxton gave the pricey rollerball pen to a deputy to return to Joplin, the sheriff said.

Paxton spokesman Anthony Holm called it a simple mistake.

So what does the Texas Attorney General do when he is not stealing?

 

 

 

Duties & Responsibilities of

the Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General is the lawyer for the State of Texas and is charged by the Texas Constitution to:

*defend the laws and the Constitution of the State of Texas

*represent the State in litigation

*approve public bond issues

To fulfill these responsibilities, the Office of the Attorney General serves as legal counsel to all boards and agencies of state government, issues legal opinions when requested by the Governor, heads of state agencies and other officials and agencies as provided by Texas statutes, sits as an ex-officio member of state committees and commissions, and defends challenges to state laws and suits against both state agencies and individual employees of the State.

As the state’s top law enforcement officer, Attorney General Paxton leads more than 4,000 employees in 38 divisions and 117 offices around Texas. That includes nearly 750 attorneys, who handle more than 30,000 cases annually – enforcing child support orders, protecting Texans against consumer fraud, enforcing open government laws, providing legal advice to state officials, and representing the state of Texas in court, among other things.

 

It’s a disgrace that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is indicted and facing 99 years in prison, but it’s even worse that he’s suing to end protections for people with preexisting health conditions.

 

Ken Paxton remains under indictment for securities fraud, even as he stands for reelection. Houston attorney Justin Nelson, Paxton’s Democratic opponent, has made the case a major theme of  his campaign.

 

Justin Nelson

 

“Ken Paxton is indicted, a criminally indicted Attorney General who, essentially, can’t go before a Texas judge because he’s under indictment under the state bar rules.”

 

The original judge ordered the trial moved out of Collin County, where Paxton lives, out of concerns that Paxton’s allies had biased the jury pool. The case was moved to Harris County. Then Collin County commissioners cut off funding to the special prosecutors.

 

“This constitutional petition, called a remonstrance, is presented to the Collin County Commissioners Court to demand that they start funding the prosecution of Ken Paxton,” said Barbara Radnofsky, who cosigned the petition.

 

Asked for his reaction, Collin County Judge Keith Self said he had no comment on matters in litigation. The pay dispute between the county and the special prosecutors has dragged on for more than a year and is currently awaiting a ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

 

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.

Paxton’s wife, Angela, 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.

Not long after Paxton became attorney general, he named Prestonwood Baptist Church pastor Marc Rylander as his communications director. At Prestonwood, Rylander had grown accustomed to battling the press, chastising newspapers for publishing same-sex wedding announcements. As Paxton’s mouthpiece, he’s preached a remarkably combative view of the media, going so far as to encourage government workers to stall reporters’ information requests. “What you see in the news is opinions of what people wrote on Twitter and social media during the day,” he told an open government seminar earlier this year. “It’s gotten so bad in newspapers, especially, that I almost have gotten to a point where I avoid the newspaper people at all cost.”

paxton
Easter service at Prestonwood Baptist Church in 2015.  FACEBOOK/ @PRESTONWOODBC

Prestonwood is a surprising nexus for Paxton’s intertwining legal and political battles. Last year, Mike Buster, the church’s executive pastor, was among several Paxton affiliates who sued Representative Byron Cook and another alleged victim in the criminal case. Buster claims Cook fleeced him out of “a substantial percentage of his net worth” by recommending mineral rights deals without disclosing that he’d benefit from the sales — an echo of the charges against Paxton. Representing Buster is one of Paxton’s criminal defense lawyers, who’s also representing state Representative Ron Simmons in a lawsuit he filed against Cook this summer making similar claims. Simmons, a Paxton ally and Prestonwood member, last year filed two anti-trans “bathroom bills” that roiled the Texas Legislature — legislation that Cook helped block, only further tainting Paxton’s legal mess with party infighting.

 

Paxton’s establishment GOP opponents portrayed him as a slimy politician who’d used public office to pad his business portfolio. In February 2014, Smitherman even bought airtime to spotlight legal clients who accused Paxton of profiting behind their backs. One ad featured a 2009 lawsuit by a Dallas couple who claimed Paxton hadn’t disclosed kickbacks he received for steering them into a doomed real estate scheme with an investor buddy and political donor named Frederick “Fritz” Mowery.

 

Paxton’s legal problems intensified in April 2014, when the Texas Tribune reported he hadn’t been registered with the state when finding investors for Mowery, a violation of a state law designed to protect against fraud. A subsequent investigation by the Texas State Securities Board concluded that Paxton had solicited investors without registering during three separate years, most recently in 2012. In the heat of the primary, Paxton signed a “reprimand” with the securities board, agreeing to pay a $1,000 fine and waiving his right to appeal the punishment. That would prove to be a pivotal decision.

Paxton called the lapse an honest mistake, even though he himself had voted for the 2003 bill that made such conduct a felony. Still, all he had to do to win was keep his head down and hide from the press. Paxton beat his Democratic opponent — none other than Sam Houston, a Houston attorney — by more than 1 million votes. It is Texas, after all.

In July 2014, Texans for Public Justice, the same left-leaning group that spearheaded the criminal charges against Rick Perry and Tom DeLay, filed a criminal complaint against Paxton in Travis County, arguing he had effectively admitted to a third-degree felony. Travis County eventually said it lacked jurisdiction and bounced the complaint to Dallas County, which said the same thing.

To squash the complaint against Paxton, all his attorney, Greg Willis had to do was sit on it for a few months until the three-year statute of limitations was met. That’s where things were seemingly headed until a shit-stirring lawyer named Ty Clevenger got involved.

A former cop and journalist who’d moved from East Texas to Collin County around the start of Paxton’s legal drama, Clevenger considers himself part of the “Rand Paul strain of the GOP.” He has made it a personal crusade to go after ethically challenged legal figures, including skeezy judges, Hillary Clinton’s lawyers and, in 2014, Paxton.

Fearing that Willis would run out the clock, Clevenger did something unorthodox: He personally tracked down all 12 members of the Collin County grand jury and urged them to investigate Paxton. On March 6, 2015, he mailed letters to their homes and workplaces and even hand-delivered a few to a Plano church several jurors attended.

paxton
Attorney General Ken Paxton’s mugshot from the Collin County Jail. 

“A lot of grand jurors, the solid majority, don’t want to leave the reservation,” Clevenger said. “But there’s usually one or two on there that, if you give them solid facts that something is amiss, they’ll start asking questions.”

The gambit worked. Days later, Clevenger says a grand juror called him for more information. In April, the grand jury asked Travis County to send everything it had on Paxton; this appeared to prod Willis into asking the Texas Rangers to “follow up” on the complaint before he recused himself entirely later that month.

Paxton pulled together a top-dollar defense team, which he funded by raising money from political donors, friends and out-of-state benefactors — an ethically dubious decision that invited an inquiry from the Texas Ethics Commission. One “gift,” a $100,000 donation from a CEO whose company was being investigated by government agencies, including the Texas attorney general’s office itself, triggered a separate bribery investigation, which went nowhere.

Before the indictments, Team Paxton attacked everyone who pushed for the grand jury investigation, from Texans for Public Justice to Clevenger, crying “Witch Hunt!”  After the indictments, they attacked a judge.

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.”

Somewhere along the way, Team Paxton turned the criminal case against Texas’ top lawyer into a peculiar crusade for criminal justice reform. The trouble with the system, they say, is that the rich, the powerful and the well-connected just can’t get a fair shake.

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 prosecution 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 investors Joel Hochberg and Byron Cook, a Republican member of the Texas House of Representatives. Paxton and Cook, former friends and roommates while serving together in the Texas House, became political adversaries as Paxton staked out a conservative political position while Cook is moderate. While in the Texas House, Cook and Paxton were involved in a variety of investment deals together. The complaint regarding Servergy was filed four years after the business deal was made. Three special prosecutors are leading the state’s case.

 

Prosecutors allege that Paxton, while he was a state legislator, advised investors to fund financial firm Mowery Capital Management and technology firm Servergy without disclosing that he was being paid by the companies. Paxton allegedly raised $840,000 from investors in Servergy without conducting due diligence regarding the company’s false claims that its computer servers were highly energy efficient or that it had already made bulk sales. Paxton allegedly solicited these investments from his legal clients, legislative colleagues, and friends, with funding from Paxton and Cook’s investment club making up 25% of all investment Servergy received in 2011. Paxton says he did not receive compensation, and that the 100,000 shares of the company that he received from Servergy’s founder were a gift.

 

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.

 

Paxton pulled together a top-dollar defense team, which he funded by raising money from political donors, friends and out-of-state benefactors — an ethically dubious decision that invited an inquiry from the Texas Ethics Commission. One “gift,” a $100,000 donation from a CEO whose company was being investigated by government agencies, including the Texas attorney general’s office itself, triggered a separate bribery investigation, which went nowhere.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

Paxton’s trial was set for December 2017, but in October 2017, the trial was delayed for a third time. The new trial date has not yet been scheduled, but it will likely take place in 2018

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

 

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

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

 

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.

 

 

So now you know a little about Ken Paxton the current Attorney General of Texas. The real question is how many people who are going to vote know about Ken Paxton? Justin Nelson is doing what he can to make sure that the voters know about Ken Paxton, as well as the much better choice for Attorney General that he himself represents.

Nelson is of course an attorney, who grew up in Houston and lives in Austin. He clerked for Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the United States Supreme Court in his earlier days and is now a partner at Susman Godfrey. He is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and teaches Constitutional Law at UT.

Do I also need to mention that he is not currently under felony indictment, and is not actively trying to deprive millions of people of health insurance nor deny workers compensation for overtime. The race is one of “integrity vs. indictment,” Nelson has said. Polls taken this summer have the race within a percentage point