Texas Governor Perry Indicted for Abuse of Power

Is the indictment handed down Wednesday against Texas Governor Rick Perry a righteous corruption case or a bogus political vendetta?  It may be too early to tell.

The two-count indictment came down on August 15, charging Perry with Abuse of Official Capacity and Coercion of Public Servant.   These two felony counts charge that Perry abused his executive power by first threatening and then using his line item veto power to cut funding to the Public Integrity Unit of the District Attorney for Travis County, wherein lies the state capital of Austin.

D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg had been investigating a Texas state cancer center that may have been a little too generous in awarding research grants to some of Perry’s political allies.   Then she got arrested for drunk driving, and Perry threatened to cut off funding to Public Integrity Unit unless she resigned.

The indictment has been criticized in unlikely quarters as prosecutorial overreach motivated by politics and bad blood.  The New York Times, brilliantly defending Perry while simultaneously trashing him, put it this way:

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is one of the least thoughtful and most damaging state leaders in America, having done great harm to immigrants, abortion clinics and people without health insurance during his 14 years in office. But bad political judgment is not necessarily a felony, and the indictment handed up against him on Friday — given the facts so far — appears to be the product of an overzealous prosecution.

On the other hand, a recent Wall Street Journal article described Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor who brought the indictment, as a “steadfastly apolitical straight shooter.”  McCrum is a former police officer and federal prosecutor, who was appointed special prosecutor by a Republican state judge.

Regardless of whether the charges stick, it is an unwelcome distraction and black eye for Perry.  “Indicted Sitting Governor” is not the label you want if you’re planning another run for the White House.

 

Perry Cartoon

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