Tampering with juries by offering them financial gifts is illegal. *Apologies, but the rest of this article will be one long footnote starting with…
*Except when it comes to impeachment trials like the one Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is facing this September. Thanks to a quirk of Texas election law, his jury will be raking in cash between now and the presentation of evidence.
The Texas Ethics Commission has a moratorium on campaign donations to members of Texas Legislature while in session, for obvious reasons. However, this only applies to the regular session and expired on June 19. Special sessions are exempt, and the money is already starting to float in from both pro and anti-Paxton factions.
The Texas Republican leadership has been in a civil war for some time. One on hand are the far-right extremists largely funded by oil and gas billionaires Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks. Their PACSs and donations have led the rightward shift in the state, eagerly primarying any Republican not deemed conservative enough. Paxton is very much in this camp, pioneering a swath of radical policies despite spending the last eight years under indictment and investigation for corruption.
The other side is the more traditional and comparatively moderate faction. Their money comes from PACs like Texans for Lawsuit Reform and other smaller, less ideologically driven sources. These are the backbone of the old Republican guard.
Convicting Paxton requires a two-thirds majority in the Texas Senate. Assuming all 12 Senate Democrats vote for conviction, that means 9 Republicans would have to do so. This is a tall order. The Texas Senate is much more conservative than the House and ruled with an iron fist by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
Patrick, who has promised a fair trial to be helmed by himself, has significant financial conflicts of his own. Paxton owes him $125,000 in the form of a campaign loan. If the attorney general is convicted and his political empire comes crashing down, Patrick is unlikely to recoup that loss.
Meanwhile, the 2024 primary season is already heating up. With vicious battles over school vouchers and property tax reform dominating the legislative session, the various kingmakers were already sharpening their knives for the upcoming fight. By September, many candidates will already have declared to run for office and have begun to accept campaign donations.
In a normal year, the money would already be rolling in by September. With the fate of the state’s top law enforcement official and a far-right darling like Paxton on the line, there’s no reason to doubt that groups will be rewarding or punishing the state senators financially during the trial. Not when there is no law preventing it.