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Ken Paxton, pay Texans the $11,300 you owe them

His office is charged with collecting unpaid fines, so don’t hold your breath.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has proved yet again he has no respect for the Texas Ethics Commission.

In the last year Paxton has refused to pay $11,300 in fines and penalties assessed to him by the commission, which is required to ensure candidates for state office file timely and complete campaign finance reports as required by law.

These reports are an important part of a transparent electoral process because they tell the public who’s bankrolling candidates, how much they contribute and how that money is spent.


But in February 2022, again in October 2022 and in January 2024, Paxton was late with these reports, according to copies of repeated notices sent to Paxton from the commission. He also sometimes sent in corrections that didn’t follow state law.


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The state’s top lawyer fined for breaking the law? The irony there would be funny if it weren’t so insulting to Texans.

And it gets worse. Because Paxton hasn’t paid up, the ethics commission has followed its standard practice and referred the cases for collection — to the office of the attorney general. That’s an absurd and obvious conflict of interest that points up the need for the commission to be granted more enforcement power by the Texas Legislature.


Commission executive director J.R. Johnson declined to comment on where the cases go from here, except to refer questions to the attorney general’s office. Paxton’s office didn’t respond to our email. Of course, asking the defendant how he will enforce the punishment is probably a recipe for crickets.

None of this is really surprising given Paxton’s open and longstanding disdain for the ethics commission. We lamented two years ago that he rarely pursues civil court action against campaign finance scofflaws. And when some of his powerful donors sued the commission seeking to disband it, Paxton refused to defend the agency in court, forcing it to spend more than $600,000 in outside legal fees.

“It would appear a candidate can simply skip filing required reports, ignore warning letters from the ethics commission and accrue sometimes massive fines but have little worry of ever being sued by the attorney general,” we wrote in June 2022. What a sad state of affairs that that now includes the attorney general, himself.


A long list of delinquent campaign report filers, Democrats and Republicans alike, is posted on the Texas Ethics Commission’s website, and Paxton’s name is right there. But despite what should be a public shaming, candidates can and sometimes do run for office again and again even if they don’t pay their fines because state law allows it. Our politicians, it seems, are less capable of shame each passing day.

The Texas Ethics Commission doesn’t do witch hunts and it isn’t politically motivated. Its work is often dull and more about forms and rules than high-profile public policy. But it serves a vital public service that should be supported and respected. It’s time to show some respect, Ken Paxton, and pay up.

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