Paxton, Cook invested in state contract
Wed December 29, 2010 6:02 pm

Question: When does an old story become a new story?

Answer: When it comes out during a speakers race.

A conservative Web site called BigJolly.com published today a report that was first issued last August by Texas Watchdog concerning an investment by current speaker candidate Ken Paxton that dates from 2006. The publication was done pursuant to a “creative commons” license. I misinterpreted who was publishing what, leading to an inaccurate attribution of the recent publication to Texas Watchdog. It should have been BigJolly.

The original Texas Watchdog story reported that Paxton, Byron Cook, and former representative Bob Griggs were investors in a company that successfully bid on a contract to provide digital video cameras for DPS patrol cars.

The timing of the release–one day after the announcement of a Republican caucus on January 10–cannot be a coincidence.

As Texas Watchdog originally told the story, a Kentucky-based competitor, MPH Industries, complained that the fix was in from the start. The specifications were drawn so that WatchGuard was the only company that made the type of camera DPS described in the RFP. MPH claimed that its product “has been on the market longer and has much wider use than WatchGuard.”

Readers may access Watchdog’s original article by clicking here.

To read Jay Root’s story that ran in USAToday on October 16, 2008, click here. There is also a link to Root’s story in the Texas Watchdog article.

I want to make clear that no one did anything improper (except me, in making incorrect assumptions about who was publishing what and when).

For further clarification, please read the comments posted below article by Big Jolly’s David Jennings and Texas Watchdog’s Jennifer Peebles.

* * * *

My comments about the article:

Obviously, this was an attempt to damage Paxton. As an event in the speakers race, it is barely worth writing about. However, the final paragraphs in Root’s AP story are disturbing:

[Paxton] downplayed the size of the Texas contract, saying $10 million was “like a flea on an elephant” in a state budget that involves tens of billions of dollars annually.

But Jennifer Peebles of Texas Watchdog, a nonpartisan group that promotes open government, said lawmakers should be required by law to disclose whether they invest in businesses holding state contracts.

Paxton said he would happily correct any disclosure failures, but he balked at Peebles’ idea.

“I don’t see why it would help taxpayers to know that,” he said. “I don’t have time to spend tracking every investment I make … that’s the whole point of being a passive investor.”

Up to this point, I don’t see anything that would impact a speakers race. But Paxton’s last comment is where I draw the line. If Paxton doesn’t think a legislator should disclose an investment in businesses holding state contracts –especially when he (and Cook) voted for the budget that contained the appropriation for those contracts instead of voting a white light – his ethical standards are not what Texans should expect from a speaker of the house.

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