Last week, a grand jury in Austin, Texas indicted Governor Rick Perry on two counts of abusing his official office. The charges stem from a public threat Perry made to veto appropriations to a department of the Travis County District Attorney’s office after the DA was arrested for drunk driving and displayed hostile behavior to law enforcement personnel. While the case against Perry seems extraordinarily weak, the indictment is the latest indication that the left will use all tools available to pursue its political ends.
Last summer, Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving in Austin. The Democrat politician had a blood-alcohol level of .238, almost three times the legal limit. Soon after her arrest, a video surfaced showing her acting belligerent to arresting officers and attempting to use political influence to intimidate them.
The Travis County DA is not just a local elected official. The office oversees a “public integrity unit” which is empowered to investigate corruption by state government officials. In the wake of the arrest, Perry called on Lehmberg to resign and threatened to veto state funds for the integrity unit if she refused to step down. She refused. Perry vetoed the $7.5 million in funds. The leftwing Texans for Public Justice filed an ethics complaint against Perry’s veto. That complaint was the basis of the grand jury indictment.
Perry, in other words, was indicted for being Governor. The Texas constitution grants the Governor broad veto powers, including the ability to nix specific lines of language or appropriations. Issuing “threats” over vetoes is a political tool used by every governor, and president, in US history. One may not agree with an individual governor’s decision on a veto, but that is why our system has elections. A criminal indictment for this action is simply trying to shift the political battle from the ballot box to the courtroom.
Even the liberal news side ThinkProgress called foul on the indictment, arguing it would “rework the balance of power between the executive and the legislature established by the state constitution, and they would almost certainly be unconstitutional.”
Travis County is bastion of leftist political power in the state and has a history of using the law against Republicans. In 2010, Democrat officials in the county convicted former House Majority Leader Tom Delay of an allegedly illegal campaign fundraising operation. That conviction was subsequently tossed out by a state appeals court.
This isn’t just a Texas phenomenon. Earlier this year, Democrat prosecutors in Wisconsin released information that they were investigating campaign fundraising involving the Scott Walker campaign for possible criminal activity. Walker himself was not a subject of the investigation, but that nuance was lost in news accounts of the investigation.
Earlier this week, it was announced that left-wing hit man David Brock was taking over as Chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a center-left public watchdog. While CREW primarily targeted Republican politicians for scrutiny, it also occasionally held Democrat officials to account. According to Politico, this apparent apostasy may have complicated efforts to raise money from wealthy Democratic donors.”
Politico reports that Brock’s takeover of CREW “will be supplemented still further by the formation of a new overtly partisan watchdog group called The American Democracy Legal Fund, which is already preparing complaints against high-profile Republicans, including Michigan GOP Senate candidate Terry Lynn Land.”
In 2008, career prosecutors at the Justice Department pursued corruption charges against then-Sen. Ted Stevens. The investigation doomed Stevens’ reelection when he was convicted just days before the election. His loss gave Democrats a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Stevens’ conviction was later thrown out after evidence of prosecutorial misconduct surfaced. Stevens died just over a year after being exonerated.
The Perry indictment will likely not stand legal scrutiny. It is evidence, however, of how far the left will go to achieve their political ends. With polling turning sharply against President Obama and the policies of the left, this “lawfare” against Republicans will increase.