AG Ken Paxton has bought several properties worth millions. He’s yet to publicly disclose them.

Paxton, a Republican who beat impeachment charges this year, has not reported at least a half dozen properties in Florida, Hawaii, Oklahoma and Utah to the state.

By Lauren McGaughy, The Texas NewsroomDecember 7, 2023 9:45 am,

From The Texas Newsroom:

The Copper Canyon Lodge in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, “has everything,” according to vacation rental website Vrbo.

Floor-to-ceiling windows. A hot tub. Five bedrooms. A “private chef, masseuse, or housekeeping” on request. A one-night stay costs several hundred dollars. Copper Canyon is undoubtedly the “luxe rustic retreat” its advertisement promises.

What’s not obvious about the lodge is its apparent owner: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

According to local property records, Paxton bought a $1.6 million rental property matching the lodge’s location and description in early 2022. But he hasn’t disclosed the property anywhere on the transparency paperwork he’s required to file with the state.

Texas law requires public officials to file annual personal financial reports detailing how they make their money and where it goes. Homes they own, as well as stocks, business interests and other income go on the reports.

The purposes of the disclosures are to ensure officials don’t have conflicts of interest and to strengthen public confidence in elected representatives.

But in the annual report he filed in June, Paxton wrote that he thinks the rules regarding what property ownership and rental income need to be disclosed “lack detail” and are “somewhat abstract.” He pledged to ask the Texas Ethics Commission “in the coming days” to tell him exactly what he needs to disclose to the public.

It’s been five months and Paxton still has not sought an opinion from the commission.

The Texas Ethics Commission does not release the identity of officials who ask for advisory opinions. But the agency’s general counsel, James Tinley, confirmed that no one has made such a request since Paxton filed his financial report this summer.

Paxton also has not updated his report, Tinley said.

That means the attorney general still hasn’t publicly disclosed the Oklahoma property — or at least five others out of state that he or his blind trust own, many of which were purchased in the last few years.

Paxton and his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, own another home near Tampa, Florida, and a blind trust he created a number of years ago is listed as the owner of four more properties in Florida, Hawaii and Utah. None were disclosed on Paxton’s annual financial report this year.

A home in Ocala, Fla.
Matt Stamey for KUT

Paxton has disclosed four more Texas homes that he, or the trust, owns in Brazos, Collin, and Travis Counties.

The 10 properties are worth a total of more than $6 million, according to market value estimates.

Paxton’s representatives at his agency and campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this story. An email sent to his campaign account bounced back, noting the inbox was full.

A staunchly conservative Republican who was re-elected to a third term last year, Paxton was suspended from his official duties when he was impeached in May for alleged corruption. He beat the charges and was reinstated to his position after a Senate trial in September.

Investigators hired ahead of the impeachment trial were looking into his properties, according to a Wall Street Journal story published the day before Paxton filed his annual financial report. When asked how he financed the real estate buying spree, Paxton’s lawyer at the time said the attorney general tapped long-term savings from a brokerage account.

“He did so at a time with low interest rates, believing it was a better long-term investment to provide for his family. There is nothing more to it than that,” Tony Buzbee told The Journal.

A home in Ocala, Fla.
Matt Stamey For KUT

The Vrbo listing for the Broken Bow lodge does not include its address, and the property management company listed as its host declined to answer questions. But a sign outside the address listed on Paxton’s Oklahoma deed indicated the property is the Canyon Creek Lodge. 

A one-night stay in early December costs about $395, according to a Vrbo quote. The property management company listed the average cost as $750 per night.

Austin-based attorney Andrew Cates, who wrote a book about Texas ethics rules, says Paxton might be running afoul of state law by not disclosing these properties.

“It’s interesting at least that he’s acknowledged that there’s an error but hasn’t made any attempt, as far as I can tell, to amend,” he said.

But Cates added that elected officials can update their annual reports within 14 days of finding or being informed of an error. Paxton could argue that since he hasn’t yet asked the ethics commission to weigh in, and they haven’t said he’s done anything wrong, the two-week countdown hasn’t been triggered.

Any Texas resident can file a sworn complaint against someone who breaks state disclosure laws or the ethics commission can proactively choose to penalize them. The maximum penalty is $5,000 per violation or triple the amount at issue, whichever is greater.

Paxton has been dogged by scandal since he was first sworn in to statewide office in 2015.

In addition to a lawsuit over his efforts to challenge the 2020 presidential election results, Paxton also faces felony securities fraud charges for alleged crimes unrelated to his property ownership. He goes to trial in April.

Paxton has denied any wrongdoing.

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