Eyes turn to Texas ... and Gov. Perry
Let’s turn around a phrase from a popular Texas tune, the one about the “eyes of Texas.”
An indictment has turned the eyes of the nation on Texas, namely the state’s lame-duck governor, Rick Perry.
The indictment came from a Travis County grand jury that has charged Perry with two felony counts of abuse of power and coercion. The grand jury indicted Perry over his veto of money appropriated for the Travis County district attorney’s office. The abuse of power charge carries a potential decades-long prison sentence; the coercion charge is a lesser felony.
This case has loads of intrigue. The DA in question is Democrat Rosemary Lehmberg, who pleaded guilty to drunk driving. She also runs the public integrity unit out of her office. Perry is a Republican serving his final year as governor and he has been considered a probable candidate for president in 2016.
The question has arisen: Did the governor abuse his authority by vetoing the funds for the public integrity unit? He’s getting support from some interesting sources. Republicans naturally are rallying behind the governor. He’s also gotten support from at least one unlikely source, self-proclaimed liberal Democrat Alan Dershowitz, a famed Harvard University Law School professor and criminal defense lawyer.
Perry is vowing to fight the indictment. He calls it pure politics. Others suggest the indictment will hold up and that it might have dealt a mortal wound to the governor’s expected presidential candidacy.
Lehmberg has served jail time for the drunk driving incident. She isn’t seeking re-election.
Perry’s veto has been seen as legal in the technical sense. The issue, according to Ross Ramsey of the Texas Tribune, is that the governor made a lot of noise about vetoing the funds prior to issuing the veto.
As Ramsey noted: “The threat is the thing. Had the governor simply cut the funding without saying anything — especially in public, but even in private — this would just be a strange veto. That is not unprecedented.”
The intrigue is deepening now with the indictment hanging over the governor’s head. Even after he leaves office, we’ll still be talking about ex-Gov. Perry.
Let’s all stay tuned to see how this drama plays out.