Mike Toth – a member of embattled Texas AG Ken Paxton’s inner circle – won the GOP primary for a seat on the important Austin Court of Appeals yesterday. Observers wonder about Toth’s impartiality in light of his aggressive out-of-state fundraising that violated the voluntary ethical guidelines that almost every judicial candidate in Texas follows. At one point almost one-third of Toth’s campaign cash came from out of state – something very unusual in a normally somewhat obscure down ballot judicial race.
According to the Texas Observer, Toth soaked up cash from controversial right wing billionaire Peter Thiel and from John Thayer , former hedge fund manager from Greenwich, Connecticut who notified the Texas Ethics Commission that would exceed the $5,000 expenditure cap that all normal judicial candidates agree to. Other questionable funds have flowed to Toth personally and politically. Joel Lumer, a Florida lawyer claiming to be a long-time friend of Toth’s, contributed $10,000 to Toth and also gave Toth’s family $24,000 for their children’s college funds [plus a Canon Ef 200mm lens and a “monetary gift” of $2,268], according to campaign records and personal financial statements on file with the Texas Ethics Commission. Who gives someone else $24,000 for their kids’ college education without expecting something in return?
To top it off, Toth has waged an unconventional campaign as if he were running for Congress – not a judicial post where you are supposed to be impartial. Toth touted his Tea Party and Trumpian bona fides and left little doubt in Red’s mind that he will be a judicial activist of the most pernicious sort – one using the old saw of substantive due process to knock out laws that he personally disagrees with and running roughshod over the legislative process. Toth’s claim to rule impartially on the facts and the law if elected seems especially doubtful in light of his over right-wing campaign designed to push the GOP’s hot buttons.
Former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Phillips appeared appalled by Toth’s right-wing campaign.
Phillips, a Republican said, “he had never seen anything quite like” the mailer Toth sent out. “I’m concerned anytime a judicial candidate suggests, even indirectly, that his or her election will lead to a particular policy outcome,” Phillips said. “To conduct a campaign based on your view of hot-button political issues confuses rather than enlightens the electorate.”
Red is endorsing Gisela Triana – sight unseen – against the unfolding ethical nightmare that Toth seems to embody.