(The Center Square) – The impeachment trial of Attorney General Ken Paxton cost Texas taxpayers $4.3 million, according to records released by the House Business Office.
This is $1 million more than the proposed $3.3. million settlement reached earlier this year between the Office of the Attorney General and fired staffers who sued for wrongful termination. Their claims became the basis for the impeachment allegations levied against Paxton.
In September, after the Texas Senate rejected all 20 articles of impeachment exonerating Paxton, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued a blistering rebuke of the House Managers. He also called for an audit of all state legislative impeachment-related expenses and sent an official request to the state auditor to issue a report.
The 228 pages of invoices released to the public were from the legal firms of Rusty Hardin, Dick DeGuerin, and Harriet O’Neill who were hired by the House Managers to prosecute Paxton.
In response, Paxton released a statement through his campaign, saying, “This is just the tip of the iceberg. Whether it’s the House costs, Senate costs, or the overall impeachment session costs, many millions were incurred on [House Speaker] Dade Phelan’s sham and needless impeachment. Further, Dade, [state Rep. Dustin] Burrows, and the liberal Republican House leaders have proved they excel at spending what some believe could be $25 million in taxpayer dollars for multiple special sessions that have resulted in the House FAILING to produce results.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick released a statement saying he believed the House costs were “far higher when accounting for all expenses, including the billing of at least one lawyer the House hasn’t paid yet. The Senate spent roughly $435,000 including the printing of the trial record for an estimated $138,000.”
Patrick also said the Senate “immediately reported all spending [related to the impeachment process and trial] to the State Auditor, but the House has not cooperated with the audit. The House has still not turned in their spending to the State Auditor.” He also said the Senate “protected taxpayer money while Dade Phelan and the House spent like drunken sailors on shore leave.”
DeGuerin told the Dallas Morning News that the $500 rate the attorneys charged was far less than their normal rate. “Everything we did was justified, and I won’t retreat from that statement ever. We presented strong evidence that Paxton just surrendered the power of his office in a corrupt way,” he said.
Hardin also said, “The amount of our fees are a drop in the bucket compared to the loss of money and integrity caused by the misconduct of Paxton. The jury verdict the whistleblowers will ultimately recover in their lawsuits will far exceed any money the House spent on the impeachment effort.”
Phelan also issued a statement, saying the trial was necessary because Paxton “refused to testify before multiple House committees to justify his request of the Texas Legislature to settle a wrongful termination lawsuit brought against him by whistleblowers in his inner circle, the Texas House General Investigating Committee initiated its investigation into the merits of the whistleblower’s claims. The investigation, impeachment, and trial … shed a clear, unflinching light on who Paxton is and the lengths to which he will go to stay in power.”
Rep. Andrew Murr, R-Junction, also issued a statement, saying, “The historic impeachment trial was an investment in upholding the integrity and trust in our elected officials.” Murr, who chaired the GIC and House Board of Managers and brought the impeachment charges, recently announced he’s not running for reelection.
“This was not merely a legal proceeding; it was a reaffirmation of our commitment to transparency and accountability in governance,” he said.
Murr and the GIC argued the primary reason they began investigating Paxton and eventually presented 20 articles of impeachment was that the OAG brought the $3.3 million settlement to the House to consider. The House rejected it, saying it wasted taxpayer money.
The Center Square first reported that the OAG bringing the settlement to the legislature was in accordance with state statute. The General Appropriations Act, Article IX, Section 16.04, which governs the state settlement process, stipulates that all settlements over $250,000 must be appropriated by the legislature.
Phone calls and emails from The Center Square to the GIC and Murr’s office went unanswered before, during and after the trial. None have not explained how the OAG misappropriated funds it didn’t have since the legislature never allocated it.
In contrast to these costs to taxpayers, Paxton’s litigation recoveries from 2015-2020 ranged from $124 million to $277 million, The Center Square previously reported.
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.