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Texas AG Paxton claims he’s being sued by the state bar over election challenge

Texas AG Ken Paxton speaks into a microphone during a hearing in Austin in 2015.
Eric Gay
/
Associated Press
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during a hearing in Austin in 2015.

The animosity between Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the State Bar of Texas went next-level Friday after Paxton announced he’s being sued by the organization after a “months-long witch hunt.”

Paxton said the lawsuit filed by the bar is in response to the attorney general’s challenge to the 2020 election results in four states: Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin.

“I stand by this lawsuit completely,” Paxton said in a statement posted on Twitter. “Texas Bar: I’ll see you and the leftists that control you in court.”

After Paxton responded to the reported lawsuit via Twitter, his state office announced it was investigating the Texas Bar Foundation, the state bar’s non-profit arm, for allegedly “aiding and abetting the mass influx of illegal aliens.” The investigation comes after complaints from U.S. Rep. Tony Nehls, R-Richmond, and the public, Paxton’s office said.

According to a letter Paxton’s office sent Angela Castilleja, the foundation’s executive director, and Wendy Burgower, the foundation’s chair, the complaints “indicate the Texas Bar Foundation provides grants to organizations that support, fund, and encourage illegal immigration. The complaints allege this is an improper use of charitable funds such that funds are diverted from their intended purpose.”

In a statement Friday afternoon, Alistair B. Dawson, the Texas Bar Foundation’s chair-elect, said Paxton’s investigation was a waste of money.

“The Foundation is extremely disappointed to learn that AG Paxton has decided to use taxpayer dollars on a fruitless exercise. Had AG Paxton taken the time to come and speak with us rather than issue a press release, I am confident that he would have found no wrongdoing on the part of the Foundation,” Dawson wrote. “Nevertheless, the Foundation is happy to cooperate and provide the AG’s office with documents and information relevant to the investigation.”

Paxton said the lawsuit his office is facing, which he said also names his top deputy as a defendant, comes “conveniently” a week before early voting begins for the May 24 runoff election, where the incumbent faces Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

Paxton’s lawsuit against Pennsylvania and the other states over the 2020 election results prompted a group of attorneys to file a complaint accusing Paxton of professional misconduct. The complainants in that case argued Paxton’s lawsuit was frivolous, false and deceitful, the Houston Chronicle reported. That complaint is moving forward.

The lawsuit was one of several filed in response to President Joe Biden’s election victory over Donald Trump. It was dismissed by the United States Supreme Court in December 2020 shortly after it was filed. The justices ruled that Texas did not have standing in the matter and did not have an interest in how other states conducted their elections, the SCOTUS Blog reported.

The Texas State Bar did not respond to a request for comment but in a tweet Friday afternoon, the organization’s president, Sylvia Borunda Firth, pushed back against allegations of perceived partisanship within its ranks.

“The system is designed to ensure fairness to all parties. Partisan political considerations play no role in determining whether to pursue a grievance or how that grievance proceeds through the system,” she said. “Any claims to the contrary are untrue.”

Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.
Copyright 2022 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

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