There are new signs of trouble for Sen. Ken Paxton’s campaign for attorney general. Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman announced Thursday that he is endorsing Paxton’s Republican opponent, Rep. Dan Branch. Smitherman placed third behind Branch and Paxton in the Republican primary.

Paxton, who came in first in the primary, has been under fire in recent weeks after questions were raised about possible ethics and disclosure violations. Last week, Paxton was fined $1,000 for work he did with a financial services firm without registering with the State Securities Board.

While praising Branch, Smitherman said Paxton’s legal troubles played a key role in his decision. In a statement Smitherman said:

While experience, leadership, and legal skills are important, perhaps the most important of all qualities needed to be Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer in the State of Texas, is an unwavering commitment to compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the law.  The Attorney General must have integrity, honesty, and high moral character.

Sen. Paxton’s recent admission that he broke the law when he failed to register with the State Securities Board, during a period of time when he was actively soliciting investments on behalf of “Fritz” Mowery, is very troubling.  He also failed to disclose his employment as an investment advisor to his legal clients, a possible violation of the State Bar’s rules for professional responsibility.   As a result of his admission of guilt, Sen. Paxton was recently fined and reprimanded by the Securities Board for multiple violations of the Texas Securities Act.

Remaining open is the question of whether he committed any violations of United States’ securities laws, which would be prosecuted by Eric Holder’s Dept. of Justice, during the years (2008 to 2012) when Mowery Capital Management was under federal rather than state jurisdiction.

For these and other reasons, I am supporting Dan Branch for Attorney General.