Attorney General Ken Paxton tapped his campaign funds to pay $2.4 million on legal fees related to his impeachment trial over the last six months, according to a new campaign finance report.
The report, which was published Thursday, is the first time Paxton has had to disclose his campaign spending since July. The House impeached him on abuse-of-office charges in May and the Senate acquitted him after a trial in September.
Paxton has previously said his impeachment defense cost him over $4 million. The report confirms Paxton used campaign funds to cover at least part of his defense and provides more detail as a politically charged battle plays out over impeachment costs.
In Texas, officeholders are generally allowed to use campaign money to defend themselves in legal matters that arise from their status as an elected official.
Paxton’s report shows that from July to December, he made payments to four law firms or lawyers that were known to be involved in the trial: $1.8 million to Hilton Stone PLLC, $203,000 to Scheef & Stone LLP, $250,000 to Cogdell Law Firm PLLC and $100,000 to Anthony Buzbee, Paxton’s lead lawyer.
It’s unclear if the report, which covers the period ending Dec. 31, includes all of the money he owes the attorneys including Buzbee, who is a high-priced and high-profile Houston attorney. Buzbee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The trial centered on allegations from former top deputies that Paxton abused his office to help a wealthy friend and donor, Nate Paul. The former deputies filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Paxton in 2020.
Paxton and his allies have spent months pressuring the House to reveal how much their impeachment efforts cost taxpayers in total. The House has disclosed more than $4 million in expenses, but Paxton’s side has continued to press for more transparency.
The House impeachment team has defended the cost to taxpayers.
“The future of Texas’ governance, rooted in trust and transparency, justifies this expenditure, reinforcing the belief that the foundations of our democracy are worth every penny,” state Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, said in a statement last month.
Murr chaired the House board of impeachment managers.
Paxton has long emphasized that no taxpayer dollars went toward his defense but declined to say how precisely he was paying for it. He has said one of the reasons he did not attend most of the trial was because he was busy raising money for his defense.
Paxton’s legal battles are far from over. He and three top aides have been ordered to sit for depositions in the whistleblower lawsuit in Travis County, which resumed after the impeachment trial.
Paxton also is set to go trial in April on securities fraud charges that he has been fighting since 2015. Those charges stem from his time before he was attorney general.
This article was written by PATRICK SVITEK of The Texas Tribune. This article originally appeared at : https://www.texastribune.org/2024/01/18/ken-paxton-defense-lawyers-campaign/