Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s friends have given him nearly $330,000 to pay his initial bills from attorneys defending him against three felony charges, according to financial documents filed with the state.
James Webb of McKinney and Steven and Carrie Parsons of Dallas gave nearly two-thirds of the total, giving Paxton $100,000 and $75,000, respectively. Several others gave between $1,000 and $20,000, including Kelly Shackelford of the Dallas-based conservative law firm the Liberty Institute.
In total, Paxton received $329,050 from 24 people from Newport Beach, Calif., to Frisco.
Paxton, a Republican from McKinney, filed the annual personal financial statement, required of all state elected officials, on Friday after he received a 60-day extension. It provides the first look at how he is paying his team of high-powered lawyers. In the past, Paxton has declined to explain how he was funding his defense.
The special prosecutors assigned to the case, meanwhile, have caught heat for the cost of pursuing the case. As of March, the three Houston-based attorneys had billed $254,000. Since the case is being tried in McKinney, the taxpayers of Collin County are on the hook for those charges.
The special prosecutors declined to comment Tuesday.
Paxton listed each amount he received from friends under the “gifts” section of his personal financial statement with the note “gift for legal defense from a family friend who meets independent relationship exception.”
Several months ago, an anonymous official in the attorney general’s office asked the Ethics Commission if it would count as bribery to take money from a friend who lives out of state for purposes other than funding a political campaign. The commissioners ended up punting the request, saying they could not assure the official that the transaction would be legal.
The only out-of-state gift Paxton received for his defense was $10,000 from Shawn and Deborah Cowles of Newport Beach, Calif. The couple, one a lawyer and the other real estate agent, has never before given to any Texas candidate, according to ethics commission records.
James Webb, on the other hand, has been a major campaign donor, giving Paxton a total of $208,000 dating back to his days in the state Legislature. The Parsonses have given Paxton $7,000 in political contributions in the past.
Shackelford, who gave $1,000, is a longtime friend whom Paxton credits with the idea of running for office. Paxton recently hired the Liberty Institute’s general counsel, Jeff Mateer, to act as assistant attorney general. Mateer took the place of Charles “Chip” Roy, who was one of at least three agency staffers who were kept on the payroll long after Paxton replaced them.
According to the disclosure documents, Paxton has also created a blind trust, a promise he made just before he was indicted on charges that he encouraged others to invest in a North Texas technology company without disclosing that he was being paid by the firm for doing so. Paxton continues to hold stock in that company, Servergy Inc.
Paxton was indicted in July 2015 and has repeatedly appealed the three felony charges. Last month, a Dallas appellate court twice refused to throw out the original charges. His attorneys have said they will probably appeal again to the Court of Criminal Appeals, likely delaying any outcome in the case for several more months or longer.
Paxton faces a maximum penalty of 99 years in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines. He also faces civil fraud charges from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which is suing him over related issues.