The Big Conversation
A recent disclosure shows that Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton accepted more than $329,000 from donors and “family friends” toward his legal bills as he defends himself against securities fraud charges.
As the Tribune’s Jim Malewitz writes, filings to the Texas Ethics Commission show that Paxton received “gifts from more than two dozen people or couples labeled 'family friends'” toward his legal defense, including a $100,000 gift from James Webb, who has also been a major Paxton campaign donor.
Paxton has denied charges that he misled investors in a technology company, and as Malewitz writes, “Paxton's defense team contains some of the state's top legal talent, and his tab is expected to reach millions of dollars in cases that could take years to resolve. The question of who was paying had swirled for months.”
Malewitz notes that, under state bribery laws, elected officials are not allowed to receive “gifts from people or entities subject to their authority, and as attorney general, Paxton's could extend broadly.” Paxton, in his filing, sought an exception allowing “gifts from family members and those 'independent' of an officeholder's 'official status.'”
A spokesman for Paxton defended the gifts as legal, but the Austin American-Statesman reports that the disclosure drew criticism from the Texas Democratic Party. Manny Garcia, state deputy executive director for the Democrats, told the Statesman that Paxton was “exploiting an ethics loophole.”
Trib Must Reads
Pay Caseworkers and Fosters More, New Chief Says, by Edgar Walters — In a wide-ranging interview, Hank Whitman, the new commissioner overseeing Child Protective Services, explains how he thinks he can turn around a child welfare agency crippled by low morale, high turnover and a spate of high-profile child deaths.
Agent, Smuggler Joined Together for Love and Money, by Nicole Cobler — Former U.S. Border Patrol Agent Raquel Esquivel stills wear a government-issue green uniform, but now it's a federal prison jumpsuit. She was convicted in 2009 of helping smugglers sneak loads of marijuana across the border.
Texas Announces Hundreds of Schools Receiving Pre-K Grants, by Kiah Collier — The state will divvy up $116 million among 578 school districts and charters to bolster high-quality pre-kindergarten programs, Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced Tuesday.
The Day Ahead
• The Texas Department of Insurance is holding a public meeting at 9:30 a.m. on a request to allow the introduction of a pre-dispute arbitration option to homeowners insurance policies.
• Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar will visit Fort Hood Army Base, with a press event at 2:15 p.m., to release results of a study on the economic impact of the installation.
(Links below lead to outside websites; content might be behind paywall)
Stuck in limbo: Feds say jails need separate housing for youngest inmates, Houston Chronicle
Commission weighs access to body camera footage and victims’ rights, Austin American-Statesman
Oil worries cloud Houston's high-rise outlook, Houston Chronicle
2 former Texas school board members sentenced for extortion, The Associated Press
Judge: 22 BP fraud charges against lawyer duplicate others, The Associated Press
Fight over Obamacare helps lead to Parkland's $100M budget shortfall, officials say, The Dallas Morning News
Dallas resident tests positive for Zika virus in county's 12th confirmed case, The Dallas Morning News
U.S. tops in recoverable oil, study says, Houston Chronicle
Jury chosen, testimony scheduled to begin in Zetas trial, San Antonio Express-News
Texas Accused of Ignoring Mentally Disabled in Nursing Homes, The Associated Press
Sage grouse vs. oil men, a fight drags on into another decade, San Antonio Express-News
Quote to Note
“They’re not making enough money to do what they do.”
— Hank Whitman, commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective services, on caseworker salaries
Today in TribTalk
Don't blame oil prices for budget woes, by Eva DeLuna Castro — The amount of state funds available to write the next budget will be severely limited primarily by shortsighted tax cuts and diversions made by the Texas Legislature over the past two sessions, not by oil prices and their effect on the Texas economy.
News From Home
• While several high-profile cases have fueled a national debate on police shootings, there is no comprehensive data on such shootings in Texas. With reader support, we hope to introduce a new layer of transparency here. And you can help. Click here for more information on how to assist in making this project a reality.
Trib Events for the Calendar
• The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 23-25 at the University of Texas at Austin
• TribFeast: A Dinner To Support Nonprofit Journalism on Sept. 24 at the University of Texas at Austin's Etter-Harbin Alumni Center