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“Rick Perry’s Clown Show”: A Real Ham — Only Not As Smart

Trial lawyers will tell you that any good prosecutor could convince a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.

Well, meet that ham sandwich! Here in my burg of Austin, Texas, a grand jury has just indicted Gov. Rick “Rooti-Toot-Toot” Perry, a real ham — only not as smart. He’s charged with official abuse of power — specifically, threatening to veto all state funding for a public integrity unit that, among other things, was investigating corrupt favoritism in one of the governor’s pet projects. Perry was trying to muscle out of office the woman who is the duly elected head of that unit, presumably to halt its inquiry. Leave office, he publicly barked at her, or I’ll take away all your money. She didn’t, and he did.

Not smart, for that’s an illegal quid pro quo, much like linking a campaign donation to an official favor. This led to a judge, a special prosecutor, a grand jury and now the indictment of the gubernatorial ham sandwich.

Perry and his Republican operatives quickly denounced and even threatened both the special prosecutor and the jurors as partisan hacks who, in Rick’s words, “will be held to account.” Thuggish as that is, the national media have mostly swallowed Perry’s hokum that he’s the victim, indicted for nothing more than exercising his veto power. It’s crude politics, Rick howled. But political candidates should avoid getting defensive — as old-timers put it, any candidate who’s explaining is losing.

So it’s a hoot to watch Gov. Rick “Oops” Perry try to explain away his felony indictment for abusing his gubernatorial power. His first ploy has been to try dodging real questions by turning the indictment into a circus.

He literally mugged for the cameras when getting his mugshot taken as he turned this courthouse moment into a raucous Republican political rally. Image consultants had advised him to ditch the horn-rimmed glasses that previous image makers had told him to wear so he’d look smarter. Also, he wore a light-blue tie, for the consultants said that color conveys trust. Of course, he always coifs his trademark hair, but they also told him to apply skin makeup to avert any sweaty look and to put cool packs on his eyes on the morning of the shot so he wouldn’t look haggard or … well, guilty. Think pleasant thoughts as the picture is snapped, they instructed, and smile — but a humble smile, not an overconfident one.

Perry did all of the above, except the humble smile, giving his usual arrogant smirk instead. The day before his courthouse circus opened, Ringmaster Rick brought in the clowns — a whole troupe of $450-an-hour, hotshot lawyers wearing red power ties, came blustering onstage with Perry from out of a back room, as though tumbling out of a tiny clown car. Introduced as the indictee’s legal dream team, each tried to outdo the other in a slapstick show of résumés, puffing themselves up as junkyard-tough lawyers who would shred this prosecutor and his flimsy case. Meant to show how strong Perry is, the pack of lawyers only raised another question for Perry in the public mind: If the charges against you are nothing, as you keep saying, why do you need so many heavyweight, extremely pricey lawyers?

Perry has hornswoggled the pundits, but don’t let them fool you — Perry clearly abused his power as governor. Again, the issue is not Perry’s veto, but his linking of a veto threat to his effort to oust an elected public official. As for his hamming it up about being a poor victim of Democrats, the judge who appointed the prosecutor is a Republican, and the prosecutor himself was nominated to federal office by President Bush I, and endorsed by Texas’ Republican senators. This indictment is not a show. It’s way more serious than Perry is, and the real explaining he’ll have to do will be in a somber courthouse — under oath. To keep up with Perry’s circus, go to Texans for Public Justice at


By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, August 27, 2014

August 28, 2014 Posted by | Abuse of Power, Rick Perry, Texas | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“When Rick Perry Said And Did Nothing”: Two Other District Attorneys Faced The Same Charges Under Similar Circumstances

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) legal troubles started over a year ago, when Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving. After an ugly scene in April 2013, Lehmberg, a Democrat, pleaded guilty, apologized, and served 20 days behind bars.

Despite the fact that this was the district attorney’s first offense, Perry called for her resignation. Lehmberg refused. As we discussed over the weekend, this set a series of steps in motion: the governor announced that if she did not resign, he would use his veto power to strip her office of its state funding. When Lehmberg ignored the threat, the governor followed through and vetoed the funding, in the process scrapping resources for the Texas Public Integrity Unit.

Now, for those who are skeptical of the case against Perry, the governor’s actions hardly seem unreasonable. Indeed, it’s not exactly outrageous to think a governor would want to see a district attorney step down after she spent a few weeks in jail.

But the Dallas Morning News added an interesting wrinkle to this argument.

Rick Perry was outraged at the spectacle of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s drunken-driving arrest last year. But he didn’t feel that strongly when two other district attorneys faced the same charges under similar circumstances.

In those cases, he said and did nothing.

This is no small detail. If Perry was convinced a DUI was a disqualifier for a district attorney, why did the governor apply this standard so selectively?

Democratic strategist Jason Stanford put it this way: “The key difference was that one of the DAs was investigating his administration for corruption and the other two DAs weren’t.”

In 2009, for example, a Kaufman County D.A. was convicted of drunk driving, his second offense. Perry’s office said nothing, dismissing it as a local issue.

In 2002, a Swisher County district attorney was found guilty of aggravated DWI, which came against the backdrop of a scandal involving the prosecutor and a sting operation gone wrong. Again, Perry said nothing.

So why would the governor rely on different standards? Jason Stanford, the Democratic strategist, added that Perry treated Lehmberg differently “in a way that makes you question what his motives were. And he had a real clear motive because she’s investigating him for corruption” in connection with a cancer-fund scandal.

I realize many on the left and right have been quick to dismiss this case on the merits. That said, I can’t help but wonder if they were a little too quick in their judgments.

Update: I heard from Gov. Perry’s press secretary this morning, who passed along an affidavit from Chris Walling, a former investigator with the Public Integrity Unit, who said the governor was not a target in the cancer-fund scandal.


By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, August 21, 2014

August 24, 2014 Posted by | Abuse of Power, Rick Perry, Texas | , , , | 2 Comments

“Innocent Before Proven Guilty?”: The Bizarre Bipartisan Rush To Clear Rick Perry

If you’re planning a second presidential bid — especially if your last one didn’t go so well — getting indicted would seem to be, at the very least, a major roadblock.

But the news that Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is facing felony charges has so far brought the man nothing but support and sympathy. As the Texas Observer’s Forrest Wilder put it, “Judging from the reaction of national pundits and journalists, the verdict in the case of State of Texas vs. James Richard ‘Rick’ Perry is already in: Rick Perry is not just innocent; he’s being railroaded by liberal Democrats in a vindictive, politically motivated prosecution.”

On both the right and the left, politicos have sympathized with the governor, arguing the case is nothing but a political witch hunt. “Sketchy” is how David Axelrod described the whole affair.

Rather than taking a hit, Perry has managed to turn his ordeal into an indictment of the apparently oh-so-powerful liberal establishment in Texas. He’s largely played offense. On Tuesday, he got booked, smiled through his mug shot, then went out for ice cream at Austin-favorite Sandy’s. His statement on the charges explained that “this indictment amounts to nothing more than an abuse of power and I cannot, and will not, allow that to happen.”

The greatest irony with Perry being cast as victim is that the many charges of cronyism and legalized corruption that have long dogged his tenure are now at risk of fading to the background — just part of those ostensibly trumped-up integrity charges.

But the highlights alone show a theme. Perry’s biggest backer, the late home-building magnate Bob Perry (no relation), once got his own commission, the Texas Residential Construction Commission, which largely shielded builders from consumer complaints. In another case, Perry mandated an HPV vaccine for all Texas girls after his former chief of staff, Mike Toomey, became a lobbyist for the vaccine maker, Merck. Then there was the time construction firm HNTB hired former Perry spokesman and friend Ray Sullivan less than a year after he left the governor’s office; from 2004 to 2009, when Sullivan returned to Perry’s staff, the company got $300 million worth of state contracts. (One $45 million contract, for disaster recovery, had to be canceled after the company disastrously mismanaged rebuilding from Hurricane Ike.)

For now, the indictment gives Perry more allies than he has any right to expect, which allows him to gain distance from charges of corruption on every front.

Of course, that might not last.

The charges aren’t nearly as straightforwardly bunk as many reports make them sound. In 2013, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving and displayed appalling behavior — screaming and crying and spitting — as she was pulled over and cuffed, all of it caught on camera. Many thought she should resign, but Perry uniquely stood to gain from her departure. Housed within the Travis County DA’s office is the Public Integrity Unit, which investigates and prosecutes corruption in the state. It’s one of the most significant checks on the power Perry has amassed in his 14 years in office. Had Lehmberg resigned, Perry would have appointed her successor.

Perry threatened to veto all funding for the Public Integrity Unit if Lehmberg didn’t resign. And when Lehmberg didn’t step down, the state funding got cut. But Perry, through intermediaries, continued to make offers in exchange for her resignation, including a promise to return funding to the office and another position for Lehmberg within the DA’s office. Though no one disputes that the governor has the power to veto funds or to call for a DA’s resignation, Perry’s guilt or innocence rests on whether these threats and promises amount to an illegal coercion of public officials.

Though some national pundits have claimed a liberal witch hunt because a left-leaning group, Texans for Public Justice, filed the complaint against Perry, it was actually a Republican judge, Bert Richardson, who gave the case to special prosecutor Michael McCrum, a man who’s received support from Democrats and Republicans. We still don’t know what evidence McCrum has gathered in his investigation.

It’s certainly possible that as the case drags out and more information comes to light, Perry will lose his glow of invincibility. Even if the evidence is not enough for a guilty verdict, it may still hang Perry in the courtroom of public opinion. But these aren’t easy cases to prove, and Perry has assembled an impressive team to combat the charges.

For now, Perry should be pretty pleased with turning what should have been a black eye into some sort of beauty mark. He might even go out and get more ice cream to celebrate.


By: Abby Rapoport, Freelance Reporter in Austin, Texas; The Week, August 22, 2014

August 23, 2014 Posted by | Abuse of Power, Rick Perry, Texas | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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