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The Brief: Paxton Tries To Calm Tempest Over Tea Party IRS Remark

Remarks made by Attorney General Ken Paxton at a Tea Party event over the weekend caused some confusion afterward as to whether he admitted to being audited by the IRS.

Texas Attorney Gen.  Ken Paxton, speaks at The Texas Response: Pastors, Marriage & Religious Freedom event at the First Bapt…

The Big Conversation

Remarks made by Attorney General Ken Paxton at a Tea Party event over the weekend caused some confusion afterward as to whether he admitted to being audited by the IRS.

A campaign spokesman for Paxton told the Tribune's Jonathan Silver on Monday evening that wasn't so. "It was probably in-artful wording," spokesman Matt Welch said about Paxton's reference to the IRS. "He was trying to demonstrate the absurdity of the attacks against him."

In the weekend speech, Paxton told the audience, "This person's been no trouble for 35 years and then, suddenly, they have all this trouble. Well that’s, in essence, what’s happened to me. I have no speeding ticket in my life. Never been audited by the IRS. Never been investigated by — never, no bar grievances with the state bar. I get sworn into office and everything I just mentioned happened.”

The Lone Star Project, a Democratic political action committee, later circulated a recording of Paxton's comments. Welch told the Tribune afterward, “The Democrats saw Ken Paxton’s speech and got upset. I’d be mad too if I were them because he’s doing an outstanding job as Attorney General. For the record, Ken Paxton has never been audited by the IRS and has never had his bank accounts frozen."

Matt Angle, Lone Star Project's founder and director, countered that Paxton's comments on the IRS were "in exact context." The organization has called for Paxton's resignation. "He either lied to his supporters at that event to get sympathy, or he's lying to reporters now," Angle said.

Trib Must Reads

Cruz Braces For Defeats in the Northeast, by Patrick Svitek — Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is headed for defeat in five northeastern primaries Tuesday, a round of nominating contests from which the Texas senator has already moved on.

Across Texas, Dangerous Animals Aren't Widely Tracked, by Jordan Rudner — A tiger left roaming the streets of Conroe after last week's floods has unearthed a unique complication: There are few statewide regulations regarding dangerous wild animals in Texas.

After Striking Deal With Kasich, Cruz Finds His Footing, by Patrick Svitek — It was an awkward first day for the new Ted Cruz-John Kasich alliance, with more questions than answers about their joint attempt to blunt frontrunner Donald Trump's momentum.

Combs Taps Leftover Campaign Cash For Women's Project, by Jim Malewitz — Former Texas Comptroller Susan Combs is tapping her huge pile of leftover campaign cash — about $5 million — for an online project aiming to help women ask questions and exchange ideas.

Texas Democrats File FEC Complaint Against Cruz, by Patrick Svitek — Texas Democrats have filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission claiming the campaign of Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz violated federal election law.

Texas A&M Planning $68 Million Worth of New Sports Stadiums, by Matthew Watkins — Flush with cash from its new football stadium and its move to the Southeastern Conference, Texas A&M University has developed plans to spend $68 million on new stadiums for its softball and track and field teams.

The Day Ahead

•    Tribune CEO Evan Smith moderates a lunch hour discussion with San Antonio state representatives focusing on the issues at play in the run-up to the 85th Legislature — and what they mean for one of the state’s largest and fastest-growing cities and its surrounding communities. The conversation on the campus of the University of Texas at San Antonio is set to begin at noon and will be livestreamed for those unable to attend in person.

•    The Senate Higher Education Committee holds an interim legislative hearing at 9 a.m. in the state Capitol on tuition and student debt at public institutions of higher education in Texas. Prior to the hearing, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Higher Education Committee Chairman Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, hold a press conference on the subject.

•    And in Brownsville, the House committees on Business and Industry and International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs hold a joint interim hearing at 9 a.m. on increasing exports from the state. At 9:30 a.m., the House Natural Resources Committee holds an interim hearing on increasing the viability of seawater desalination projects and managing funds coming to Texas as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

•    Franklin Graham will hold a Texas Prayer Rally on the South Steps of the state Capitol at noon as part of his Decision America Tour. Spokesmen for Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told the Tribune that both men are expected to attend the rally.

Elsewhere

Cruz-Kasich alliance against Trump appears to falter early, The Washington Post

Cruz vetting Fiorina for VP pick, Politico

Gulf Coast blood centers to start screening blood donations for Zika, Houston Chronicle

Second ex-staffer for Paxton still getting paid, and AG’s office won’t talk about it, The Dallas Morning News

Officials seek to address growing homeless population near UT, Austin American-Statesman

Survey: Eroding Latino support for GOP benefits Democrats in Harris County, Houston Chronicle

Barnett Shale rig count hits a new low: zero, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Rick Perry’s corporate board positions prove lucrative, San Antonio Express-News

Capitol portrait of Perry to be unveiled May 6, Houston Chronicle

Fragile Species: Can Texas Bats Survive an Eastern Plague?, Texas Observer

Quote to Note

"Frankly, I'm not all that surprised. These are the fears realized by those on the Republican side who are worried about the irresponsible rhetoric surrounding the illegal immigration issue."

— Jim McGrath, a Republican political consultant and spokesman for former President George H. W. Bush, to the Houston Chronicle on a new survey showing more than half of Harris County residents lean Democratic for the first time in more than 30 years

Today in TribTalk

Was Duane Buck sentenced to death "because he is black"?, by Maurice Chammah — Regardless of what happens to Buck, these questions of race and the death penalty will remain unsettled. So now is a moment to look back at the reasons why, and the long line of cases his has joined.

News From Home

•    Both Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are expected to attend a prayer rally Tuesday at the state Capitol hosted by Franklin Graham. God & Governing, our award-winning, documentary-style series, explored faith and politics in Texas.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Symposium on the Texas Economy on April 29 at the University of Houston

•    The Texas Tribune's third Texas-centric Trivia Night on May 1 at The Highball in Austin

•    A Conversation on Mental Health Matters on May 10 at KLRU Studio 6A in Austin

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 23-25 at the University of Texas at Austin

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