Taxpayers Out $45K for Texas Attorney General's Failed '20 Election Lawsuit

Ken Paxton Republican Taxpayers Texas Election Lawsuit
Taxpayers in Texas will reportedly foot the bill of at least $45,000 for Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton to defend himself against multiple complaints about his attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election with a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court. Paxton is pictured outside the court in Washington, D.C., on November 1, 2021. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty

Taxpayers in Texas will reportedly pay at least $45,000 for Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton's legal defense against complaints over his failed 2020 election fraud lawsuit in the Supreme Court.

The legal bill accumulated due to Paxton defending multiple complaints about the suit to the State Bar of Texas, according to The Houston Chronicle. Paxton's suit, which was backed by 17 other GOP state attorneys general and more than 100 Republican members of Congress, was dismissed by the nation's highest court for lack of standing on December 11, 2020, only days after being filed.

Paxton's lawsuit sought to overturn former President Donald Trump's 2020 loss by withholding certified vote count results in Pennsylvania and three other states before the results were tallied by the Electoral College. At least two of the complaints he is defending allege that the suit was "frivolous."

Trump has continued to repeatedly and falsely claim that President Joe Biden's victory in states that Trump lost were "stolen." Many of the former president's allies have backed the baseless claim.

Outside attorneys working to defend Paxton reportedly include Chris Gober, a prominent Republican election lawyer who charged the state $525 per hour. Attorneys are providing services that include strategy discussions and reviews of documents related to the complaints, as well as correspondences with the bar and preparation for bar meetings.

In a direct response to the Chronicle, Paxton told the newspaper that he was legally entitled to use state funds because he was defending actions that he took while working as attorney general. He described his actions as "fighting back," while blasting "liberal complainers" and those engaged in a "witch hunt" over the bill.

"Everyone—including Gov. [Greg] Abbott and Lt. Gov. [Dan] Patrick—knows that this witch hunt is a sham," Paxton told the paper. "So I'm fighting back. And I'm authorized to do so by law: The acts that the bar and the liberal complainers are crying about were done in my official capacity as Texas Attorney General, and I may use state resources to defend my and my team's state actions. Period."

While the bar complaints could put Paxton's personal license to practice law at risk, the attorney general is also facing criticism for billing taxpayers, since the Texas state constitution does not require holders of public office to have bar membership.

"This is about his individual license, which is irrelevant to his position in office, so why shouldn't he pay for it?" civil rights attorney Jim Harrington, who was involved in filing a complaint last year, told the Chronicle. "He gets to do this game on Jan. 6, this unconstitutional Supreme Court action, and then turn around and have us pay twice for it? It's outrageous."

"By launching a frivolous, partisan, and politically-motivated sham investigation into my efforts to ensure election integrity, it's the liberal State Bar that's wasting tax dollars, not me," Paxton said in a statement to Newsweek. "Surely, they're burning public money at a rate that far surpasses anything I have to spend to defend myself against their silly games. This is 100% on the State Bar. I stand by the good work that my team and I do."

Paxton is the subject of an FBI investigation into allegations that he abused his office to benefit a wealthy donor. Former staff members accused him of breaking the law by using his office to help the donor in return for renovations to his home and a job for a woman with whom he allegedly had an affair.

Texas does not have term limits for the office of state attorney general. Paxton, who is in the final year of his second term, is running for re-election in November, backed by an endorsement from Trump.

Paxton must first clear the hurdle of a Republican primary runoff election against George P. Push after failing to secure a majority of votes this month. If he wins, Paxton will face the winner of a runoff between Democratic candidates Rochelle Garza and Joe Jaworski.

Update 3/31, 4:14 p.m.: This article has been updated to include a statement from Paxton.