Senior officials in the Texas Attorney General’s Office told their boss, Ken Paxton, on Wednesday that he subverted his office to serve the financial interests of a political donor, according to an email obtained by The Texas Tribune.
Their concerns stem from Paxton’s appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate claims made by Nate Paul, an Austin real estate investor and donor, of alleged impropriety by federal and state authorities. But several subpoenas served by the prosecutor, the aides said in the email, "related to private business concerns of Nate Paul" — and were not the subject of the “narrow criminal referral” he was appointed to investigate.
“This office’s continued use of the criminal process, in a matter already determined to be without merit, to benefit the personal interests of Nate Paul, is unconscionable,” Paxton's top aide wrote.
The damning Oct. 7 email was addressed to Paxton and his new first assistant Brent Webster and sent by five of the same senior aides and whistleblowers — Ryan Bangert, Blake Brickman, Lacey Mase, Darren McCarty and Ryan Vassar— who reported allegations of criminal activity to law enforcement last week.
“It would be a violation of our own public responsibilities and ethical obligations to stand by while the significant power and resources of the Texas Attorney General’s Office are used to serve the interests of a private citizen bent on impeding a federal investigation into his own alleged wrongdoing and advancing his own financial interests,” the aides aides wrote in the email. “We urge you to end this course of conduct immediately.”
Paxton did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday. But he has called the allegations “false” and the employees “rogue.”
The attorney general’s office received the complaint from the Travis County District Attorney’s Office in June — but only after Paxton specifically requested it, Travis County officials said.
The complaint, made by Paul — whose home and office were raided by the FBI last year — alleged wrongdoing by federal authorities including the FBI and a federal magistrate.
In the Oct. 7 email, aides said the agency investigated the claims but found they “lacked any good-faith factual basis.” That should have meant the end to the investigation, they said.
“Here, you circumvented our office’s long-established outside counsel approval process, over the objections of the executive staff, to engage Mr. Cammack," they said in the letter.
Several of the subpoenas, the aides wrote, appear not to be tied to the complaint, but were instead tied to Paul’s business interests. And other subpoenas sought personal contact information for law enforcement officials, “which appear intended for no purpose other than harassment of federal officials who are investigating Nate Paul,” the aides wrote.
One of the subpoenas was hand-delivered by “special prosecutor” Brandon Cammack — a criminal defense attorney who has been in practice for about five years — to Amplify Credit Union, which has sued Paul and his firm over unpaid debt.
A criminal defense attorney who represents Paul, Michael Wynne, was present when another subpoena landed at a central Texas bank office, according to a senior official at the Attorney General’s office, and as first reported by the Houston Chronicle.
That seemed “entirely inappropriate, irregular and frankly terribly unethical at a minimum,” the senior official said.
Wynne did not respond to a request for comment but said in an emailed statement Thursday that Paul’s “constitutional rights were egregiously violated” and that they planned to seek “all available legal remedies.”
After the aides told Paxton they had alerted law enforcement to his behavior, he “personally directed” two senior aides — David Maxwell, the agency’s director of law enforcement, and Mark Penley, the deputy attorney general for criminal justice who was among the original group of seven whistleblowers, be placed on investigative leave.