Paxton’s friends give $85,000 to his legal defense fund




AUSTIN — Attorney General Ken Paxton’s former legal clients and family friends gave him $84,000 last year to fuel his long-running legal fight against securities fraud accusations, marking a heavy drop-off in donations as the dispute drags on with no end in sight.

In total, Paxton has collected more than $630,000 from people he says he has a personal relationship with to finance his legal defense, according to a review of personal financial statements filed with the Texas Ethics Commission.



A recent filing covering the 2017 calendar year shows Paxton collected $25,000 checks from Shawn and Erin Clayton of Prosper, whom he described as friends from Legacy Christian Academy, where his wife Angela works as a guidance counselor; and former clients and family friends Carrie and Steven Parsons of Dallas. Paxton also received a $20,000 check from Shelley and Phillip Carter, another friend from Legacy Christian.

Shawn Clayton is president and CEO of Superscapes, a Dallas-area landscape company.

The Parsons have given repeatedly to Paxton. They gave $75,000, among his largest contributions, in 2015 and 2016. Carrie Parson is an executive at Freeman, a business branding firm with offices in Dallas.

Paxton also accepted an airplane trip for him and his wife to fly to President Trump’s inauguration from Marcus Lamb of Bedford, tickets to inaugural events from Steve Dulin, and tickets to the Grammy Awards from Raphael Hernandez of Washington, D.C.

The Collin County Republican had raised more than $500,000 in the 17 months after his indictment, according to statements filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. He raised the most, $329,000, in the months immediately after his indictment. In 2016, he collected $217,700 more.

Paxton, who is popular among tea party voters for suing the Obama administration, is not allowed to use any of the $5.7 million he has in political donations to pay the team of lawyers and staff he has hired to fight the legal charges against him. Instead, ethics officials have allowed him to accept gifts from relatives or longtime friends whose relationship has nothing to do with the officer’s state duties.

However, the state bribery code generally bans elected officials from accepting gifts if the official knows the giver is subject to their agency’s oversight.

One such donation sparked an investigation last year. James Webb, CEO of Premiere Imaging diagnostic imaging company, gave Paxton a $100,000 gift in 2015. Federal agents and the attorney general’s office were investigating the company, although Paxton’s office said he had little to do with the case. A Kaufman County District Attorney investigation found Paxton had both a prior personal and attorney-client relationship with Webb and concluded there was no wrongdoing in accepting the funds.

Paxton faces two charges of first-degree felony securities fraud and one third-degree felony for failing to register as an investment adviser with the state. The charges stem from convincing friends and colleagues to invest in a North Texas company, Servergy, Inc., without disclosing he would make a commission.

The attorney general could face up to 99 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines if convicted. The date for his criminal trial is in limbo as appointed special prosecutors fight a tangential battle at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals over whether they will get paid for building a case against the attorney general.

Paxton, a first-term attorney general, is running for reelection in November. He is running against Justin Nelson, an Austin lawyer and Democrat, but is unopposed in the March 6 Republican primary election.

Andrea Zelinski covers politics for the Houston Chronicle. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Send her tips at [email protected]

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