Ken Paxton

Daily Digest | April 21, 2015

Our Daily Digest is a lunchtime look at the stories we have our eyes on at the Capitol and beyond. Here’s what we are watching today:

Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton are the guests of honor at the unveiling of the new headquarters of the right-leaning think tank Texas Public Policy Foundation. The new six-floor building is located about two blocks from the Capitol grounds. Their speeches were followed by presentations from big-name donors like Red McCombs, Jim Henry and Dr. Jim Leininger.

The House Public Education Committee’s plan to fix the state’s school finance system is on its way to the full chamber. Committee Chairman Jimmie Don Aycock’s $3 billion dollar plan would increase funding for 94 percent of kids in the state, and would increase per-student funding to poorer districts more than it does wealthy ones. The bill passed out of committee on a 7-0 vote. It comes after massive cuts two sessions ago, and a court ruling that the current funding formula is unconstitutional. That ruling is now on appeal with the Texas Supreme Court.

The reactions to controversial bills approved in both chambers yesterday are still coming in. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo voiced his opposition to an amendment to the House open carry bill. And public school advocacy group Raise Your Hand Texas released a cartoon video opposing the Senate’s school scholarship tax credit plan, which opponents call a back-door plan to school vouchers. The Quorum Report’s Harvey Kronberg talked about all this and more last night on our show, and you can watch that here.

And a lighthearded end of the day at the Capitol. The House Culture, Recreation and Tourism committee will meet to discuss proposals to name several state superlatives. That includes everything from the cowboy hat as the official hat to naming the western honey bee as the official State Pollinator of Texas.

On tonight’s episode of “Capital Tonight,” Texas Oil and Gas Association President Todd Staples joins the show. He’ll discuss the ban on local fracking regulations, and give us an update on the Texas oil and gas industry. Plus our Capital Commentators — political strategists Harold Cook and Ted Delisi — will give their take on the week’s headlines.

 

Sen. Paxton’s hometown police association withdraws endorsement

A second police association has withdrawn its endorsement of Sen. Ken Paxton in his run for state attorney general, this time in his hometown of McKinney.

In a letter posted online Sunday, McKinney Police Association President Jose Quiles cited the recent reprimand from the Texas State Securities Board over Sen. Paxton’s work as an unregistered financial adviser. The letter is also attributed to the head of the association’s political action committee, Farrel Ritchie.

“Given that the Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer in the State of Texas, the McKinney Police Association feels it is necessary to protect the integrity of the office and can no longer support Ken Paxton for Attorney General,” Quiles and Ritchie said.

The Republican attorney general candidate has been surrounded by ethical questions, following reports that he had done work soliciting clients for a financial firm without registering with the Securities Board. Sen. Paxton had also failed to disclose his work on various nonprofit boards to the Ethics Commission. He’s since amended those filings.

His opponent in the runoff race for attorney general, Rep. Dan Branch, has called on him to drop out of the race. Branch came in second in a three-way primary race that included Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman. Branch’s campaign says their internal polling shows them shrinking the nearly 11-point gap seen in the primary.

Earlier this month, the Allen Police Association also withdrew its support, citing the same problems with regulatory authorities.

 

Read the full letter from the McKinney Police Association below:

 

McKinney Police Press Release 5/11/14 by Patrick Perry

Branch picks up Smitherman endorsement in AG race

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.