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Ken Paxton’s impeachment cost Texas taxpayers more than $4 million

By Patrick Svitek, The Texas Tribune

Ken Paxton’s impeachment cost Texas taxpayers more than $4 million” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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The impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton cost Texas taxpayers at least $4.2 million, most of it spent on lawyers the House hired to prosecute Paxton, according to newly released figures and records.

The House released a new batch of records Wednesday that included invoices from the law firms of the two renowned Houston attorneys who led the case against Paxton, Rusty Hardin and Dick DeGuerin. Those invoices topped $3.5 million and represented by far the biggest expenses the House has disclosed so far in response to public information requests. The House had about $200,000 in other expenses, most of which had been previously disclosed.

On Thursday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said the Senate had spent “roughly $435,000” total related to Paxton’s impeachment, bringing the known total between the two chambers to over $4 million. The actual total is likely higher given that the House has still not disclosed invoices from other lawyers that helped with the case against Paxton.

Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have been hounding the House to release the expenses since the Patrick-led Senate acquitted Paxton after a trial in September. The state auditor has been conducting a review of the spending at the behest of the lieutenant governor.

The impeachment lawyers have defended the expenses as part of a pursuit for justice they do not regret. But Paxton and his allies have argued it was a waste of taxpayer money given the final outcome.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Paxton said in a statement Thursday. “Whether it’s the House costs, Senate costs, or the overall impeachment session costs, many millions more were incurred on [House Speaker] Dade Phelan’s sham and needless impeachment.”

Phelan defended the House’s impeachment in a statement responding to the latest House spending figures.

“The investigation, impeachment, and trial of Ken Paxton shed a clear, unflinching light on who Paxton is and the lengths to which he will go to stay in power,” Phelan said. “The Texas House will continue to faithfully fulfill its obligation to protect the integrity of our institutions and safeguard the public’s trust.”

The chair of the House board of impeachment managers, Rep. Andrew Murr, more directly defended the costs in his own statement.

“The future of Texas’s governance, rooted in trust and transparency, justifies this expenditure, reinforcing the belief that the foundations of our democracy are worth every penny,” the Junction Republican said.

The Senate has not yet responded to a public information request for its itemized spending. But in revealing the $435,000 figure Thursday, Patrick said an estimated $138,000 of it went toward printing a trial record — and he continued to bash the House for its spending.

“Now, it is clear that the Senate protected taxpayer money while Dade Phelan and the House spent like drunken sailors on shore leave,” Patrick said.

The House’s $3.7 million tab is higher than the $3.3 million taxpayer-funded settlement that Paxton initially sought from the House, sparking the impeachment process. Paxton was trying to settle with former top deputies in his office who had accused him of abusing his office, and instead of approving the settlement, the House balked at using taxpayer dollars for it and decided to investigate the underlying claims.

While the public footed the bill for the House impeachment lawyers, Paxton has not revealed how he paid for his legal defense other than to emphasize no taxpayer money went toward it. He has said his defense cost him over $4 million.

Until Wednesday, the biggest expense the House had disclosed was about $193,000 in invoices from Harriet O’Neill, one of the lawyers who helped with the case against Paxton. But the invoices from the firms of Hardin and DeGuerin — especially Hardin’s — sent the total into multimillion-dollar territory.

Hardin’s firm, Rusty Hardin & Associates, has billed the House just over $3 million in legal fees and expenses, according to the records released Wednesday. The invoices cover 7,259.5 hours worked by over three dozen people, including almost all 16 of the people who are listed on the firm’s website.

Reached Thursday, Hardin said, “We’ll let the public decide if it was worth it.”

DeGuerin and another lawyer at his firm, Mark White, have submitted invoices for a total of $471,113.09 in legal fees and expenses. They had 677 billable hours.

DeGuerin and White both charged $500 an hour. So did Hardin and partners at his firm. Other employees at Hardin’s firm charged less than $500 an hour.

Paxton has continued to bang the drum about the House’s impeachment costs, suggesting Phelan has been withholding them until after the candidate filing deadline for the March primary, which was Monday.

Paxton has gone on a political revenge tour since his acquittal, backing primary challengers to House Republican who voted to impeach him.

“The filing deadline has come and gone and we still don’t know the cost of the impeachment,” Paxton said Wednesday on X, formerly known as Twitter. “It has been 88 days since the sham impeachment. [Phelan] is still hiding the cost to protect his house cronies from opponents running against them.”

According to the records released Wednesday by the House, the chamber received the invoices from the firms of DeGuerin and Hardin on Nov. 28, almost two weeks before the filing deadline. Phelan’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the timing.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/12/14/ken-paxton-impeachment-house-costs/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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