Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has refused to defend the Texas Ethics Commission against a lawsuit, saying the agency itself violates the state’s constitution.
The Houston Chronicle first reported the Ethics Commission, in its budget request to state lawmakers, asked for an additional $600,000 to hire a private attorney to represent them against a lawsuit filed by the tea-party-backed political non-profit Empower Texans, threatening to gut the agency of all of its power.
Houston-area attorney Joe Nixon represents the group Empower Texans.
“The Texas Legislature created a state agency under its own branch and then gave that agency authority to regulate lobby laws and a lot of the campaign finance laws that it constitutionally doesn’t have the authority to do,” Nixon said.
Nixon said this type of enforcement power is typically only given to state agencies that fall under the governor’s authority.
According to campaign finance reports, Paxton has received over $300,000 in campaign donations from Empower Texans.
The attorney general’s spokesman Marc Rylander refused to comment on whether the donations factored into Paxton’s decision but wrote, the AG takes his duty to defend state agencies seriously when they are not in conflict with the state’s constitution.