AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s announcement that he will not accept any campaign cash during Ken Paxton’s upcoming impeachment trial amounts to a public relations stunt unless he returns a recent $3 million contribution from a pro-Paxton PAC, Public Citizen said today.
In a story published Friday morning, a Patrick spokesperson told the Texas Tribune that the lieutenant governor will not accept any campaign contributions during the impeachment trial of Attorney General Paxton. As president of the Senate, Patrick serves as the judge who will preside over the trial, which begins Tuesday. The Senate Republican and Democratic caucuses told the Tribune that their organizations will also not fundraise during the trial.
“It’s hard to take Patrick’s pledge seriously after he took $3 million from a PAC whose goal is to see Paxton walk,” said Adrian Shelley, Texas director of Public Citizen. “He must return the contribution and loan to reassure Texans he will remain impartial. In any other context, handing out cash to the judge or jury would be corruption. Texans may not accept the trial’s outcome if there is an appearance that stacks of cash tipped the scales.”
In June, Patrick accepted $3 million – a $1 million donation and a $2 million loan – from Defend Texas Liberty PAC, a pro-Paxton group whose leader has threatened to spend heavily on primary challenges to Republicans who vote for a conviction.
Public Citizen supports a moratorium on campaign contributions to legislators and state officials like Patrick when an impeachment trial is pending, similar to the fundraising suspension required by Texas law before, during, and after regular legislative sessions.
Texans for Public Justice and the Texas office of Public Citizen issued a study Thursday detailing the large amounts of cash donated to most of the senators who will decide Paxton’s political future. The Paxton trial and related donations have raised ethical and conflict of interest concerns that the Legislature must address as part of reforms to the state’s lax ethics laws. 2025’s Sunset review for the Texas Ethics Commission will provide one opportunity.