There are two possible takeaways from Collin County state Sen. Angela Paxton's recently filed Senate Bill 860: The senator is either staggeringly unethical or incredibly politically naive.
SB 860 would allow the Texas Attorney General's Office — the same one run by her husband, Ken Paxton — to oversee a new state program that would allow the marketing of certain investments without a license. The bill, as the Texas Tribune explained when it broke the story this weekend, would also change a law the attorney general is accused of breaking by failing to register as an investment adviser.
Angela Paxton did not return a request for comment from the Observer. Tuesday, she told The Associated Press she'd drafted the bill without her husband's involvement.
"That may be hard for you to believe," she said. "But that has nothing to do with the purpose of the bill. People in my district brought this bill to me."
In a separate statement to the Tribune, Paxton said the bill was intended to make it easier for individuals to invest in the financial technology sector.
"SB 860 allows for the growth and economic benefit of the emerging Financial Technology [sic] industry while the state provides the necessary regulatory framework and consumer protection in the marketplace," she said. "The state agencies that have regulatory oversight of financial institutions and consumer protection laws will provide appropriate regulatory support within the sandbox to ensure that consumers are protected."
Justin Nelson, a civil attorney with the high-powered Houston firm Susman Godfrey and Ken Paxton's opponent in the 2018 Texas attorney general's race, says it's hard to think of a good-faith explanation for Angela Paxton's bill.
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"[The bill] is so corrupt and so brazen. The excuse this morning that I read — she never spoke to her husband about it and, of course, it wouldn't have had an effect — it's symptomatic of the fact that, oftentimes, the most brazen corruption is happening right in front of our face," Nelson says. "She's introducing a bill that not only would expand her husband's powers, but would do so to enable her husband to effectively trivialize his own crime."
It's uncertain how the new bill would affect Paxton's charge for failing to register should the bill pass, Nelson said.
"It's unclear exactly how it would apply, of course, but the intent is clear. The intent is to give [power] to her husband and allow her husband to exempt the type of crime for which he himself has been charged [from prosecution], at least going forward," Nelson says. "It is unclear whether it would apply to the past. Presumably he's already been indicted [so the case would move forward], but this could just be step one on what they're trying to do."