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Paxton, Ethics and the Making of Dream Catchers

Photo by Nick Wagner / Austin American-Statesman

Sometimes — the good times — the mere happenstance of two words in close proximity to each other can be cause for eyebrow elevation.

See if you can find two such words in this agenda item from this week’s Conference of Western Attorneys General annual meeting in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M. Because I’m your little newspaper friend and I want you to win, I’ll include some hints:

Give yourself two points if you pinpointed “ethics” and “Paxton” as the two words that don’t dovetail as well as, say, “dove” and “tail.”

We Texans elected Paxton as our attorney general in November 2014 because it seemed like a good idea on that fine autumn day. A smaller subset of Texans — known as a grand jury — indicted him in the summer of 2015. In fact, Saturday is the third anniversary of those still-pending charges. Cake!

So, though it’s not part of his official title, Paxton long has been referred to as indicted Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Refresher: Paxton is charged with felony securities violations. He says he’s not guilty of anything. He’s a lawyer — state government’s top one — so he’s not allowed to lie, especially about important court stuff. And let’s acknowledge that everybody, including those under indictment, is innocent until and unless proven otherwise. Similarly, indicted guys are indicted until they’re not.

Because his trial won’t happen until after the November general election — no trial date’s been set — odds seem good Paxton will be re-elected as our indicted attorney general because he’s a Republican. Texas voters seem to prefer Republicans, even indicted ones.

Barring an upset, challenger Justin Nelson, who is not under indictment for anything but pleads guilty to being a Democrat, someday will have to explain to grandchildren how he lost to an indicted guy. Texas!

So, eager to write down anything Paxton said about ethics at the Western Attorneys General conference, I fired up the ol’ computer and dialed up the livestream that promised to let me watch Paxton say something, anything, about ethics.

Imagine my disappointment when Montana Attorney General Tim Fox showed up to pinch hit for Paxton. Fox is not under indictment for anything. In fact, until West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry was indicted in June on federal fraud, witness tampering and other charges, Paxton had the distinction of being the only statewide official in any of the 50 states under indictment for anything. Let me repeat: Texas!

Conference spokeswoman Lauren Niehaus told me Fox subbed for Paxton because our indicted attorney general (she didn’t say indicted) had a conflict.

Yeah, that’s kind of why he was indicted, but I think Niehaus was talking about another kind of conflict, the scheduling kind.

Paxton spokeswoman Kayleigh Lovvorn said, “AG Paxton is participating in CWAG events throughout the week. (On Wednesday), CWAG events conflicted with his scheduled introduction at this luncheon.”

Fair enough, if disappointing.

It’s good that Paxton was at the conference because there were some good sessions, including ones on opioids, marijuana and “Looking at the Future of Block Chain and Cryptocurrency.”

And because all work and no play can make western attorneys general even duller than many lawyers are, there also was a list called “social agenda and activities,” including fly fishing, a Jeep tour, horseback riding, a brewery tour, leather stamping, kayaking, a golf clinic, a beading workshop, water bottle decorating and dream catcher making.

Sounds nice. Every conference needs a social agenda and activities. Because sometimes conferences aren’t cheap, this conference had something else every conference needs: sponsors.

It was an impressive list, including such heavy hitters as AT&T, Comcast, CVS Health, DISH Network, FedEx, Oracle, Pfizer, Anheuser-Busch, JPMorgan Chase, American Gaming Association, American Express, Verizon, Facebook, General Motors, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Prudential, Walmart, Amazon, Caesar’s Entertainment, Citigroup, Eli Lilly, Microsoft, Mastercard, Uber, Wells Fargo, Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America and many, many more companies and groups that might find it beneficial to spend some time with western attorneys general.

Full disclosure: The lengthy list of sponsors also included Cox Enterprises, former longtime owners of this newspaper.

(And here’s a curiosity to add the ever-expanding list of things I don’t understand: The list of associate members of the Conference of Western Attorneys General includes the attorneys general of such western outposts as Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the District of Columbia.)

Here’s hoping the western attorneys general went home with some good CWAG swag. And I’m guessing some of the sponsors perhaps found some time to chat with an attorney general or two about a topic or two of interest to the sponsors. Maybe during dream catcher making.

Article by Ken Herman View on Austin American-Statesman

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