Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has been fighting securities fraud charges for most of his first term, collected $84,000 in gifts last year to help pay for his legal defense, he says in a newly released financial disclosure statement.
That means he has now gotten a total of over $630,000 for his legal defense from people he has described over the past three years as family friends or others who are not covered by state bribery laws. The $84,000 that Paxton received in 2017 is much less than he received for his legal defense in the two previous years: nearly $218,000 in 2016 and over $329,000 in 2015.
State bribery laws say that elected officials cannot accept gifts from parties subject to their authority. But Paxton has justified the contributions to his legal defense by claiming an exemption that allows him to take gifts from people with whom he as a relationship that is “independent” of his “official status."
The $84,000 that Paxton got in 2017 for his legal defense came from 10 sources, including two couples that gave $25,000 each. One couple was Shawn Clayton, the president and CEO of Dallas landscape company Superscapes, and his wife, Erin. The other $25,000 givers were Steven and Carrie Parsons, a Dallas husband and wife who have previously contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Paxton’s legal defense.
Eight of the donors to Paxton’s legal defense in 2017 are identified as a “former client/family friend” on the disclosure statement. The two others are listed as a “Legacy Christian friend,” a reference to the Frisco school where Paxton’s wife, Angela Paxton, has worked.
Since the summer of 2015, Paxton has been under indictment on criminal charges in state court alleging he misled investors in a company from before his time as attorney general. In 2016, he beat a similar, civil case brought by federal prosecutors.
Paxton has pleaded not guilty in the long-running criminal case. Currently, it is effectively on pause as prosecutors await a state appeals court ruling in a separate case on whether they can get paid to continue working.