Sun August 17, 2014 1:44 pm By Erica Grieder


The indictments announced Friday against Rick Perry don’t fully detail the prosecutor’s evidence against him, and it’s possible that when all the evidence is presented Texans will be united in their desire to see him sent to the pokey. On the basis of the facts as we know them, though, the case against Perry seems no more dispositive to me today than it did in April, when the special prosecutor announced that a grand jury would be seated

To review those facts, in 2013 the Travis County district-attorney, Rosemary Lehmberg, was arrested for drunk driving and sentenced to 45 days in jail. It was a penalty that no one could find fault with after viewing video footage of the field sobriety test and her subsequent behavior at the station that evening (she served about half the sentence and entered a treatment program after leaving prison). A number of Texans felt that she should resign, among them Perry, who publicly warned that he would use his line-item veto to remove state funding to the Public Integrity Unit—an anti-corruption outfit located in the Travis County DA’s office—unless she stepped down. 

At the time, Democrats grumbled that Mr Perry’s threat was politically motivated. The Public Integrity Unit investigates corruption among statewide officials, which means, in the context, that it’s a check on Republicans like Perry and his pals. If Lehmberg stepped down, Perry would, in theory, have had a chance to replace a Democrat with a Republican appointee more friendly to his agenda. And after Lehmberg refused to resign and Perry vetoed the funding, the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice filed a complaint, charging that the veto had been politically motivated. That led to yesterday’s indictments; the charges are coercion and abuse of power. 

Perry, unsurprisingly, responded Saturday by doubling down, dismissing the indictment as “outrageous.” More surprising, perhaps, is how quickly public opinion has moved in his favor, or at least in favor of proceeding with caution. Republicans were quick to rally round, but even independents and Democrats, after the initial fizzle faded, seemed skeptical of the indictment. 

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Sat August 16, 2014 7:39 am By Paul Burka

The indictment of Rick Perry turns Texas politics upside down. He can't be a serious presidential candidate when he is facing a potential jury trial. But it also has serious effects on the state party. An obvious issue is that Greg Abbott has previously ruled that the state could pay for Perry's defense. Does anyone think the Democrats are going to sit idly by and allow Perry to continue to spend large sums of money on his defense when he stands accused of breaking the law? Not a chance.

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Fri August 15, 2014 6:36 pm By Paul Burka

UPDATE: I've included a link to the indictments at the bottom of this post.

Thought Texas politics couldn't get any weirder? A short time ago special prosecutor Michael McCrum announced that a grand jury had indicted Perry on two counts related to his veto of funds for the Public Integrity Unit: coercion of a public official and abuse of official capacity, both of which are felonies. Rosemary Lehmberg, the embattled Travis County district attorney who was involved in an embarrassing drunken driving case last year, argued that Perry's actions amounted to political retribution because her office, which receives state funding for the PIU, oversees that investigative unit. Perry countered that the veto was a result of the fact that Lehmberg had lost the public's confidence in her ability to do her job. The governor's office just released the following statement:

“The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution. We will continue to aggressively defend the governor's lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail.”

Here is a copy of the indictment:

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Fri August 15, 2014 1:42 pm By Paul Burka

I don't think Republicans recognize what is happening to their party in Texas. The GOP is verging on irrelevance. The failure of Texas to land the Republican national convention should have been a wake-up call for the state party. There was a reason why the Republicans chose Cleveland over Dallas: The national Republican party likes us for our money and for our electoral votes, but they don't really want to deal with us. The Republican platform was the final straw. No rational Republican leader would have chosen to put the convention in Dallas when the state party was calling for "reparative therapy."

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Tue August 12, 2014 1:07 pm By Erica Grieder

I was inclined to think that the new Rasmussen poll showing Greg Abbott with a mere 8-point lead against Wendy Davis was an outlier until yesterday, when the campaign issued a statement dinging her as "out-of-touch with Texans" after the Houston Chronicle reported that in 2000, as a member of Fort Worth City Council, she had voted in favor of a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty pending further study and possible changes. Today, Davis says that she supports capital punishment, and the Abbott campaign is suggesting that her previous support for the moratorium gives the lie to that. Her professed change of heart, the statement argues, is just a matter of political expediency, given that a whopping majority of Texans support the death penalty. Capital punishment is one of the relatively few policy areas where Texan public opinion is markedly more conservative than national attitudes. About three-quarters of Texans support the death penalty, as do about 60% of Texas Democrats, and, strikingly, 60% of African-Americans, a result that Rodger Jones puzzled over in the Dallas Morning News earlier this year.

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