Political Payback: Indictment Costs Rick Perry More than $2 Million — So Far

Rick Perry Legal Team - AP Photo Jay Janner
AP Photo/Jay Janner

Rick Perry, Republican presidential candidate, and former governor of Texas, has had to pay more than $2 million to date to defend against criminal claims that many see as political “payback.”

As reported by Breitbart News, a Travis County grand jury indicted then-Governor Perry for abuse of power and coercion stemming from his threat to veto, and his ultimate veto, of $7.5 million in funding for the public integrity unit of the Travis County district attorney’s office.

Maximum punishment on the charge of abuse of power is five to 99 years in prison. The coercion charge carries a possible sentence of two to 10 years.

Perry got crossways with District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg when he told her to resign. The DA had been arrested and plead guilty to drunken driving in 2013. As reported by Breitbart Texas, an unflattering video recording of Lehmberg showed her kicking at her cell door and yelling at staffers. She was also seen sticking her tongue out, and was eventually subdued with face, arm, and leg restraints. Her blood alcohol level was 0.239 – almost three times the legal limit. Lehmberg served time in jail but stayed in office.

Perry carried out his veto threat when Lehmberg did not resign.

No Texas governor has ever been indicted for using the lawful power of veto but a leftist group called Texans for Public Justice called for Perry’s indictment. The group wrote a letter to the Travis County DA public integrity office and asked for an investigation. They alleged that Perry’s use of his veto power in this manner constituted criminal behavior.

After his indictment was announced in August 2014, the sitting governor responded with the following statement, “The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution.” His general counsel stated, “We will continue to aggressively defend the governor’s lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail.”

Breitbart Texas reported in mid-January that Perry had passed the $1 million mark for his legal defense. At that time he had paid five law firms approximately $1,074,240. He had also paid $76,000 for legal defense consulting. The figures were gleaned from Perry’s campaign finance report filed by his PAC, Texans for Rick Perry.

Documents released on Thursday show that Perry has gone over the $2 million mark. In the first six months of 2015, he has paid $978,227.00 in legal fees and costs.

Perry has hired an all-star defense team and he says, “I intend to fight, and I intend to win.”  High-ranking public officials in Texas have declared their support for Perry and decried the indictments.

Perry has spoken out about the “partisan” indictment and has called it an “outrageous” abuse of power. He said, “I took an oath to faithfully uphold the Constitution of the state of Texas. a pledge I have kept every day as I worked on behalf of Texans for the last 14 years. that’s the same constitution. That clearly outlines the authority of any governor to veto items at his or her discretion.”

He added, “It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state’s constitution. This indictment amounts to nothing more than abuse of power, and I cannot and I will not allow that to happen. I intend to fight against those who would erode our state’s constitution and laws purely for political purposes and I intend to win.”

Those from the far-left have called Perry’s indictment “pretty thin,” “sketchy,” and “fishy.” Even liberal Democrat Professor Alan Dershowitz, called the indictment “a political witchhunt.”  

The 2015 Texas legislature changed the law and moved the power to investigate crimes to the Texas Rangers, and to district attorneys where a crime is alleged to have occurred.

Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. She has served as a prosecutor and an associate family court judge. Follow her on Twitter@LanaShadwick2