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The Indictment of Rick Perry

The indictment of Governor Rick Perry seems, at first glance, to be a political lawsuit without a substantial legal basis.  The lawsuits stems from the Governor’s threatening to veto and then vetoing funds to a public corruption unit based on the head of the unit having committed the crime of driving while intoxicated.

According to news reports and the prosecutor’s statement, there are two charges in the indictment: “Grand jurors in Travis County charged Mr. Perry with abusing his official capacity and coercing a public servant, according to Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor assigned to the case.”  The first claim is that Governor Perry improperly vetoed the funds passed by the Texas legislature.  The idea seems to be that it was improper for the government to veto funds based on the head of a unit having committed a crime.  The second claim is that he attempted to coerce the head of the public corruption unit to step down after her arrest for drunk driving by threatening to veto the funds unless she resigned.

(While The New York Times merely refers to the arrest of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, she actually was convicted and served time.)

At the federal level, the chief executive’s veto places him in a similar position to a legislator.  Governor Perry asserted that he could not fund public corruption unit because he believed the public had lost faith in the unit since it was headed by an official who had commited a crime.  This would certainly be a legitimate consideration for a member of Congress to consider when deciding what legislation to pass.  A legislator could decide to vote to abolish the office headed by a person who he believed had behaved improperly.  Similarly, a legislator could vote against funding the office for the same reason.  It seems clear that the President could veto a law on the same grounds.

I am not an expert on Texas law, but unless it is very different than federal law, the lawsuit against Rick Perry would appear to be a blatant action of political retaliation – for his veto of the funding of the prosecutorial unit – and an obvious attempt to undermine his possible presidential candidacy.

Update:  Eugene Volokh has more on the indictment and considers the First Amendment issues.

Reader Discussion

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on August 16, 2014 at 11:41:36 am

This follows in the "great" tradition of Ronnie Earle and Tom Delay. DeLay spent three years in prison, and was exonerated, Earle still walks free, and is admired in certain reptilian circles. There are some interesting photos of Lehmberg online, sleeping it off I think is the phrase.

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john trainor
on August 17, 2014 at 03:16:41 am

Perhaps we should ask Gov. Perry to step down because he is intellectually challenged and a corporate whore!

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garry
on August 17, 2014 at 13:55:55 pm

Well, I suppose that since we all work for some sort of corporation, we are all corporate whores - or is it the level of compensation that makes us whores - sort of like being just a wee bit pregnant

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gabe
on August 17, 2014 at 15:38:19 pm

garry, if Obama doesn't have his hand out to the big money boys, and raking it in, we would all be surprised. The same for the corporations, or is it only non-profits your comfortable with?
Be careful, it is a sign of either a closed or worse, a dim mind that intelligence is the province of centralized power politics and its adherents. A true cop out.

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john trainor

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.