The indictment by a Grand Jury in Texas of Governor Rick Perry should send alarm bells to members of both parties. This is the worst kind of prosecutorial overreach that even has left leaning political publications describing as “thin at best.”
Perry was indicted Friday on two counts: abuse of official capacity, a first-degree felony that could carry from five to 99 years in prison; and coercion of a public servant, a third-degree felony that could carry a punishment of two to 10 years. But several legal experts said the indictment itself is thin at best.
RNLA’s Texas Chapter Co-Chair Chris Gober stated:
“The alleged ‘misuse of government property’ and ‘coercion’ actually involved a constitutional exercise of Governor Perry’s veto authority … I am confident there are many Texans who watched that highly damning video of Rosemary Lehmberg’s in jail and believe Governor Perry exercised his veto with that oath in mind,” he said in an email.
The matter under dispute is Perry’s threat to veto. Which is explained as follows:
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg — a Democrat who oversees the state’s Public Corruption unit — was arrested for driving very, very drunk. What followed was a relatively ordinary political dispute. Perry, not unreasonably, urged Lehmberg to resign. Democrats, not unreasonably, resisted out of fear that Perry would replace her with a Republican. Perry, not unreasonably, announced and carried out a threat to veto funding for her agency until Lehmberg resigned.
. . . But that statute [that is being used to indict Perry] also specifically exempts “an official action taken by the member of the governing body.” The prosecutors claim that, while vetoing the bill may be an official action, threatening a veto is not. Of course the threat of the veto is an integral part of its function. The legislature can hardly negotiate with the governor if he won’t tell them in advance what he plans to veto. This is why, when you say the word “veto,” the next word that springs to mind is “threat.” That’s how vetoes work.
The theory behind the indictment is flexible enough that almost any kind of political conflict could be defined as a “misuse” of power or “coercion” of one’s opponents. To describe the indictment as “frivolous” gives it far more credence than it deserves.
The situation is so ridiculous that one or more of President Obama’s top political advisers completely agree with Republicans:
Even some prominent liberals expressed reservations about the strength of the indictment. David Axelrod, a longtime aide to President Barack Obama, tweeted: “Unless he was demonstrably trying to scrap the ethics unit for other than his stated reason, Perry indictment seems pretty sketchy.”
RNLA Board Member Elliot Berke summed it up best:
Elliot Berke, who served as counsel to former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert and also to DeLay, said he believes “any objective judge will see this for what it is — a pretty outrageous attempt to criminalize politics.”