Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Dan Patrick takes $3 million from pro-Paxton group ahead of trial

The lieutenant governor said that he took just as much from “the other side,” including donors aligned with Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which Paxton has labeled a political enemy.

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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has defended taking $3 million from a group supporting Ken Paxton in the lead-up to the attorney general’s impeachment trial that Patrick presided over as judge.

Patrick said in a TV interview published Wednesday that the controversy over the funding ignored that he took just as much from “the other side,” including donors aligned with Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which Paxton has declared as a political enemy. Patrick gave the explanation, which was heavily caveated, in an interview four days after his Senate voted to acquit Paxton.

“[The $3 million] got headlines because people wanted to make it a headline … but I also raised almost the same amount of money from people who may not be anti-Paxton, but they weren’t out there being pro-Paxton,” Patrick said in the interview with WFAA, the ABC affiliate in Dallas. “There are a few exceptions, because some of the people supporting TLR also supported Ken Paxton.”

The funding in question came in late June, when statewide officials and state lawmakers had a 12-day window to raise money before the first reporting deadline since the regular legislative session. Patrick reported a $1 million donation and $2 million from Defend Texas Liberty PAC, a group that had led the charge to attack House Republicans who voted to impeach Paxton. A leader with the PAC later threatened political revenge against any senator who sided against Paxton in his trial.

The money grabbed attention because the Senate was gearing up for the trial at the time — the chamber approved trial rules June 21 — and Patrick had little need for the money. He is not up for reelection until 2026, he already had over $16 million in the bank as of last year, and he had also never gotten nearly as much money from Defend Texas Liberty before.

Patrick declined to comment on the $3 million in pro-Paxton money when it became public. A day earlier, he had issued a sweeping gag order ahead of the trial.

While Patrick did raise roughly $3 million more on the same fundraising report, it is difficult to verify how much was actually from the “other side” in the Paxton trial. TLR is a powerful tort reform group that has become synonymous with the GOP establishment in Austin; it heavily funded one of Paxton’s 2022 primary challengers and had urged senators to reject pretrial motions to dismiss his impeachment case.

TLR itself only gave $25,000 on Patrick’s latest campaign finance report, while its co-founder, Richard Weekley, gave $50,000.

It is true that some of Patrick’s biggest donors in late June — beside Defend Texas Liberty — were also aligned with TLR. For example, Patrick received $150,000 from real estate developer Ross Perot Jr., who had cut a $1 million check to TLR less than two months earlier.

But some of Patrick’s largest donors beyond Defend Texas Liberty were also not TLR allies. Patrick got $100,000 from Midland oilman Douglas Scharbauer, who has not given anything to TLR this year, according to the latest records. Furthermore, Scharbauer was Paxton’s second largest individual donor on the attorney general’s late June report, the first since he was impeached.

Patrick’s invoking of TLR was notable given that Paxton has pilloried the group as a force behind his impeachment. They have denied any involvement in initiating it.

Patrick backed up TLR as he sought to explain the money he got from the “other side.”

“I don’t believe they were involved in this at all, but they’re seen as, They wanted a trial and they supported other people against Ken Paxton, so anybody supporting TLR, would be thought to be [anti-Paxton],” Patrick said. “I know that’s not the case. They all weren’t.”

Disclosure: Texans for Lawsuit Reform and Ross Perot Jr. have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Correction, :

An earlier version of this story misidentified a donor who gave $150,000 to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. The donor was Ross Perot Jr.

This article in this post was originally published on the Texas Tribune website and parts of it are republished here, with permission under Creative Commons.


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