The Paxton Problem

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On Friday the Texas Tribune reported that state senator Ken Paxton, who finished first in the Republican primary for attorney general in March and will face state representative Dan Branch in the runoff on May 27, was reprimanded by the Texas State Securities Board for violating the Texas Securities Act.

Per the disciplinary order (PDF), Paxton’s violation was that on several occasions he solicited clients on behalf of investment advisors without being registered as a representative of the investment advisors in question, as state law requires. Paxton was fined $1,000 for one of those occasions—the one that happened within the past five years—and from now on, he will have to affirmatively disclose to any potential clients he’s soliciting that he is a registered investment advisor, rather than merely being registered, which he was supposed to have done in the first place.

Here  it is in layman’s terms. Two weeks ago, the Tribune’s Jay Root reported that Paxton had launched an internal review of himself to see whether he had broken any laws by failing to report a number of business relationships to the relevant legal authorities. As Root noted, Paxton had not, at that point, been accused of any wrongdoing by state authorities. He had, however, been accused of wrongdoing by David and Teri Goettsche, who, in 2009, sued Paxton, along with his business partner Fritz Mowery, for breach of fiduciary duty. Paxton had advised Teri Goettsche to invest with Mowery, according to the lawsuit, but hadn’t mentioned that he would be getting a hefty commission for his trouble. As Root reported, the news came as an unpleasant surprise:

In a September 2006 letter, Mowery informed a concerned and apparently surprised Teri Goettsche that Paxton — whom she had previously retained as a lawyer on a separate matter — was being paid a 30 percent commission for referring her to Mowery’s investment firm.

“Mr. Paxton receives a percentage of Mowery Capital Management’s quarterly investment management fee for certain clients referred to us,” Mowery’s letter said. “This fee arrangement was a verbal arrangement between Mr. Paxton and us and therefore no documentation exists.” 

The couple eventually dropped their lawsuit against Mowery and Paxton. Nonetheless, the State Securities Board’s disciplinary order confirms that at the time in question, Paxton should have been registered as a representative of Mowery’s firm. The state has laws to that effect to protect Texans from being bilked or swindled.

Paxton himself has canceled a string of public appearances over the past two weeks, possibly because he’s been busy investigating himself; the campaign hasn’t said why. On Friday, after the State Securities Board issued its disciplinary order, Paxton’s campaign spokesman said he was “pleased” that the matter had been speedily resolved. They had paid a fine, he continued, that was “due to an administrative oversight.”

That’s a little hard to believe, though. Paxton got hit with a fine because of a separate incident, in 2012. The Goettsches’ lawsuit, which accused Paxton of violating the same law that the State Securities Board just disciplined him for violating, was filed in 2009. Even though that lawsuit was dropped, being sued seems like the kind of thing that would encourage an attorney to be a little more attentive to his paperwork in the future.

And Paxton, who is the leading candidate for the top legal job in Texas, has a history of not knowing what the state’s laws are, even–or especially–the ones that directly apply to him and his business dealings. 

Article III of the Texas constitution, for example, says, in part: “nor shall any member of the Legislature be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract with the State, or any county thereof, authorized by any law passed during the term for which he was elected.” In 2008, the aforementioned Jay Root, who was then at the Associated Press, reported another interesting story. In 2006, a company called WatchGuard won a lucrative contract, worth about $10 million, with the Texas Department of Public Safety. It was a coup for the young company, which reported a huge leap in earnings a couple of years later, as Root was reporting this story. But it was fitting that WatchGuard would do well in Texas. Among the company’s early investors, Root noted, were two members of the Legislature: Paxton, who was then in the House, and Byron Cook.

This wasn’t, as it turned out, a closely held secret. On its website, the company bragged that it was held by an “influential shareholder group” including three state representatives. (The third was Bob Griggs, who served in the House from 2003-2007.) And when contacted by Root, WatchGuard’s president, Robert Vanman, cheerfully touted Paxton and Cook’s contributions to the enterprise. Cook, he said, was one of the company’s largest investors, and active on the board. Paxton was a personal friend, Vanman continued, who owned a “not insignificant” share of the company.

Paxton, though, played dumb when Root got in touch. “I didn’t even know we had contracts with the state of Texas,” he said. And when Root asked about an idea that had been suggested by a nonpartisan watchdog group—that lawmakers should be required by law to disclose investments in businesses holding state contracts—Paxton was dismissive: “I don’t see why it would help taxpayers to know that.”

Actually, it’s not at all hard to see why it might help taxpayers to know whether legislators have investments in businesses that hold state contracts. It would encourage them to take notice when a small company partly owned by sitting legislators wins a lucrative state contract. Such contracts are not necessarily sinister. Indeed, in the aforementioned case, WatchGuard was the only company that bid for the DPS contract that wasn’t disqualified, so it stands to reason that they would have won the contract. Still, other situations are less straightforward–and although the Texas Constitution is in many respects a ramshackle and unwieldy document, it is a document the attorney general of Texas is expected to understand, and uphold.

To be fair, Paxton is not the only legislator who is unfamiliar with this provision. In 2009, then-senator Steve Ogden filed a bill that would require legislators to disclose all investments in businesses with contracts with the state of Texas. This spurred a classic moment on the floor of the Texas Senate commemorated in yet another story by Jay Root, after Senator Royce West asked why there was a need for such a law:

“We can contract with the state?” West asked. “I really thought that was prohibited.”

Ogden said initially he didn’t think it was illegal, then told reporters later he was not aware of the constitutional ban when he brought the bill up. But the powerful lawmaker said it’s still a good idea to require disclosure of such relationships. 

Making matters worse is that Paxton has repeatedly sought to present himself as a crusader for government transparency and accountability. “My biggest goal for this session is to improve the accountability and efficiency in government spending while promoting more honest, open government,” he said in 2007, in response to a questionnaire for the Coppell Gazette. Over the course of that session, he filed a couple of bills to that end. One called for government lobbyists to report how many tax dollars were spent while lobbying legislators. Another tried to tighten a 2005 law about state contracts; the existing law required contracts of $5 million or more to be posted online, but Paxton thought that the database should include all contracts of at least $10,000.

It’s also true that Paxton filed a couple of measures that year that seemed designed to reduce government transparency rather than expand it, such as the bill that sought to bar appraisal districts from disclosing property sales prices, which was supported by the Texas Real Estate Association, and eventually became law. Now, if appraisal districts want to see real estate sales data, they have to pay for access to the MLS, and if homeowners want to challenge an appraisal, they can pay for access too. Looking at that example, it would be easy to get the impression that Paxton’s commitment for transparency is intermittent, or even opportunistic. In running for attorney general, however, Paxton has continued to tout himself as a reformer. His campaign website lists “Protecting Taxpayers” as a priority issues, and elaborates: “The Attorney General plays a lead role in protecting taxpayers through investigating waste, fraud, and abuse, by reviewing and approving local bond packages, and through reviewing large state contracts. “

That would be nice. Unfortunately, there’s no reason to think Paxton would be well placed to do so if he wins. Looking over his record, he’s either surprisingly uninformed about what the state’s laws are, or surprisingly unconcerned about following them himself. Either quality would make  an unworthy potential successor to the current attorney general, Greg Abbott, who has, setting aside what you think of his political views, run a smart, ambitious and effective operation for more than a decade. Read my colleague Brian Sweany’s profile of Abbott, or my profile of Ted Cruz, who worked for Abbott as solicitor general, if you could use a reminder of what credible, conservative lawyers in the attorney general’s office should sound like. By contrast, here’s Paxton: “I didn’t even know we had contracts with the state of Texas,” he told Root in 2008. If that was true, it was odd, and it’s troubling in retrospect, since we now know he didn’t even bother to familiarize himself with state laws by 2009, when the Goettsches sued him, or by 2012, when he violated the state law that led to last week’s formal reprimand, or by 2014, when Jay Root once again called to ask why he was violating the laws in question. 

And again, keep in mind that Ken Paxton is the leading candidate for attorney general. 

(AP Image / Eric Gay )

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  • WUSRPH

    I think the fine and reprimand could kill Paxton’s race for AG but ONLY IF:

    The media and his opponent are successful in getting out a message that says Paxton
    “hide” his securities solicitation business for more than 9 years;
    failed to reveal it as required by law in his personal financial disclosure..
    “failed” to register as a security dealer as required by law;
    was selling securities to benefit his largest campaign supporter;
    was paid “an usually bit commission of 30%” by that supporter.
    Why was he hiding?

    If they can do that, down goes Paxton….However, if the only thing that gets out is that he failed to file a paper with some bureaucracy–as Paxton will picture the act–he may still win.
    Branch’s endorsement today by two congressmen, one of whom attacked Paxton on the ethics issue, is probably only the first of many efforts to taint him in the public mind over the next couple of weeks.

    The real problem is that many of Paxton’s supporters either don’t follow the mainstream media or don’t believe anything it says and may see all of this as some “liberal attack on the true conservative”……That is how his backers will try to sell his embarrassment

    • Blue Dogs

      Smitherman ran a few attack TV Ads bringing up Paxton’s ethical problems.

      Has he endorsed anyone yet between Branch and Paxton?

  • Mrs. Sam Houston

    Isn’t it really worse than that? Did he not probably represent that he was getting a friend in on a good deal as a favor sort of, rather than disclosing that he was selling the deal to profit himself? And then the deal *shock* went bad. . . after Paxton got his cut, of course, without reporting the income even? Isn’t this more like a classic swindle that should endanger his law license, as well as preclude him from serving as the state’s top lawyer? The other stuff is just indicative of his lazy arrogance, but the swindle, OMG.

  • http://www.fortbendconservative.org/ John Bernard Books

    Paxton will be the next AG. Am I gonna have to be the one to expose the Straus’ Lieutenant Branch?

    “”Despite an apparent conflict of interest, State Rep. Dan Branch (R-Dallas) has voted on legislation helping clients to his Dallas-based law firm. One of moderate House Speaker Joe Straus’ closest associates, Branch is now running for Texas Attorney General.”

    http://www.breitbart.com/Breitbart-Texas/2014/02/24/Texas-AG-Candidate-Dan-Branch-Conflict-of-Interest

    • Erica Grieder

      Sorry to burst your bubble, John, but it looks like Breitbart got there before you did.

      • http://www.fortbendconservative.org/ John Bernard Books

        as it looks like your source is Texas Tribune founded with Soros money. :)

        Here’s another breaking story for you Erica “RomneyCare’s pioneering health insurance exchange is headed for the scrap heap. Bay State officials are taking steps this week to junk central parts of their dysfunctional health insurance exchange — the model for President Barack Obama’s health care law — and merge with the federal enrollment site HealthCare.gov.

        Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/05/massachusetts-romneycare-health-care-exchange-106362.html#ixzz30tbjIP00

        • WUSRPH

          Sounds like they find the Obama system works better since they are becoming part of it….

        • Erica Grieder

          @johnbernardbooks:disqus google my name and Obamacare and see if you can guess what I think of that law.

    • DC9 at Night

      So you cite a Breitbart post written by Michael Quinn Sullivan (Empower Texans) who gets quotes from Morgan Williamson of Empower Texans and Daniel Greer of Agendawise (which is a subsidiary of Empower Texans)?

      Empower Texans endorsed Ken Paxton and just gave him $100k (on top of previous contributions).

      Your credible source lacks credible sources. This is remarkably unsurprising.

    • Blue Dogs

      Books, Branch should be running more TV Ads between now and May 27th, hitting Paxton hard.

  • WUSRPH

    The DMN also had an interesting story about how Rep. Paxton’s business interests have dramatically expanded since he was elected to the Legislature. See:
    http://www.dallasnews.com/news/politics/state-politics/20140504-ken-paxtons-business-list-has-surged-since-he-entered-legislature.ece

    It is all perfectly legitimate and apparently fully and duly reported as required by law but
    it reminded me of the old stories around the Leg. about how the GOP helped its candidates afford the loses in income they will suffer by being elected to a job that pays $7,200 per year.

    The best GOP candidates traditionally come from “middle management” or “mid-career professionals” but those are the very folks who find it hardest to live with the often dramatic decrease in their incomes when they become legislators. The old tales have it that the GOP helps them out by opening the doors to business opportunities, etc. It is also all perfectly legal and reported when required.

    (A few Democrats have also gotten such help, according to the stories, but it is much less common among them, perhaps because they are not exposed to people who can make the kinds of investments involved.)

    (I personally knew one Democratic house members who in the 60s and 70s had to go off the payroll of the labor union by which he was employed whenever the Leg. met because it might be inferred that labor dollars were being used to pay a legislator. He used up all his savings and finally had to quit the House because he had nothing left. For most of that period a legislator’s salary was $4,800 per year. It was raised to $7,200 in the early 70s but has been fixed there ever since.)

    I can not prove that the GOP actually does this (never having been a GOP member or a member of a GOP member’s staff), but it has been “talk” for years (and No JJ I do not approve of it)….but as long ago as 1972 I knew a GOP state senate candidate who would have taken a tremendous cut in his income if had been elected who told me about an offer he had received to participate in a Title 8 federal housing project. I also saw something this year about how one of the most conservative Tea Partiers entered the Leg. as a salesman for a exterminator but is now an petroleum industry consultant. (Of course, some people call themselves a “consultant” when they have no fixed day-by-day job so this could well mean absolutely nothing.

    • Johnny Rotten

      So you admit you have no proof, only “old stories”. Yet you repeated the drivel anyway.

      Hey, guess what? There is plenty of documentation of legislative continuance and “of counsel” work handed out to attorneys who are members of the legislature. 30 of the 55 democrats in the House are attorneys. Wonder why? But you float some conspiracy theory you heard from a guy who heard it from a guy, etc… talk about missing the forest for the trees!

      To be fair, 20 of the 95 republicans are attorneys too, but still. I doubt many of them are chasing ambumances. And forgive me if i don’t shed any tears for your union buddy who had to spend down his nest egg to play legislator….

      • WUSRPH

        Claiming I had “proof” would require that I was involved in the transaction. “Stories” means that members openly talked about it…..I didn’t talk about legislative continuances because the item was about Paxton’s business investments..It was not the whole subject of how legislators have, over the years, found ways to make a living while still being members. (For which they are paid $7,200 per year plus per diem while actually in session.)

        You are right that legal continuances have been a real problem in the past. (For those who are not aware—attorney members of the legislature are entitled to stop a trial from going forth if it would be within 30 days of a session or during a session. The idea behind them was good—attorneys should not have to take time away from their legislative duties in the midst of a session—-but, like many good things, it was subject to abuse and may still be to some extent.)

        The abuse involved legislator attorneys being signed up just before a trial as a counsel in a case for the specific purpose of keeping it from going to trial. I personally knew a couple of former members who made good livings that way some years ago. I might note that they were looked down upon by their colleagues for it…..Their actions and public complaints led to the passage of a package of laws to control continuances some years ago (for example requiring that the legislator actually appear in the case). These have made them less common than in the good ole days. They still happen but not as often.

        What you and others overlook is that many members have to make a real sacrifice to SERVE in the legislature. You can argue that was their free choice, but I doubt even you would want to see membership limited to the rich, as would happen if they did not have some other employment. (There have always been a few “trust fund” members.)

        For example, there was the independent insurance agent who found that his competitors at home were going after his bigger business clients with the argument that “good old Joe won’t be available to serve your needs while the legislature is meeting.” To save his business he had to hire someone to work his clients while the legislature was in session….paying him what would have been his profit for the year. It was a sacrifice he was willing to make in order to be in the legislature, but it was eventually one that became too much and he had to leave.

        His is just one of numerous examples of legislators making financial sacrifices in order to serve especially in these days when being a member is virtually a full-time obligation rather than the four months every two years contemplated in the constitution. It is not because legislators want it to be their only occupation—altho some may–but because the demands made upon them by their constituents have become so great that it often takes up most of their time in session and between.

        You may not feel anything for them….but in some cases it has been some of the very best members—from the right and the left—who have had to sacrifice the most and who were greatly missed when finances forced them not to run again.

        • John Johnson

          If nothing else, WURSPH, you are loyal to your “buddies” who make/made up the Band of Brothers involved in the political process in Austin. Again, I am convinced that you are just too close to the stink and became oblivious to it.

          You might find an independent insurance agent who dropped out and went home…or a small retailer…but very few, if any, attorneys. They have partners who continue to make deposits to their bank acoount, and are there to handle all the business he is able to sign up because he is an office holder. It stinks; you can’t smell it.

          The laws should be changed, but there are so many attorneys in offce, those bills never see the light of day.

          You have two types representing Texas these days…lawyers and rich guys. Very few even know what the working class people really want or need. Furhtermore, they don’t care. Look at all the legislation that is passed to protect the Big’s compared to the submissions benefiting the working class that never make it out of committee.

          You have gone blind and lost your sense of smell. You have become an apologist.

          • WUSRPH

            As to lawyers having “partners” who can carry them, the same could be said of real estate agents or any profession. There are some cases of that….but I know of many others where the attorney is a single-practice lawyer or in such a small firm that that kind of support is just not feasible. This is especially true for members from rural areas and small towns without big firms or a lot of legal business. (Not everybody represents Ft. Worth, you know.)

            I also know many small town lawyers, insurance agents and others who go home every Thursday and practiced law or work at their jobs on Friday and Saturday before retuning to Austin on Monday. They had to do that just to survive on the salary they receive as legislators.

            Members drop out all the time because of financial pressures as well as family pressures (being in Austin 4 to 5 days per week and having to work the other days to make a living takes a lot out of a family.) It usually happens either after the first session when the new members discovers what is really involved in being a legislator or after several terms when a member has to start thinking about paying for his kids’ education, etc.

            The sorry fact is that “working class people” (as you describe them) and others just cannot afford to be in the Legislature and never will be as long as the pay is so low.

            What makes the situation almost comical is that it is people like you who complain about the Legislature the most who will vote down any attempt to raise the salary to a level that would make it possible for more working class people to run for the legislature. But then you get what you pay for, don’t you?

            P.S. I’m getting a little tired of your constant personal insults. I have passed up numerous chances to do the same to you, but my patience is growing thin with being told what an evil or stupid person I am.

          • John Johnson

            Blah, blah, blah. Yeah, but; yeah, but; yeah, but….I know of…. I’ve seen… I’ve heard of….who you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?

            If lawyers get defeated or decide to drop out, they go back to a business built on being a legislator and the stroke it conveys (Paxton). Many from all fields become prostitutes under the guise of being a lobbyist. There are some good attorneys; there are some good moral legislators. They are just hard to find
            .
            As far as your “…people like you who complain…vote down…”, I will say this. If you had followed my comments here over the last several years and read pieces I submitted as a Community Columnist for the Star Telegram several years ago, you would know that I have advocated for paying elected officials both in Austin and D.C. salaries higher than those afforded most in private business at the upper executive level like they do in Singapore, while at the same time passing laws that do not allow them to take so much as a toothpick from anyone nor vote on anything that might benefti them personally in any manner. If they do, the penalties hurt. Nothing like the pissant sum Paxton had to pay. They go to jail. In the long run, this move would save taxpayers billions.

            As far as your post script goes, you are holding your own as far as pointed personal comments goes. I’m just better at it. Futhermore, I never said you were stupid…quite the contrary…you are very intelligent….and being blind to what is going on, or not being able to smell the stench, is not considered “evil”. Being an apologist just means that you are allowing you loyalty to your Band of Brothers to cloud your vision. I have empathy for you; not anger or anamosity, because I have been told by several people over the years that I think too much of some of my rowdy friends. I understand loyalty. You are not one of my friends. I owe you nothing, except the truth…as I see it.

          • WUSRPH

            As to “better at it than you”…..Dream on. I practice restraint in order to encourage full discussion. You engage in insults in the hope that it will frighten off those who disagree with you and in an attempt to proclaim to the world your moral superiority. The problem is:

            “I can explain it to you, Sir, but I can not understand it for you.”

            GO READ THE FEDERALIST PAPES.
            http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fedpapers.html

          • John Johnson

            There you go again, making statements that are pulled out of your rear end. You might know a lot about the history of the Texas legislature, but you don’t know squat about John Johnson, so quit speculating. If you want to know something, ask.

            There is no moral superiority here. I might consider running for office except I have forgotten stuff I have done in my past years that others might not have. Like managing a Red Baron Club in Houston back in my early 20’s. I remember that. So does my 85 year old mother. Don’t bring it up around her.

            P.S. Your restraint has been slipping a bit as of late.

          • WUSRPH

            You reek of self-righteousness……You just don’t recognize it.

          • John Johnson

            Oh, I know. I am very opinionated, egotistical and wrong lots of times, and have had to say “I’m wrong” and/or “I’m sorry” more than most. That’s the difference; I realize I don’t know everything, or have everything right, and am constantly looking for someone to change my mind. I don’t see a lot of that in you. You know it all, and just because you have been in the middle of it for all these years, you think you have it right. I simply disagree.

          • WUSRPH

            According to Socrates knowing you know you know nothing makes you the wisest man in the world. In your case, however, I would doubt that judgment.

          • John Johnson

            As I said, you are one smart man. Much smarter than I am. Maybe it is the commonsense that’s lacking…or as someone else mentioned…the “…forest for the trees” problem.

          • WUSRPH

            The trick is to be able to see both at the same time. I try to do both ….but still have a way to go…That means, for example, that while I can see the rotten trees in the Legislature I can also see the healthy (good) ones and I try to encourage their growth so the forest becomes truly healthy.

            You, on the other hand, pay more attention to the bushes than the trees and want to burn down the entire forest, sick and healthy trees alike.

          • John Johnson

            More bullshit. I’ve had enough of your forced feeding. Hasta luego.

          • WUSRPH

            THANK GOD! Now if you could only make it permanent.

  • don76550

    In the interest of full disclosure, don’t you think you should admit you are a liberal magazine, Dan Branch is a liberal candidate and Paxton is a conservative. Therefore it stands to reason you will do or say anything true or not that you can think of to damage Paxton. I have looked at Paxton’s record and I would be delighted to have him as attorney general. Branch cannot handle the job.

    • WUSRPH

      To quote myself: “The real problem is that many of Paxton’s supporters either don’t follow the mainstream media or don’t believe anything it says and may see all of this as some “liberal attack on the true conservative”……That is how his backers will try to sell his embarrassment.”

      Also, I doubt you could find a liberal in the State of Texas (and probably in the US) who after he looked at Dan Branch’s record would call him a Liberal or even a moderate. Guess it is all in the eyes of the beholder.

      • don76550

        Maybe if the pseudojournalists of the lame stream media would stop lying on issue after issue, ignoring stories they don’t agree with and show some integrity perhaps we could believe what they say. The habitual lying and propaganda of the lame stream media would even embarass Josef Goebbels.

        • Erica Grieder

          Please tell me what aspect of this story you consider “lying.”

          • WUSRPH

            It seems he has the “courage” to make a wild charge, but not the guts to back it up. How Goebbelsestic of him!

          • Erica Grieder

            Yep. And @don76550:disqus, if you’re reading– that was only one of your incorrect premises.

          • don76550

            Are you insinuating the liberal media doesn’t lie? You need to stop using illegal substances.

          • Erica Grieder

            I’m not insinuating anything. I’m asking you if you can defend your insinuation that anything I wrote above is a lie.

          • Blue Dogs

            Erica, Smitherman has endorsed Branch. Look for Branch to get majority of ALL of Smitherman’s supporters on May 27th.

        • WUSRPH

          Anyone who has studied the way Goebbels operated will see a much closer resemblance between people like Rush L. and Goebbels than any relationship to the mainstream media. What Goebbels perfected was the use of the “big lie” and the concept that if you repeat something often enough it will become a fact (Obama’s birthplace, death panels, the girl who testified for birth control pills was a …. , etc.). If you want to lean more than the little about him that you apparently know try:
          http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Joseph_Goebbels#mw-head#mw-head

          The kind of truth-twisting you are alleging by the main stream media is much more subtle than that. It would slowly and gradually move your views to another point by small suggestions and hints over an extended period of time.

          Someone else want to comment, please feel free. I’m finished for the night when the old “they lie to us” s… starts being thrown around.

          P.S. You owe Erica the courtesy of an answer, if you can come up with one.

        • donuthin2

          Thought we had already set the limits on dumb, but looks like not.

      • Blue Dogs

        Paxton would be more corrupt like his predecessor, Dan Morales (D). He’ll be the Republican version of Morales: ethics problems and corruption swirling around him.

        • Jon

          …but in conjunction with Patrick (if he wins his runoff), likely more high-profile than Morales as far as getting into causes that stir media buzz, but really aren’t center to the Leg or the state government’s core mission.

          Lots of self-aggrandizement to maintain support within the base, but they could end up being the biggest assets the Democrats have going forward to 2018, especially if Paxton carries his private practice ethics into the AG’s office (because if an economic downturn doesn’t arrive, the Democrats’ best chance for gains in Austin comes from a major scandal involving top state officials between now and 2018).

          • Blue Dogs

            Considering that Morales used to be a rising star of the Democratic Party before he screwed it up so badly (reason why he didn’t seek a 3rd term as State AG in 1998 due to brewing scandals in his office, etc.,)

    • dpcesq

      Anyone who calls Dan Branch a “liberal” is delusional

      • http://www.fortbendconservative.org/ John Bernard Books

        Dan Branch is a Straus lieutenant and a liberal.

        • DC9 at Night

          Didn’t skirt around that one, did you JBB?

        • dave in texas

          By the definitions of today’s so-called “conservatives,” Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Barry Goldwater were liberals.

          • Erica Grieder

            I’ve said this before and I’m partly joking, but only partly: Texas Democrats are becoming the last remaining defenders of this state’s great center-right political tradition.

          • dave in texas

            Shoot, the national Democratic Party is seen as a center-right party by most of the rest of the world. The entire polity of the US has shifted dramatically to the right during my lifetime. As I was coming of age in the late 60s and early 70s, my politics were considered firmly in the middle of the road, or maybe even a shade to the right of center. My beliefs haven’t changed much at all, yet today I’m considered some kind of unreconstructed far-left radical.

          • WUSRPH

            I presume that is because you believe is such evil things as Social Security, Workers Compensation, Child Labor Laws, Minimum Wages, Medicare , Civil Rights, the First Amendment and all those other “socialist” things that Ted Cruz and Rick Perry (in “his” book (sic)) condemn? Next thing you know you will come out for the right to vote rather than the good old GOP standard of “you only have a right to vote if you vote RIGHT.”

          • dave in texas

            Heh. Guilty on all counts. Hell, for that matter, I don’t find the ACA to be a moral monstrosity and the precursor to our downfall as nation, and think single-payer would be an absolute boon to the country.

          • WUSRPH

            My God! You are almost a moderate…

          • WUSRPH

            I think Goldwater would probably be closer to being a Libertarian than a liberal but you are right about the others including RR who signed quite a few tax increases while he was president.
            http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2011/02/05/142288/reagan-centennial/

  • Texas Publius

    Can someone be attorney general if they lose their law license? I think it’s highly probable that Paxton will lose his.

    Paxton and Goeb-Patrick have the same problem: their ethics stink. Paxton’s is due to negligence, probably even recklessness. Goeb-Patrick’s is due to outright knowing/intent. Paxton is unethical in a goofy way. Goeb-Patrick is unethical in a most sinister way.

    Paxton would never call Connie Chung’s program “slanted eye-to-eye” like Goeb-Patrick did on-air, then defended it as just being a joke.

    MQS sure knows how to pick some ethical giants and stand-up guys….

    • Mrs. Sam Houston

      You are right. Several Dunn backed candidates this cycle can barely afford gas to drive to Austin. Their credentials are just skinny. Makes them all the more dependent on their benefactor. Can hardly wait to see their new job titles.

      • Texas Publius

        Paxton and Goeb-Patrick are looking like Dunn and Dunner. If they lose their races after the leads they had, it would be the most precipitous fall of Texas candidates in a long, long time. But momentum definitely feels like it’s shifted in that direction.

        Both of them waive the evangelical Christian banner on their sleeves, and even use it as a political vote-harvesting tool. But most problematic for them is that many evangelical Christians (notice I didn’t say “all”) believe that things like habitual lying, cheating, swindling, deceiving, greed, and law-breaking are disqualifiers coming from those asking for promotions into higher office.

        • WUSRPH

          Only if the offenders are Democrats.

        • JoJo

          I would suggest it’s dumb crook & cray-cray crook

    • http://www.fortbendconservative.org/ John Bernard Books

      Lemme get this straight we’re comparing Dan Brach and Dan Patrick to ex-Tex Rep Democrat Naomi Gonzales and their ethics stinks? Didn’t she just start her jail term in the same cell Democrat DA Rosemary Lehmberg occupied? I need to see the democrats definition of ethics.

      • WUSRPH

        Gonzales is an example of human weakness for which she is being duly punished. What is alleged of them is deliberate violations of the public trust and their duties as legislators to comply with the laws that govern their actions and those which they apply to the rest of us. It like the difference between JFK sleeping around and Richard Nixon attempting to thwart a public investigation of a criminal act to protect himself. Neither is desirable but the latter is much more damaging to society as a whole.

        • Blue Dogs

          JFK was addicted to sex his entire life.

          Nixon was corrupt from his days in the United States Senate representing California.

      • John Johnson

        Come on, JBB..an elected official drinking too much and doing something stupid is bad; one who soberly manipulaties the law, or ignores it all together, for personal gain is a crook. I’m sure you know the difference.

        • Erica Grieder

          Also, incidentally, we’ve been plenty critical of both Naomi Gonzales and Rosemarie Lehmberg.

    • WUSRPH

      In fact, Article IV of the State Constitution that creates the office of attorney general and provides for the election of that office does not appear to say that the attorney general has to be an attorney. It is just presumed that he will be one; just as it is with SCOTUS members but there is also no requirement in the U.S. Constitution that a supreme court justice be an attorney either.It would be difficult to perform most of the duties of the office without being an attorney but a provision in the Government Code provides that the first assistant attorney general is to perform the duties of the attorney general if the AG is “unable” to do so.

      • Erica Grieder

        WUSRPH, you’re about to be penalized for knowing your stuff. Do you also happen to know whether Texas has ever had an attorney general who’s not also an attorney?

        • WUSRPH

          I can find no evidence of an attorney general who clearly was not an attorney. I have asked the Legislative Reference Library to look into the question and have yet to hear back, but in reviewing a fairly complete list of our attorney generals in the Handbook of Texas I find no reference to any one of them not being a lawyer. You would think that would be noted if it were the case. It is funny that the Constitution provides no qualifications for the offices of Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller of Public Accounts, and Commissioner of the General Land Office who, with the governor and lt. governor, make up the Executive Dept. Instead It simply creates the offices and provides that all but the Secretary of State are to be elected. Similarly, The only qualifications for being governor are that “shall be at least thirty years of age, a citizen of the United States, and shall have resided in this State at least five years immediately preceding his election.” (The Lt. Gov. has to meet the same qualifications.) Needless-to-say, there have been occasions when many of us would have liked to see more qualifications required in order to have kept certain people out of the offices…

          • Jed

            the lack of qualifications for office is part of the populist impulse at the root of the texas constitution.

          • John Johnson

            Interesting comment. Makes sense. Speculation or based on something you read? Could we get a constitutional amendment passed today that is exclusive instead of inclusive? I’d like to see lawyers banned from running for office.

          • WUSRPH

            Lawyers have a special knowledge of laws and the legal system that makes them good legislators. We may have too many….but we need some. Why pick on them alone? Why not bar real estate agents too since they may protect their profession….or plumbers, etc., etc,, etweaselcetra.

          • John Johnson

            Yeah, they would make good staff members. Maybe they could be limited to just providing support. When you put them in the top dog position, they have a proclivity to take care of themselves first, and make everything harder to understand, more difficult to obtain, and more expensive to buy for the rest of us.

          • WUSRPH

            Of course, we don’t want any bankers either as we all know about them? How about doctors? Won’t they vote for more spending on Medicaid and other programs that put dollars in their pockets, etc., etc., etc., etcweaselcetra. Pretty soon you won’t have anybody but the totally pure….if you can find one other than yourself. (told you I was losing patience.)
            Go read the Federalist Papers and see what it says about checks and balances and competing interests…..

          • John Johnson

            Yeah, it might happen if doctors, or insurance agents, or bankers made up a large voting block in the legislature like lawyers do today, but that is never going to be the case. If you were beign objective, you would acknowledge this, but you have to defend your brothers in the bond. I understand that. I just don’t respect it.

          • WUSRPH

            You do understand that there are all kinds of lawyers, don’t you with many conflicting interests? You act like they are some solid block that votes only one way. Trial lawyers, defense bar, criminal defense, real estate, oil and gas, investments, family law and on and on. They fight each other tooth and nail every day of the session…….What about the 39 out of 150 members of the House, not counting realtors and insurance agents, who claim to be involved with businesses in some manner or another? Isn’t that too big of a group? Shouldn’t we ban them too

            I know, we should set quotas for each and every type of group and business, profession, etc. (They used to do this in Ireland among other places in their upper houses). That way we can insure that everybody is represented….and nobody has more representation that their percentage of the work force. But, wait…What about races, colors, religions, ethnicity? Don’t they deserve representation too?

            Or maybe we should just hand government over to the truly pure, like you, and not worry about it.

            Again, go read the Federalist Papers..
            http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fedpapers.html

          • John Johnson

            Knock it off. Quit candycoating. All these “you don’t understand; I do” examples are wasted on me.

            Like a real family living under one roof, every attorney in the legslature has personal wants, likes and dislikes. They are not all the same, so, on occasion, there is conflict….but, just like a real family, let someone on the outside say something bad about the brother you had a fight with just yesterday, or threaten to sue the dad who you have not had a kind word for in months, and eveything changes. They all become unified ike white corpucsles sprinting side by side to fight an infection. All else is moot.

            If you want to compare the way physicians and small business owners who might be in the legislature act and protect their territory, go ahead, but it is just not the same. You know it, and I know it.

          • WUSRPH

            I can only assume that you were worked over good by an attorney….at some time in the past….That is the only explanation for your pure hate of all of them….Sorry about that but from your attitude towards all others I can only assume that you had it more than coming.

          • John Johnson

            Never been involved in a lawsuit of any kind. Have never been in jail. Have never hired an attorney to do anything more than write a few letters and prepare a few contracts. I will say it once again, your speculating is way, way off. You should give up on it.

          • WUSRPH

            Then I suspect there is no rational explanation for your hate for all attorneys except (before you deserted her) perhaps Wendy D.

          • John Johnson

            There you go again stretching the truth. I do not hate all attorneys. I have a couple of old frat brothers who are attorneys that I am close to. Another one, a good friend from my church who is one of the nicest, smartest people I know. As a whole, however, lawyers might be the most immoral group of misfits in the entire U.S. when compared to any other advocation.

    • John Johnson

      MQS is one of them. They all share the same traits to some extent. I think the term is “birds of a feather…”.

      • John Johnson

        Which brings up another point..What happened to all the uber conservatives who used to post here? We have only one “regular” remaining. Where did the rest of the flock go?

        • Erica Grieder

          They were reclassified as RINOs based on some arbitrary report card?

  • Blue Dogs

    WUSRPH, I’m pulling for Branch to win the runoff.

    This race is getting pushed to the back burner due to the Dewhurst-Patrick diva-fest in the LG race.

    • JoJo

      Both races are verses of the same song

  • Texian Politico

    This site should be renamed The Grieder Blog. Burka has clearly checked out.

    • John Johnson

      I’m afraid Paul is not in good health and that it is just not being broadcast. This being said, his return would not help this blog any. He had grown lazy and uninterested in this site long before he disappeared altogether. It needs new blood.

      Erica is a research journalist and author. She is good at what she does. However, I think this site needs a blog master who is knowledgeable of Texas politics, has some inside contacts, and posts relatively short threads, on a variety of topics, on a regular basis. Maybe a couple a day. This person does not even have to interject a bias or opinion into the initial thread to make it work.
      Erica could be this person if she would take on the persona of Linda Richman, the Mike Meyers Jewish talk show hostess on Saturday night live….”Here’s the topic. Go discuss amongst yourselves”. It would not require as much of her tiime to research and write a detailed outline, yet she could interject comments anytime she felt inclined.
      This is the way I would like to see it work. IMHO, it would make it much better and attract more people and, along with them, their comments.

      • Erica Grieder

        John, this isn’t quite an answer to the implicit question you’re raising, but I’d be curious to hear what other commenters what you think of your suggestion. Would you all like more short posts, if only as a way to kick off comments threads?

        • Luann Platter

          I like getting the deeper story here. lots of online news has the shorter story with comment threads. the details here fill in the blanks and tell a fuller story.

          • Boomhauer

            For God’s sake, Luann, act like an adult, and keep it down, will you? I am trying to get through an article on vintage Camaros, and I’ve been on the same dang page for twenty minutes.

          • WUSRPH

            My preference is for a mixture of longer items such as this one and the one you did on the economy with short items when there is an event of interest…..The Paxton reprimand could have been one of those. Paul, as you know, tends to do fairly brief comments on daily events and then lets the hordes do their things.

          • John Johnson

            Erica has been penning in depth pieces for many months in the magazine and under the “politics” category online. I read them and occasionally posted. Did you? All she is now doing is transferring her pieces over to Burkablog. If there were three Erica’s, or if she had the time and inclination to write and post 3 or 4 a week, it would be wonderful.

        • Texian Politico

          I agree with JJ. I think more frequent posts is what this site needs. It doesn’t have to be a long or well researched column every time.

          Did Burka ever want to do a blog or was this foisted upon him? I hope his health is ok and he’s back to pigging out on the hot dogs at Costco soon.

        • dave in texas

          Why can’t it be both? An in-depth article like this one provides a good starting point for discussion, as does a short one. A longer article would tend to focus the discussion a little better, I think, but that’s just a guess.
          I’m a big fan of Ta-Nehisi Coates at the Atlantic, and one of the things he used to do on a pretty regular basis (until the volume got too high to deal with) was a daily open thread. Given that most of the folks that come to this blog on a regular basis are here for the politics, it’s likely that most of the stuff on an open thread would be political. It might even serve as a source of ideas for future post/magazine stories.

  • TammyT

    This Paxton fella is a sleaze bag.

  • John Johnson

    How can anyone who is semi-intelligent and politically informed support either Paxton or Patrick?

    Dewhurst is a wealthy egotist who is out of his element, and a Peter Principal poster boy. Branch is another attorney with a few questionable motives and actions. Both are eminently better choices than either of the shysters.

    Anyone who is not a total uber conservative robot, and still has some objective reasoning power and a firm moral compass, would never vote for either of the “I didn’t do it; I don’t remember; I didn’t know; let me check on it; is that against the law?” duo.

    • donuthin2

      agree

  • Texas Ind

    Everyone makes mistakes and no one is going to be perfect. His staff fixed errors and he paid his fine for his error. What is most disturbing is that he “hails” himself as this righteous Christian Family man and he hasn’t once come out in public to admit he made a mistake as a good Christian should and ask for forgiveness from those who support him or his own church that he cofounded in Frisco! How can you trust someone like that? The arrogance is a sign that much more is probably behind the doors with scandals in McKinney and his wife’s dealings with promoting efforts to get Fluoride out of Texas Water to support their family friend Spa Water business. Their is some scary things coming out about that family.

    • Luann Platter

      A mistake? It’s not like he didn’t know to register (he had been registered before and after), and it’s not like he didn’t know to disclose that he was making money off the referral. This is not “fixed.” Perhaps if he had given his commission to the couple who lost money on the deal thinking it was a friendly referral, we could at least say that he had tried to make restitution. But a $1000 slap-on-the-wrist fine does not fix anything, and his efforts to cast this off as some sort of administrative or clerical error that he has fixed only reveals even deeper character issues than the initial “error.” The fact that he is always running as a “Sooper Chrisian” on top of all that, makes me want to vomit.

      • John Johnson

        Bingo!

  • WUSRPH

    A mixed day for Paxton…He gets an endorsement from former US Atty. Gen. Ashcroft–a non-Texan–but has the endorsement he had received from the Allen Police Association–all Texans–withdrawn because of the fine and mess.

    • Luann Platter

      Does anyone think for a minute Ashcroft knew about Paxton’s scandal (let’s dispense with calling it ethics problems, please)? Other PAC boards are no doubt reconsidering. I’ve got my popcorn.

  • GOP Realist

    The problem is that all this stuff coming out is evidence Paxton just isn’t very smart.

  • St. Wendy

    JJ and Erica wonder why this site doesn’t attract more traffic. Here’s a thought: The overwhelming majority of voters do not share your dismissive, mocking worldview of Republicans. Right now, this site resembles a Texas version of Gawker or Talking Points Memo which put heavy emphasis on reporting stories from the viewpoint of the left. People don’t want what you’re selling. Maybe this slanted Jon Stewart-centric vision (in both tone and content) hits the right notes if we lived in Maryland, but this is Texas . Oh, I know you see yourselves as brave truth-tellers but where are your stories about Wendy’s failures on the campaign trail and on the nationally reported story about the DGA declining to give her campaign money because she is performing so poorly? Well, that’s bad news for the liberals so that won’t be reported here. Here’s another thought: Instead of the steady diet of mainstream liberal reporters, how about giving a conservative contributor a regular gig on BurkaBlog? I’ve been following this blog for years and there has never been a regular conservative reporter. Not holding my breath. Enjoy your self congratulatory liberal love fest while your blog remains mired in obscurity. What a wasted opportunity in the name of idealogical fervor.

    • Erica Grieder

      Read some more of my writing, or check my voting records, before you make assumptions.

  • WUSRPH

    Smitherman has now endorsed Branch over the ethics questions.

  • Kenis alawbreaker

    Hahahaha! Lawmaker is a lawbreaker. Go figure ! And Canadian Ted Cruz enforces this person and his illegal behavior. Elitists are ruining the country. Tons of morons will vote him in anyway though!!!

  • [email protected]

    You find it hard to believe that he investigated himself and found no wrongdoing? I find it hard to believe he had the balls to run for AG and actually win. It shows the level of corruption in Austin. Maybe now he’ll see the inside of a jail.