Estate planning

Former aides say Ken Paxton’s obsession with money is key to the bribery allegations


Once upon a time, Ken Paxton slowed down for a month before paying $12.50 for specialty license plates. But when a law society set him up at a hotel for a conference, the district attorney readily picked up a $600 sport coat from the gift shop and loaded it on to sponsors.

The state’s top attorney is known to be “extremely stingy” and constantly talks about how little he earns, according to former close advisers. They say Paxton is less restrictive when it comes to accepting money and services from others.

Latest: The file says Paxton’s donor helped the AG cover up his alleged connection to the fake Uber account

“He understands the power of asking because people find it difficult to say no,” Paxton’s former executive assistant, Drew Wicker, told investigators at Texas House. “It could be for little things, like lunch or moving furniture from Dallas to Austin, and it could be for some bigger things, it seems.”

As evidence poured in ahead of Paxton’s impeachment trial next month, key witnesses for House prosecutors portrayed the now-arrested prosecutor as a money-obsessed and sensitive to outsiders who want to influence how he runs his office.

Prosecutors allege Paxton took bribes from a campaign donor in exchange for political favors. It’s the latest in a series of financial scandals that stretch back years and include everything from accusations of securities fraud to the takeover of the latest A pen of attorney worth $1,000.

Paxton did not respond to a request for comment. He has denied all wrongdoing, and in files leading up to the September 5 trial, Paxton’s legal team said he “neither sought nor was offered nor accepted a bribe”.

The impeachment rules prohibit lawyers from speaking publicly about this case.

Related: The file says Paxton’s donor helped the AG cover up his alleged connection to the fake Uber account

Others in Austin disagreed with the picture painted by Paxton’s former aides. Bill Miller, a prominent lobbyist, said complaining about money was “common among the elected class”. He recalled an experience when Paxton refused to accept free tickets to a sporting event because the Republican thought it would be wrong.

“He’s a great customer and a nice person,” said Miller. “These traits of solitude can lead people to believe certain things about a person.”

Paxton, a third-term Republican, is accused of aiding Austin real estate investor Nate Ball in retaliating against a federal investigation into fraud in his business. In return, House prosecutors say Paul covered the cost of renovating Paxton’s home in the upscale Tarrytown neighborhood of Austin and rented a woman with whom Paxton allegedly had an affair. Paul also donated $25,000 to Paxton in 2018.

Eight former aides of Paxton reported him to the FBI in 2020, some of whom later sued, reaching a $3.3 million settlement with the attorney general, which Paxton asked the legislature to pay with tax dollars. House lawmakers began investigating Paxton after he made the motion. They voted to impeach him in May.

Money is always our top priority.

And last week, House prosecutors released thousands of pages of documents they say form the basis of their case. They include transcripts of interviews with Paxton’s aides, which for the first time reveal their private interpretations of their boss’s relationship with Paul, his behavior, and his preoccupation with his money.

Blake Brickman, a former deputy attorney general and whistleblower, told House investigators that Paxton regularly complained about the office’s finances.

“He was always complaining, literally complaining, about the fact that his employees make more money than he does,” Brickman said. According to the version. Before he was suspended due to impeachment, Paxton was making $154,000 a year Many of the agency’s top attorneys Make over $200,000. “Money has always been top of mind for him.”

David Maxwell, the agency’s former director of law enforcement and another whistleblower, showed examples of the $600 sport coat and license plates. One of the first things Paxton asked him to do, he said, was to get him a special dish that “says who I am”. As soon as Maxwell received it, Paxton told him he would bring him a cheque.

timetable: Allegations made against Texas AG by Ken Paxton over the years

“I didn’t give him those paintings until he had handed over $12.50,” Maxwell said. “I kept him for over a month because I knew exactly what he was going to do.”

“When people traveled with him, he always made them pay,” Maxwell said. “I’m talking about employees who don’t make any money, you know. He’s always trying to put his hand in someone’s pocket and make them pay.”

Maxwell’s attorney declined to comment, citing the gag order. In the transcript of his interview, Maxwell seemed to confuse the name of the legal society that was to be assigned to the coat. Hearst Newspapers contacted three prominent associations to inquire about this, and only one replied, saying it had no record of such a purchase.

Wicker, an executive aide to Paxton who witnessed pivotal conversations in the impeachment allegations, said the attorney general is cheap but also has a lot of resources available to him from investments and private sector work.

Wicker said it appeared Paxton could afford to remodel the home linked to the bribery allegations. But he begins to wonder who is really footing the bill when he overhears a contractor telling Paxton that he will “check with Nate” before making costly changes to the kitchen.

Go deep: Who is Nate Paul, the Austin real estate investor with ties to Ken Paxton?

“I love the General,” Wicker told House prosecutors. He is very stingy with money.”

Wicker speculated that his boss was a tight fist because of his upbringing.

Paxton grew up in an Air Force family that moved from state to state, often living in a trailer they parked near the bases, in Hearst. Previously mentioned.

I think that certainly played a part in that; “And that was probably something I learned from childhood,” Wicker said.

Unlike other Texas elected officials, Paxton’s wealth is largely unknown because he has stored many of his investments in a blind trust.

In the state’s latest financial disclosure, Paxton reported that income from his investments in 2022 was less than $150,000 and as high as $949,000, according to Hearst’s analysis. The total is difficult to calculate because lawmakers are required to report only stock sales in the ranges up to $47,220.

He stated that the trust is worth at least $47,220.

On the poor side of the rich

Before becoming attorney general, Paxton spent a decade in the legislature, first as a state representative and then as a senator. Several legislators could accept the job The salary is $7,200 Because they are independently wealthy or have jobs in which they can withstand extended absences. Not Paxton, according to former colleagues. A former in-house counsel to JC Penney, who later opened a private practice in real estate and business law, he worked constantly to support his family while serving in Austin.

He had four children at home. His wife, Angela, who would later take his seat in the Texas Senate, worked at a Christian school near their home in Collin County.

“He was on the poor side of the rich,” said Rob Isler, a former state representative from The Woodlands who served alongside Paxton in the Texas House of Representatives. “But I didn’t feel any kind of exaggeration with personal funds.”

During this period Paxton started investing in them Business accompanied by colleagues. His investment has also grown from two to more than twentyAnd so did the controversy.

Shortly after being sworn in as attorney general, Paxton was accused of securities fraud for allegedly encouraging people to invest in a company without disclosing that it would make a profit through a commission. Faced with having to hire a defense team, Paxton has raised over half a million dollars in donations cover his legal costs.

“The financial burden of defending against politically motivated prosecutions can be significant, and Attorney General Paxton is grateful for the support of his friends in standing up to these false allegations,” his spokesperson said. he said at the time.

The 8-year-old’s case is still pending, and Paxton has pleaded not guilty.

Blind trust, scrutiny of land deals

Months after becoming attorney general in 2015, Paxton transferred most of his investment and business interests to blind confidence. Trusts, most commonly held by federal elected officials, aim to protect politicians from potential conflicts of interest by handing over control of their investments to a third party.

Records show that Paxton is one of the few statewide office holders in Texas to use blind trust.

He is not supposed to know what investments the blind trust is making, and therefore does not have to report the trust’s holdings in public financial disclosure filings.

Confidence is likely to emerge in an impeachment trial, as prosecutors point to a text message Paxton sent in October 2020 instructing his trustee to pay for the remodeling of his home. Impeachment managers say the payment was intended to “cover up” the bribe, as it came shortly after his senior aides charged him with FBI wrongdoing. Paxton’s lawyers said the payment was legitimate and proved no bribery.

the The Wall Street Journal reported This summer, the foundation has in recent years purchased properties in Florida, Hawaii and Utah that Paxton has been calling and expressing interest in a second home. The House impeachment managers are reportedly looking into the purchases.

Paxton’s defense attorney told the newspaper that there was nothing untoward and that the two were part of a long-term investment plan.

Jerry W. Baer, ​​a law professor at Texas Tech University who has experience investigating ethical concerns that arise in estate planning, said the idea of ​​Paxton exploring investments did not align with the way a blind trust should operate.

“You shouldn’t ask a blind trust to buy anything,” he said. “That already sounds very questionable to me. The whole idea of ​​a blind trust is that you’re not supposed to be involved in any decisions they make.

However, Baer said, there are very few laws governing blind trust funds. He said they mainly operate on the honor system.

Baer said a trustee is supposed to be an “uninterested party” under Texas law — someone “not under your control, who does not report to you.”

“You must have a trustee who says, ‘I don’t care how much you ask about the contents of the trust, I don’t tell you anything. “None of your business,” said Baer. “That’s the whole idea.”

Paxton’s guardian is Charles “Chip” Looper III, and he’s no stranger at all. Lauber and his father have donated more than $50,000 to Paxton’s campaign and legal defense fund in the past decade.

Lauber and Paxton appeared friendly in text messages released by House prosecutors last week. In one, Luper asks Paxton, “What is the history of that hunting trip?”

In another letter he expresses his condolences: “Brother, I have just heard of your mother’s death. Praying for you.”

“Thank you,” Paxton replied, adding, “I appreciate your friendship.


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