Vol 31, Issue 47 Print Issue

In TV Ad, Smitherman Questions Paxton's Honesty

In a new ad, Republican attorney general hopeful Barry Smitherman accuses one of his primary opponents, Ken Paxton, of allegedly violating ethics rules and failing to disclose financial information during his time in office.

"If Ken Paxton can't be honest with clients or constituents, how can we trust him to be honest with us?" the narrator asks in the television spot.

To back up its claims, Smitherman's campaign cites a 2009 lawsuit in which Paxton, an attorney, was sued by clients who lost money after Paxton allegedly referred them to an investment firm, which — unbeknownst to the clients — paid Paxton for the referral. Speaking with conservative talk radio host Mark Davis on Thursday, Paxton called the lawsuit, which was dismissed, "frivolous" and "false."

The ad also cites a 2008 story by then-Associated Press reporter (and current Texas Tribune reporter) Jay Root about Paxton's failure to disclose his investment in a company with a state contract that year. Paxton told Davis that a page was inadvertently missing from his personal financial disclosure in 2008, and that the situation was corrected. 

Smitherman spokesman Jared Craighead said, "Voters deserve to know about Ken Paxton's history of ethics violations, both as a lawmaker and attorney. The ad speaks for itself and merely references information already in the public domain."

Paxton is currently a state senator from McKinney, and Smitherman is chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission. They are also facing state Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, in the Republican primary for attorney general. Branch also went after Paxton this week over disclosure issues and what he called "questionable judgment" following a story in The Dallas Morning News about a Ponzi scheme in which Paxton lost money.

A recent University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll put Branch at 42 percent, Paxton at 38 percent, and Smitherman at 20 percent heading into Tuesday's primary.