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Nelson leans on fellow lawyers to fuel bid for attorney general

Justin Nelson Headshot

AUSTIN — More than three out of four dollars Justin Nelson raised to take on the state’s top lawyer in the November general election came from himself and the lawyers he works with.

Nelson raised money from more than 100 lawyers since announcing in November he would run as a Democrat for the job of Texas attorney general. More than 40 of those attorneys work for Susman Godfrey LLP, either in Houston where the firm was founded or from offices in New York, Seattle and Los Angeles.

The first-time Democratic candidate raised a total of $946,703 — including giving his campaign a $500,000 loan, collecting nearly $253,000 in campaign donations, amassing $159,000 in pledges to give at a later date and $35,000 in in-kind contributions.

Of those promised and received dollars, nearly $230,000 came from colleagues at Susman Godfrey, a firm known for giving to Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton. Add in the $500,000 Nelson gave to his own campaign, and 77 percent of his contributions came from people who work at the practice.

“It’s painfully obvious from his finance report that Justin Nelson has outsourced his campaign to the Susman Godfrey Law Firm whose members have loaned, donated and pledged over $729,000,” said Matt Welch, campaign spokesman for Nelson’s opponent, Attorney General Ken Paxton. “Nelson will soon wake up to the reality that Texas political campaigns aren’t won at law firm cocktail parties.”

Nelson, an Austin lawyer and underdog candidate, is running against Paxton, a first term Republican from Collin County and tea party darling who has focused on suing the Obama administration, fighting so-called sanctuary cities and defending pro-life causes.

Paxton is fighting a trio of criminal charges in state court that include two first degree felony counts of securities fraud. The case has yet to go to trial, although Paxton maintains he is the victim of a political witch hunt by his own party and a judge tossed similar charges in federal civil court.

As of Dec. 31, Nelson had $644,995 on-hand to use in his bid for election. Paxton had $5.7 million ready to use this election season, according to campaign reports.

“Ken Paxton, who is indicted for defrauding his friends and clients, wants to continue discussing our latest fundraising numbers? Bring it on,” said Nate Walker, Nelson’s campaign manager. “We will have the resources to make sure everyone knows we need a new attorney general who will fight for the people of Texas and not the political class. Unlike Paxton, Justin’s partners like him and believe in him and he hasn’t defrauded them.”

Paxton raised $774,177 in the last six months of 2017. Nelson claims he raised more in the seven weeks he was allowed to fundraise, although the Democrat counted promised future donations and his personal loan to the campaign in his total.

Paxton, has who had six months to raise money for this year’s election, collected $774,177 in contributions. His biggest contributors gave $25,000 a piece and included JP Bryan, chairman of Torch Energy Advisors; Timothy Dunn, an oil and gas executive at CrownQuest Operating, LLC; David Haug, managing director at Arctas Capital Group; McAllen Anesthesia Consultants, P.A.; Lee Roy Mitchell, an executive at Cinemark USA; Kyle Stallings, an oil and gas investor; and John Thaler, who works in finance for JAT Capital in Connecticut.

Nelson’s largest political donations came from Joseph Samuel Patt, a financial adviser from 683 Capital Management in New York who gave $25,000; Max Tribble, business owner of MaxBowl and an attorney at Susman Godfrey in Houston gave $15,000; Susman Godfrey attorneys in Houston Neal Manne and James Soutwick gave $10,800 each.

Article by Andrea Zelinski View on Houston Chronicle

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