Rick Perry arrest: Was Perry right to withhold funding because of the D.A.'s drunk driving conviction?

  • Everything was done according to the law.

    Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg was busted for drunk driving (her blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit, she was driving erratically into oncoming traffic, and she had an open bottle of vodka in her car). She also acted aggressively following her arrest, telling officers that she was a district attorney and that they were going to be the ones who would wind up behind bars. She eventually plead guilty and was sentenced to 45 days in jail and fined $4,000.

    Perry thought she ought to resign, and threatened to veto funding for a specialized unit under her command if she didn't. When she refused to resign, Perry made good on his threat and vetoed the proposed $7.5 million funding for an investigative unit that reports to her, a clear exercise of his executive power under Article 4, Section 14 of the Texas Constitution, a power shared by every state governor and by the president.

    That veto wasn't overridden by the required two-thirds of both houses of the Texas legislature, so the funds weren't appropriated. What would usually be just another day in Austin turned into a large debacle, as Lehmberg convened a grand jury to grant an indictment against the Governor, for doing something the Texas Constitution allows him to do.

    The first charge levied against him in the indictment involves the alleged “misuse” of government property worth over $200,000 (a first degree felony) in violation of Tex. Penal Code § 39.02. The second count involves an alleged attempt to influence a public servant in a specific exercise of his official power or a specific performance of his official duty by means of coercion (seemingly a felony in the third degree, although that is a bit unclear) in violation of Texas Penal Code § 36.03.

    Now, was Perry's attempt to get an intoxicated and belligerent DA to resign constitute "misuse" of his veto power? Clearly not. The Texas Constitution gives the governor the authority to decide which laws, which would include spending bills, to approve and which to disapprove. And how does one place a value on a veto anyway? Presumably, the bill that included the proposed appropriation isn’t worth more than $200,000 — in fact, it isn’t worth anything, at least not until after the governor signs it and the funds are actually appropriated.

    The second charge (the alleged violation of § 36.03) is even more spurious. Beyond the same line-drawing problems that are evident in the first count of the indictment, § 36.03 explicitly provides that a public official (in this case the Governor) cannot be found guilty of coercing a public servant if he is merely exercising his official powers (in this case, vetoing a bill).

    This indictment is sheer political theater. While the Travis County DA was not required to step down following her own drunk driving shenanigans, she certainly shouldn't be ginning up charges against Perry who was just doing his job. This indictment is a disgrace and should be dismissed.

  • Rick Perry will be exhonorated

    Rick Perry as governor of Texas was entitled to do what he saw fit with the funding. While maybe not the popular opinion it is fact. I whole-heartedly believe he will cleared of all charges. With 2016 coming and his mention of a possible presidency run, this is nothing but a witch hunt.

  • Perry's rationale was sound

    I'm not a fan or Rick Perry, but his rationale for withholding funding made sense. The attorney had a DUI conviction, which is a very serious charge, and I would agree with Perry's statement that she had lost the public trust. While this issue has political elements to it, I certainly cant blame Perry for trying to pressure her to step down.

  • No Rick Perry was wrong to withhold funding for any state department for political gain.

    Rick Perry as the governor of the Texas has the responsibility to ensure the government's legal obligation to its citizens are met. By denying funding to a District Attorney's office for non-work conduct of the DA (drunk driving conviction) he was abusing his power and inflicting harm on the citizens of the state of Texas.

  • No, he wasn't

    The behavior that he was trying to punish was deplorable but that doesn't make it his job to use his political position to dictate if a person stays or goes. They're supposed to have the common sense to resign, and if not the odds of them surviving the next election weren't very good. Who he was going after was a scumbag but that doesn't mean him trying to strongarm them out was acceptable.

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