If you’re reading this blog, you’ve no doubt heard the news that Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was indicted by a grand jury on charges he abused his power.
A grand jury has indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, saying he abused his power by trying to pressure a district attorney to resign.
The two felony counts against Perry, a Republican, stem from his threat to veto funding for a statewide public integrity unit run by Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg unless she stepped down, the special prosecutor in the case, Michael McCrum, said.
As the Texas Observer explains, this indictment arises out of a dispute over who will hold one of the few Texas offices with statewide power that is still controlled by a Democrat. Rosemary Lehmberg is that Democrat, and she is the District Attorney for Travis County, Texas. Because Travis County includes Austin, the state capital, her office controls a Public Integrity Unit that investigates alleged ethical breaches by state-level politicians. Among other things, that unit investigated the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, which is accused of improperly distributing grant money — including some grant money that was given to people with close ties to Governor Perry.
In April of 2013, however, Lehmberg was arrested for driving while very, very intoxicated. Hours after her arrest, her blood alcohol level was three times above Texas’ legal limit. She eventually pleaded guilty and spent a few weeks in jail. Yet Lehmberg has refused to step down from her role as District Attorney. According to the Observer, this is because she does not want Perry to have the opportunity to replace her with a Republican.
Perry allegedly crossed the line from an eager partisan hoping to replace a powerful official to a governor who broke the law, however, when he threatened to veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit unless Lehmberg resigned — and then he followed through on this threat. According to one count of the indictment, Perry “by means of coercion . . . influenced or attempted to influence Rosemary Lehmberg . . . in the specific performance of her official duty” — that duty being her obligation “to continue to carry out her responsibilities” as Travis County D.A.