The Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, has been playing hardball lately and it has come back to bite him. He has been indicted by the Travis County Anti-corruption Unit, under the direction of the Travis County District Attorney’s office. In an unsealed indictment opened Friday, August 15th, Perry was indicted on two felony counts and is accused of abuse of office and that he coerced an elected official. If convicted, the governor could go to jail for 109 years. The original complaint was filed by Texans For Public Justice headed up by Craig McDonald. This same group brought a complaint to the anti-corruption unit against Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
There is a history with Travis County that needs to be explored. Travis County covers the city of Austin. It is very liberal in their political views in a very conservative state. The county has a very high Democrat registration advantage. The Anti-corruption Unit, headed by the Travis County District Attorney has state-wide jurisdiction but is elected only locally.
In 1993, State Treasurer Kay Baily Hutchison won a special election for the U.S. Senate. Four months later, the Travis County anti-corruption unit indicted her for misusing her office and employees to plan her Christmas vacation and sending out thank you notes. The initial indictment was thrown out of court because the Grand Jury used an ineligible member. Travis County District Attorney, at that time Ronnie Earle refiled the charges and a Travis County Grand Jury issued the indictment. The Hutchison legal team got the court to issue a change of venue to Fort Worth. On the first day of the trial, the judge dismissed the charges after 30 minutes for lack of evidence.
In 2005, Congressman Tom DeLay, Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, was indicted by Ronnie Earle for illegal fundraising. He was tried in Travis County and in January of 2011 was convicted of violating a campaign finance law that was passed two years after the alleged offense took place. In September of 2013, the Texas Court of Appeals threw out the conviction of DeLay because the evidence was “legally insufficient.” Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County District Attorney, plans to appeal the case further. Mr. DeLay had to resign from Congress and spend his life’s savings to prove his innocence. That seems to be the real purpose of the prosecution, remove DeLay from office and ruin him financially.
That finally brings us to the current indictment of Rick Perry. In 2013, Rosemary Lehmberg, District Attorney for Travis County, was arrested for drunk driving. An open bottle of vodka was found in her car and she tested at three times the legal limit. Upon her arrest, she was abusive to the police and tried to use her position to get the police to drop the charges. Lehmberg was convicted and sentenced to serve 45 days in jail. She served about half her sentence and was released. Governor Perry demanded her removal from office. Lehmberg refused to resign. A Travis County ethics panel reviewed the information and refused to take action.
In the new proposed state budget, there was a provision to fund the anti-corruption unit in Travis County, headed by the District Attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg. The $7.5 million allocation was vetoed by the Governor. Perry said he would not fund the unit until Lehmberg was gone from office. This is the crime Perry is accused of committing. Perry had long ago announced he would not seek another term as Governor of Texas. It is assumed he plans another run for President of the United States. The move by Lehmberg seems to be payback to derail Perry’s run. Perry has denounced the charges and plans to fight the indictment. Perry has said he would veto the funding again if given the chance.
Lehmberg used a Special Prosecutor, Michael McCrum, to bring charges against Perry because of her obvious conflict of interest. It appears neither side will back down. Texas politics is hard and nasty. The run up to the 2016 election is going to be fun for all the political junkies. I can’t wait!