In and amidst all the news Friday came word from the Lone Star State that Texas Gov. Rick Perry had been indicted over allegations of public coercion and abuse of power. By now, as Booman points out in his article over at Booman Tribune, there are a lot of suppositions, rumors and random chatterings going about as a result, but there are a few solid thoughts over this indictment against Gov. Perry that come to mind…
First, by most legal accounts, this is going to be a difficult indictment to prove in court as the bulk of the indictment centers around Gov. Perry’s threat to veto – and subsequent veto of – funding for the Travis County DA’s Public Integrity Unit. Now, at first glance, this sounds very coercive – and given the circumstances at the time and the particulars surrounding the threatened veto – it may well have sounded coercive. However, as some have pointed out in the media, there was a partisan – wait, very partisan tilt – to this and that may’ve played into the indictments as well.
How so? For this reason: like most judicial offices in this country, most district attorneys’ offices are partisan offices for purposes of elections and like a good number of urban countries, Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmburg is a Democrat in a decidedly Republican state. Had she resigned following her arrest and conviction for a DUI back in 2013, Gov. Perry would’ve likely appointed a Republican to replace her, which would’ve allowed him to control the sole office in Texas that investigates public corruption by state officials. This is because, unlike in most states, where it is the purview of the state attorney general to investigate such cases, in Texas that power is given solely…to the Travis County District Attorney.
Form a partisan perspective, it is no wonder that Democrats’ screamed bloody murder over Perry’s threat – and subsequent veto of – funding for the Travis Co. office tasked with investigating public corruption…and why Republicans vociferously rushed to Perry’s defense. Given the situation, I don’t blame them for defending Perry’s actions here. What DA Lehmburg did was reprehensible and in most states, would’ve likely prevented her from re-assuming her duties as District Attorney (at least that’s the rule in North Carolina…case in point: former Durham County, NC district attorney Mike Nifong).
However, if this becomes the standard for abuse-of-power & public coercion indictments, then the standard for such indictments will have truly fallen for such indictments…and I say that as someone who has zero love whatsoever for Governor Goodhair. As I look at it, what Governor Perry did what equally reprehensible, for in vetoing funding to the Travis Co. PIU, he effectively shut down on-going investigations into corruption cases across the state, including a few that might have a bearing on the political fortunes of Texas GOP Gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, especially when you consider that the Texas AG’s office had, by most accounts, zero interest in pursuing those cases.
FWIW, I agree with Booman’s perspective here: what we have with the Perry indictments are a case of someone acting in a very coercive and abusive manner that doesn’t quite reach the standard needed for a conviction. On the other hand, as he also points, this effectively torpedoes Perry’s nascent presidential aspirations, so even if the indictments don’t pan out, the damage to Perry’s political future may well already have been done.