A Real Political Witch-Hunt: the Indictment of Rick Perry

On Friday, August 15th, Governor Rick Perry of Texas was indicted by a grand jury convened in Travis County for abuse of power. He has been charged with a first-degree felony, abuse of official capacity, and a third-degree felony, coercion of a public servant. As a possible 2016 GOP presidential contender, this can sink Perry. But we must remember that he has been charged, not convicted. Furthermore, numerous voices from both the right and the left are calling this indictment politically motivated and a far reach and Perry himself has described the indictment as a blatant political move. I for one feel compelled to agree.


The indictment comes from the Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. Lehmberg who is a Democrat heads up the Public Integrity Unit, a unit which investigates lawmakers for ethics violations. In April 2013, Lehmberg was found guilty of driving drunk with a BAC three times the legal limit. Furthermore while in custody as caught on film, she acted belligerent, threatened police and repeatedly attempted to use her position to secure her own release. As a DA, one would expect Lehmberg to hold herself to a higher standard but not only did she fail to do so, she then refused to abdicate her office even after serving 45 days in jail.

After demanding Lehmberg resign under the threat of a veto to which she failed to do, Perry vetoed $7.5 million in funding for her unit as a way to force her to step down; both individual acts which are completely legal. In asking Lehmberg to step down, Perry was exercising his right of free speech. In using the line item veto, Perry was exercising his right as the Governor of Texas. There can be a political dimension to this since Perry has the power to appoint Lehmberg's replacement had she stepped down. This would allow Perry to place a GOP operative in Democrat controlled Austin Texas. Regardless, one can't blame Perry for his actions. If it was just the DWI, I would still expect Lehmberg as a DA and supposed upholder of the law to resign immediately but the circumstances of it and her actions make her staying in the position completely indefensible.

Noted Democrats including strategist David Axelrod and Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz view the indictment as suspect and completely lacking. For asking a corrupt and disgraced DA to step down and vetoing funding for a state agency, Perry faces 5 to 99 years in prison. Since when do we use the courts for political purposes rather than the voting booths? The case made by prosecutors against Perry is that while he is legally allowed to veto funding, he can't threaten to do so. I'm sorry but there is no point to a veto without a threat, the threat is a way of coercion to force a compromise thus preventing the veto; that's how it works.

Now if the indictment goes sour and Perry emerges victorious he will be a hero and the Democrats who are most vocally supporting this will have made themselves targets for the GOP. I have little doubt that what this indictment represents is a political witch-hunt and a poorly conceived one at that. Right now there is no evidence against Perry; the basis of wrongdoing is solely his threat to veto funding. DA Lehmberg could have resigned semi-gracefully and not have tarnished her decades of public service, instead she chose perhaps at the urging of Texas Democrats to stay in her seat. Perry did what was right and for that he is being targeted by those who care more about partisan politics than what is right and wrong. I wait to see how this proceeds but as of now, I see Perry prevailing. And, if he emerges victorious, he will be that much stronger for 2016.

Posted by SPBrooker at August 19, 2014 10:38 AM
Comments
Comment #382206

In your article, you neglect to mention that the DA in question was investigating Perry for political corruption. There was suspicion that Perry improperly used $11 million given to a medical research institution as a way of rewarding cronies who were not qualified to receive those grants, jobs, and other funds.

In any case, Perry will have his day in court. It is hard to see how he would be stronger for beating the rap. It is easy to see how being convicted for a felony would put a damper on his plans.

Posted by: phx8 at August 21, 2014 11:51 AM
Comment #382223

Hmmm, it make you wonder why the DA didn’t indict Perry for improper use of 11 million. If there was a case there that would have been the way to go. Having to use her position to get even for the DUI makes me think perhaps there is no grounds for the improper use of funds either. We should ask Tom Delay how this could be.

Posted by: Weary Willie at August 21, 2014 7:26 PM
Comment #382275

From what I’ve read Perry was going to appoint Lehmberg’s assistant DA also a democrat to replace her so as not to make it a political issue.


“But several officials and sources told the Express-News that Perry — through intermediaries — offered various options to Lehmberg to entice her resignation, culminating in promises to restore funding to the unit, another position in the District Attorney’s office, and selection of her top lieutenant to serve as the new district attorney.”

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/politics/article/Perry-aides-offered-Lehmberg-a-job-for-resignation-5427558.php

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