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Texas State Auditor’s Office looking into Ken Paxton’s impeachment

House Impeachment Manager Rep. Andrew Murr, and Rep. Ann Johnson, right, speak with the media following the acquittal of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at the Texas Capitol on Saturday, Sep. 16, 2023.
Renee Dominguez
/
KUT
House Impeachment Manager Rep. Andrew Murr, and Rep. Ann Johnson, right, speak with the media following the acquittal of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at the Texas Capitol on Saturday, Sep. 16, 2023.

The Texas State Auditor’s Office is conducting a special audit of expenses related to the impeachment proceedings of Attorney General Ken Paxton after a request by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, The Texas Newsroom has learned.

The State Auditor’s Office told The Texas Newsroom last week it had recently launched the audit but didn’t specify when. A spokesperson for State Auditor Lisa Collier said a report will be issued once the investigation is concluded.

According to Collier’s office, typical audits take four to six months depending on the scope.

The special audit was launched in response to a request by Patrick in September.

In his letter to Collier, Patrick asked her office to “determine the total amount of financial expenditures, encumbrances and future unpaid obligations” by the House, Senate, Office of the Attorney General and any other legislative entity involved with the impeachment trial.

Patrick’s office didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment regarding the timeline, or whether his office has provided documents to the auditor.

Paxton was acquitted in September of 16 articles of impeachment by the Texas Senate. He was accused of abusing his office to protect a political donor.

Paxton’s actions — and his acquittal — created further divisions between Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan.

After the Senate trial, Patrick said in a statement that “millions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on this impeachment.”

Phelan accused Patrick of attacking the House “for standing up against corruption.”

The Texas Senate has already released some of the documents revealing how much it cost to hold the trial.

According to the Dallas Morning News, as of Oct. 11, Patrick and the Senate spent more than $96,000 on the trial. Of that money, about $57,000 was spent on attorneys hired by Patrick to fight a legal challenge to the trial rules.

The Senate also spent money on the court reporters who transcribed the trial.

House expenses likely to exceed $3 million

According to the State Auditor’s Office, a regular audit lasts somewhere from four to six months.

In order for auditors to complete their report, all of the government entities involved — including the Texas House — would have to provide documentation related to impeachment expenses.

Neither Phelan’s office nor the Texas House Administration Committee responded to questions about whether they have been approached by the Texas State Auditor’s Office, or whether they have provided any documentation.

According to records obtained by The Texas Newsroom under the Public Information Act, House impeachment managers approved two invoices of $7,000 by Austin-based public relations firm New West Communications for “communications support.”

It also approved two invoices — one for $35,450 and the other of $157,650 — submitted by Harriet O’Neill, a former Texas Supreme Court Justice who served as an attorney for the House impeachment managers.

The two lead attorneys for the House impeachment managers — Rusty Hardin and Dick DeGuerin — told The Texas Newsroom last week they submitted their invoices to the Legislature but declined to go into specifics.

Hardin said he billed less than $3.3 million. The impeachment inquiry kicked off when Paxton’s agency asked the Legislature for this amount to settle a lawsuit brought by whistleblowers who first raised the corruption claims.

“I think they’re hopefully getting ready to pay,” he said.

DeGuerin declined to share with reporters how much he billed the House.

“The House as a client should be the one to reveal it,” DeGuerin said, adding he believes they’ll get paid, “just in time for Christmas.”

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is the Texas Capitol Reporter for The Texas Newsroom. Got a tip? Email him at smb@kut.org. Follow him on Twitter @SergioMarBel.
Lauren McGaughy is an investigative reporter and editor at The Texas Newsroom. Got a tip? Email her at lmcgaughy@kut.org. Follow her on X and Threads @lmcgaughy.
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