Texas Legislature

House Investigators Reveal Findings of Probe Into AG Ken Paxton, Alleges Years of Misconduct

The probe was quietly authorized in March over a $3.3 million agreement in a whistleblower lawsuit

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A team of attorneys working with the Texas House General Investigating Committee revealed findings of a probe into misconduct allegations against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The meeting Wednesday morning before the five-member Texas House General Investigating Committee lasted about three hours. The panel began looking into Paxton in March after a proposal to use state funds in order to pay a $3.3 million settlement over a whistleblower lawsuit filed by four former employees who accused Paxton of wrongdoing.

Erin Epley served as a lead investigator for the team of former prosecutors and white-collar crime experts, who also looked into Paxton’s relationship with Austin real estate and campaign donor Nate Paul. Investigators alleged Paxton improperly used his office’s resources to help Paul, who had been under FBI investigation, in his fight against a charitable foundation.

The team said Wednesday, they reviewed hundreds of pages of documents, including lawsuit documents. Epley said they also interviewed the whistleblowers, along with other agency employees. The ‘whistleblower’ lawsuit refers to the four former employees who sued Paxton in 2020. They claimed they were fired after alleging Paxton committed bribery and abuse of power to help Paul.

According to investigators Wednesday, Paul contributed $25,000 to Paxton’s re-election in 2018. Accusations are still under investigation and no charges have been filed.

The findings discussed Wednesday addressed allegations, which include Paul helping remodel the kitchen in Paxton’s home in Austin and securing a job for a woman with whom Paxton was alleging having an affair.  

In attendance Wednesday was Adrian Shelley, the Texas director of Public Citizen. The watchdog group is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in Texas.

“I think what is really surprising about today is just the breath of misconduct here. It seems like at every turn, Paxton was willing to abuse his office and to bully those around him,” Shelley said.

Shelley said their group is calling for Paxton’s resignation.

“His conduct throughout his time as attorney general has been unbecoming of someone who is the state’s top law enforcement official,” he said. “His alleged crimes are hopefully finally catching up with him. If the Legislature doesn’t act right away to impeach Ken Paxton, I think it sends a signal he really is above the law.”

The committee remained in executive session for about one hour Wednesday, adjourning around noon without a public recommendation or ruling.

Just before noon Wednesday, Paxton said the hearing had "false testimony" with "highly partisan Democrat lawyers with the goal of manipulating and misleading the public."

"Every allegation is easily disproved, and I look forward to continuing my fight for conservative Texas values," Paxton said in a statement.

Paxton also blasted Texas House speaker Dade Phelan in the statement, adding it was "not surprising that a committee appointed by liberal Speaker Dade Phelan would seek to disenfranchise Texas voters and sabotage my work as Attorney General".

The day prior to the Wednesday hearing, Paxton called on Phelan to resign as House Speaker after video circulated on social media where Phelan appeared to slur his words presiding over the House chamber. Paxton accused Phelan of being "in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication". A spokesperson for Phelan responded by firing back, the accusation was an effort to "save face" ahead of the Wednesday morning hearing.

On Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for Phelan released the following statement:

“As stated in the House General Investigating Committee hearing this morning, this process was initiated as a result of the Attorney General’s request for $3.3 million in state funds in order to settle with whistleblowers who alleged they were improperly fired for accusing the Attorney General of misconduct and abuse of office. The Attorney General made this demand of the Legislature without providing sufficient information or evidence in support of his request. As a result, Speaker Phelan has maintained that it would be irresponsible for the Legislature to appropriate this extraordinary amount of taxpayer dollars without first conducting a full and thorough investigation into the matter. The General Investigating Committee began its investigation in March of 2023 and what the committee discovered – the details of which were outlined in a public hearing today -- was extremely disturbing. The Attorney General appears to have routinely abused his powers for personal gain and exhibited blatant disregard for the ethical and legal propriety expected of the state’s leading law enforcement officer. Having heard and fully understood the evidence outlined today, Speaker Phelan stands in full support of the General Investigating Committee and the recommendations that may come as a result of their thorough and diligent investigation.”

NBC 5 also reached out to an attorney representing Nate Paul. We have not heard back as of this writing.

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