Ken Paxton likes to make statements. Indeed, most of America knew his name before Monday because of a bold, fallacious statement on gay marriage in which he encouraged county clerks across the state to break the law and get sued if they didn’t want to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. (In recent weeks, he’s also made declarations against Planned Parenthood and the Environmental Protection Agency.)
His willingness to speak out is part of what his constituents like about him. On Monday, though, the reason people are familiar with Ken Paxton’s name is because he’s gone from “Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton” to “thrice-indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton” following a years-long investigation into alleged securities fraud.
None of this is new. As Texas Monthly’s own Erica Greider reminded us, when it was announced that charges would be filed, all of Paxton’s alleged malfeasance had been previously reported. In fact, they were reported even before he won his primary campaign for the office he now holds. Not only that, but the word “alleged” might be an unnecessary qualifier on at least some of the charges, as Paxton has previously admitted to violating state securities law.
Still, as prosecution’s investigation intensified, the Attorney General’s spokesman, Anthony Holm, aggressively defended his client in the press. As MyHighPlains.com reported:
“This is wrong, and nobody should have to tolerate it,” Holm said. “These dominos are falling and the victim is Ken Paxton.”
In June, two Houston prosecutors announced they planned to present their case against Paxton to a grand jury in the next few weeks. The prosecutors said they found new evidence to prove that Attorney General Paxton is guilty of a first-degree felony.
“Over a decade, Ken Paxton referred 6 people to an investment manager,” Holm said, “and for some of those six people he received a referral fee.”
Holm said Paxton communicated with the Texas State Securities Board, who said the only penalty was a $1000 civil fine for not maintaining a continuous registration with the board.
“We didn’t dispute it, we paid it and they said there was no criminal event here, and that was it,” Holm said. “We were told that it was a done deal–that it was case over.”
The idea that Paxton shouldn’t have to “tolerate” an indictment just because the Texas State Securities Board didn’t file charges is curious. Paying a civil fine is one of the consequences of receiving referral fees without being properly registered to do so; potential criminal charges are another. The idea that a person can face both criminal and civil charges for breaking the law shouldn’t come as a surprise to the state’s own lawyer.
It’s also curious that a guy who’s been known to play to his base with officials, whose spokespeople have been keen to support the idea that he is a victim of malicious prosecution, has been very, very quiet in the days since the felony indictments were announced.
Holm hasn’t returned emails requesting comments from various media outlets; Paxton avoided giving a statement when he turned himself in to be arrested this afternoon; his attorney, Joe Kendall, told the New York Times that the judge had “specifically instructed both parties to refrain from public comment on this matter,” and that the defense would be honoring that request.
Before, Paxton’s team was engaging the press like Drake dropping Meek Mill diss tracks. But now, incredibly, Paxton’s team has discovered the power and elegance of silence.
That’s probably for the best. Every time Paxton’s name makes headlines, it doesn’t tend to be for things that makes the state for whom he acts as the highest-ranking civil lawyer look great. It’d be funny, except for the fact that we elected him.
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)