Vol 31, Issue 47 Print Issue

Branch Attacks Paxton Over Ponzi Scheme Involvement

State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, and state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, are in a runoff for attorney general.
State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, and state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, are in a runoff for attorney general.

State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, is going after a rival in the Republican primary for attorney general, state Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, following a report in The Dallas Morning News about the latter's involvement in what reporter Gromer Jeffers described as a "Ponzi-like" scheme.

Per Jeffers' story, Paxton and three other Texas lawmakers were among the investors in a business venture led by a McKinney man named Archer Bonnema, who is described as "a chiseler who once claimed to have found Noah's Ark." All together, the investors lost about $2.5 million.

Paxton is quoted as saying, "We had a bad actor steal money and ruin what could have been a successful business venture.” He also said of the situation, "What I invested in had the potential to be a great business. It is what it is."

After the story broke, Branch released a statement saying: "Guarding against consumer fraud and securing the public trust are essential attributes for the next Attorney General. The revelations about Senator Paxton's involvement in a Ponzi scheme and subsequent bankruptcy litigation are troubling on multiple levels, especially the display of questionable judgment and his failure to disclose."

Branch and Paxton are also running against Barry Smitherman, the chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission, in the primary. A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll showed Branch and Paxton virtually neck and neck, with 42 percent and 38 percent respectively, which was within the poll's margin of error. Smitherman was trailing with 20 percent.