In their zeal to represent the absurd actions of their clients at the Texas Ethics Commissions, the Texas Attorney General’s office has resorted to telling lies in paperwork designed to provide face-saving cover for a state rogue agency.
As the Attorney General, Ken Paxton and his staff have as a first responsibility to represent the truth – not adopt the win-by-any-means tactics of shady ambulance-chasers. But that’s precisely what a top-lawyer in Paxton’s office, Jim Davis, is doing this week.
A little background. Almost four years ago, the Texas Ethics Commission began an “investigation” against Empower Texans at the behest of House Speaker Joe Straus’ cronies and a lobbyist for the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. Their goal was to silence groups that shine a light on the legislature. They’ve spent four years and untold fortunes in failing.
The agency issued subpoenas to Empower Texans that would have unconstitutionally exposed our subscribers and donors to official harassment, so we contested the subpoenas in federal court. (The federal judge said the subpoenas were “absurd” in their breadth and chastised the TEC for issuing them. He directed us to file suit in state court, which we did, and the TEC promptly lost interest in the subpoenas.)
No one, including the TEC, could explain precisely the scope of the absurd subpoenas. So even while fighting them, we provided five particular documents, amongst others, complying in good faith with what we thought was responsive to at least the spirit of the subpoenas. The TEC told us to get lost.
Fast forward to this summer. Seeing that they have been losing big at every turn, the TEC resurrected the “absurd” subpoenas and filed suit in Travis County to compel us to do whatever it is they want.
We fought back. We are set to have an actual hearing in front of an actual judge this coming Monday. Faced with having to explain themselves in court, the TEC made us an offer: let us say you have just now given us those five pieces of paper, and we’ll dismiss the suit.
In other words, the chairman of the Texas “Ethics” Commission – acting through his lawyers in the Attorney General’s office – asked us to lie. Not going to happen. We told them it was a lie.
Indeed, there are recordings of TEC hearings in which the documents we supposedly would have just now produced were discussed.
It gets worse for the TEC.
Since they began their Straus-inspired witch-hunt against us, the state’s Third Court of Appeals has ruled that the TEC doesn’t have the authority to regulate non-profit organizations that speak politically. And just this week, the TEC (acting through the offices of Paxton) told a federal judge that, indeed, the TEC is not allowed to regulate non-profit organizations as if they were political action committees.
TEC chairman Paul Hobby is faced Monday with being forced to tell a Texas district judge that while the agency informs the federal courts they don’t have the power to do to groups what they are doing to us, they have nonetheless been doing it to us in the interest of serving his political masters in the Austin establishment.
So Hobby and his pals are trying to save what little face they have left. Too bad. They have acted maliciously, using their governing power to attack others and us. (This is the same Paul Hobby who last year said that as chairman of the TEC, he had no obligation to read court opinions affecting his agency.)
So, no, Paul, we aren’t going to lie for you.
Since we refused to accept their “tell a lie so the TEC can save face” settlement offer, Jim Davis (the Paxton office lawyer) sent a letter to my lawyers and the court claiming the Monday hearing wasn’t necessary since we had now provided him with documents.
My attorneys merely provided him with copies of what the TEC had all along, after the TEC claimed to have misplaced the documents.
It’s a shame that one of Ken Paxton’s top lawyers has decided to behave so unethically while representing the Texas Ethics Commission. Jim Davis’ first obligation should be to uphold the truth, first, and protect the constitutional rights of citizens.
Instead, Jim Davis – and by extension, the Office of the Attorney General – is feverishly working to paper up lies in an effort to mask the abusive actions of a rogue state agency; an agency that uses quasi-judicial processes as a punishment for shining light on corruption.