AUSTIN — Texas’ attorney general disclosed Wednesday that a Washington-based conservative group is helping pay his legal defense on criminal securities fraud charges but would not say who is behind the political organization, which has virtually no public profile.
The omission raises questions about transparency as Republican Ken Paxton, who has pleaded not guilty, awaits trial on felony charges of misleading investors. He has received nearly $550,000 the past two years from friends and others to cover his legal expenses and $10,000 of that comes from The Annual Fund Inc., which Paxton reported as a gift that meets exceptions to Texas anti-bribery laws.
Paxton spokesman Matt Welch described The Annual Fund as supporting “the cause of limited, constitutional government. So does Attorney General Paxton.” He did not answer subsequent questions by email about the principals behind the organization or why he would not disclose the names.
“It’s another level of secrecy that should not be there. Disclosure is meaningless if we don’t know the principals,” said Craig McDonald, executive director of the left-leaning watchdog group Texans for Public Justice.
In 2015, Paxton accepted a $100,000 contribution for his legal bills from the head of a company his office was investigating for Medicaid fraud despite internal agency rules that prohibit such gifts.
His office at the time said Paxton was aware of the policy but that no rules were violated.