On August 15, 2014 a Texas Grand Jury indicted Governor Rick Perry on two felony counts. These charges have nothing to do with bribery, as the Governor said he thought while speaking in New Hampshire. They are basically an abuse of power charge against the Governor. It happened something like this.
Rosemary Lehmberg the Travis County District Attorney with the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office was arrested and convicted with DWI. This outraged the Governor so bad, he publicly threatened to veto the funding for the Public Integrity Unit unless Lehmberg resigned her post. When Lehmberg refused to resign, he did veto the funding for her unit.
Lehmberg is a Democrat who was elected by the Travis County electorate. Coincidently, the Public Integrity Unit was investigating some of Perry’s cronies at the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas at the time he sought to force her out, and replace her with his own appointee.
Let us be clear. Texas is a Red State. Travis County on the other hand is a Blue and progressive County. So, the national media immediately painted this as “sour grapes” and declared the indictment as frivolous. But there are some things that have not been clearly reported by the national press.
Even though Travis County is a Democratic county, there were no Democrats involved in the case. The Grand Jury was called by McCrum, a respected conservative former federal prosecutor. Republican U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison once recommended McCrum for the job of U.S. attorney for the Western District of Texas. McCrum could have dismissed the complaint. Instead, he took it to a grand jury.
Even before McCrum was appointed, the case went before two Republican judges who could have dismissed the case before it even started. Neither of these judges saw fit to dismiss the case, and the second judge was the one who appointed McCrum as Special Prosecutor.
Another issue in this case is that Perry remained silent when two different Republican district attorneys were previously convicted of DWI. One hit another vehicle and it was his second offense. But, Perry didn’t see any need for them to step down from office. So, why all of the outrage in this case?
Some, even on the left, are saying the indictment is an attack on the Governor’s right to veto. That is not the true anymore than if the Governor vetoed a bill in receipt of a bribe. As it was said, you may have the right to vote, but you don’t have the right to “sell” your vote. Using a veto threat in order to force a public official to resign is just as egregious.
It is fascinating to see the national media kind of blow off this indictment as political games, while the two biggest papers in Texas are taking the charges very seriously. Jeff Cohen, of the Houston Chronicle, and Keven Ann Willey, of the Dallas Morning News, the state’s two largest dailies, both of which have editorialized in support of seeing the investigation proceed:
The Chronicle wrote that the indictments “suggest that the longest-serving governor in Texas history has grown too accustomed to getting his way when it comes to making sure that virtually every key position in state government is occupied by a Perry loyalist.” The Morning News editorial board stated: “It’s in every Texan’s best interests for the charges against Perry, whatever your view of them, to traverse the entire judicial system as impartially as possible.”
Investigative journalism is supposed to be the keystone of the media. Unfortunately, the national media doesn’t seem to be very interested in that process anymore. Investigative journalism costs money and is expensive to produce. The national media seems more interested in sound bites that are less expensive to produce, but still bring in ratings and money.
If it wasn’t for investigative journalism, we may have never gotten to the bottom of Watergate. I am not comparing this to Watergate, but the lack of investigative journalism by national media is puzzling at best. Before any judgement of this case is made by media and/or pundits, we must let the case run its course. It may turn out that Perry will win the case and be cleared of any wrongdoing. On the other hand, a Grand Jury in his own state determined there was enough evidence to proceed with a trial.
I guess if we really want to know the exact nature of the case we will have to depend on local Texas reports and not the national media.