By JAKE BLEIBERG Associated Press
DALLAS (AP) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had an extramarital affair with a woman whom he later recommended for a job with the wealthy donor now at the center of criminal allegations against him, according to two people who said Paxton told them about the relationship.
The two people, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to fears about retaliation, said the high-profile Republican official acknowledged the affair in 2018 to senior members of his office and political staff. They said he told them that he had ended the affair with the woman, who then worked for a GOP state senator.
Austin developer Nate Paul said in a deposition this week that Paxton recommended the woman for her job with Paul’s real estate company, according to a transcript of his deposition obtained by the AP. The woman had stopped working as a Senate aide at the end of 2019, though her reason for departing wasn’t immediately clear.
Paul’s hiring of the woman at Paxton’s recommendation sheds new light on the relationship between the two men.
The attorney general’s top deputies reported their boss to the FBI in September for alleged bribery, abuse of office and other crimes. Those allegations stem in part from Paxton’s decision to investigate Paul’s claims that a federal judge and the FBI broke the law in searches of his home and offices last year.
The disclosure of the affair is likely to deepen political problems for Paxton, who has gained a national profile in office as a crusader for conservative Christian legal causes, even while maintaining his innocence in the face of separate criminal charges.
Spokespersons for the attorney general did not respond to questions Thursday.
During his Monday deposition, Paul explicitly denied employing the former Senate aide at his company, World Class, as a favor to Paxton.
“World Class has hundreds of employees, including (the woman), and in accordance with federal and state laws does not invade their privacy including to inquire about their personal lives,” the developer’s lawyer, Michael Wynne, said in an email.
The woman is named in a transcript of Paul’s deposition and both people who said Paxton told them of the affair independently identified her by name. She did not respond to multiple requests for comment. AP is not naming her because she is not a public figure.
Under questioning during the deposition, Paul said he did not know how the woman he hired and the attorney general knew each other. He said he couldn’t recall how long the woman had worked for him, what she was paid and whether he met her before or after Paxton recommended her.
The senator’s office has not responded to requests for comment. The woman’s personnel records are blank where the reason for her departure would be indicated.
In September, Paxton hired an outside lawyer to look into Paul’s claim against the FBI, and separate allegations that businessmen conspired against him with a federal judge. The move prompted the remarkable rebellion by seven senior lawyers on his staff, who since reporting the attorney general to federal authorities have all resigned, been put on leave or fired.
The allegations sparked new calls for Paxton’s resignation and raised questions about his ties with the developer. Paxton has acknowledged knowing Paul, who gave his campaign $25,000 in 2018, but the full nature of their relationship has been unclear.
A new aspect of their connection emerged Monday when lawyers in a civil case against some of Paul’s companies questioned the developer. During the deposition, Paul said the former Senate aide applied for a posted job and now works for him as a project manager. A lawyer asked the developer whether Paxton recommended the woman.
“I believe he — I believe he did recommend her,” Paul replied.
Paxton acknowledged his affair with the woman during his hard-fought 2018 reelection campaign at least partially out of concern that it would become public, the people who he told about it said.
That September, Paxton gathered a small group of top staff in his Austin campaign office. A person who attended the meeting said Paxton and his wife, state Sen. Angela Paxton, walked into the conference room holding hands. The attorney general told the group he had an affair but had since ended it and recommitted to his marriage, the person said.
The other person confirmed the meeting took place and said Paxton also spoke with that person separately about his affair with the woman.
Paxton is still awaiting a trial on securities fraud charges in a case that has been stalled for years over legal challenges. He pleaded not guilty in 2015 and went on to win reelection three years later.