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AG Office Not Collecting Fines Paxton Owes

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton owes $11,000 in fines to the Texas Ethics Commission. Unfortunately, the state agency in charge of collecting those fines is the Attorney General’s office, and it has failed to do so despite receiving the notice of the fines in April.

It’s the latest in a long line of ethical transgressions that have plagued the attorney general. These newest official rebukes are related to campaign finance offenses. The Texas Ethics Commission claims Paxton failed to file reports in time. Paxton maintains that the cause was a website glitch and may fight the fines.

Texas is rare in that a partisan, elected office is responsible for collecting fines incurred by politicians. In other states, non-partisan bodies have the ability to file lawsuits to recover fines. In Texas, only the AG’s office can do that.

It’s a task that the office clearly does not take very seriously. Even putting aside the obvious conflict of interest in expecting Paxton’s own office to sue their boss, it hasn’t been very active in collecting from other politicians either. Paxton’s chief deputy First Assistant Attorney General Brent Webster also owes $1,000 in similar fines from a 2016 race. He hasn’t been sued yet either.

The Houston Chronicle found that so far the AG office has filed only a single lawsuit of this nature this year. It was against a state House candidate who owed $40,000. Before that, the office hadn’t pursued collecting fines since September 2023.

“It just isn’t realistic to expect any state agency employee, who serves at the pleasure of the person elected to lead that agency, to be able to be truly independent in making judgment calls about their boss,” Anthony Gutierrez, executive director of Common Cause Texas, a government watchdog group, told the Chronicle. “There is no firewall that would make this process workable. We simply need a different process.”

The amount of money that Paxton owes for various deeds continues to add up. In March, a settlement to drop felony charges of security fraud included the order to pay $271,000 in restitution to those Paxton was accused of defrauding. This is in addition to the millions of legal fees he has spent defending himself during his impeachment and in other legal matters.

Paxton  may have settled his long-delayed fraud trial and evaded removal during impeachment, but he is still far from out of legal trouble. Federal investigators from the Department of Justice have been looking into Paxton possibly receiving bribes. The investigation has been quiet, but a recent ruling in the 5th Circuit showed that the federal government is still looking into things.

And if that weren’t enough, Paxton still has a civil lawsuit from whistleblowers in his office pending and an investigation from the state bar about his conduct to deal with. All of it adds up to an ethical swamp with the attorney general at the center.

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.


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