Dave Kemp is a friend of mine who happens to be a lawyer who works in the public sector.
He knows Texas law better than most folks, including me. He put something on Facebook today about Gov. Rick Perry’s indictment that is worth sharing here.
Kemp writes: “There is a lot of spin going on involving the Governor’s felony indictments. Here are my observations: 1. Whether or not the Travis County DA should have resigned is not the question. The question is did the governor violate the Texas Penal Code by trying to force her to resign. Therefore, Perry should stop trashing Ms. Lehmberg, who has paid the price for her own criminal conduct – she pled guilty and served jail time. And a removal suit against her was unsuccessful. So … focus on your own conduct, Governor. 2. What business it is of the governor if the DA doesn’t resign? That’s what elections and removal suits are for. The governor had no responsibility for the DA’s conduct. We must conclude that at best he was using bullying tactics that he would condemn if a Washington politician tried using. 3. What collateral damage did the governor do by cutting the funding for the Public Integrity Unit? It certainly didn’t harm the DA. But it could have harmed other criminal investigations. The veto was an irresponsible act.”
The most interesting element in this post is contained smack in the middle of it.
“What business is it of the governor if the DA doesn’t resign? That’s what elections and removal suits are for.”
A grand jury indicted Perry on two felony counts of abuse of power and coercion. He demanded that Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg resign after her drunk-driving conviction. If she didn’t do as he demanded, he then threatened to veto money for the public integrity unit her office operates. She didn’t quit; he vetoed the money.
Kemp’s point is a valid one.
Gov. Perry became entangled in what essentially is a local political matter. I agree that Lehmberg behaved badly; she broke the law and should have resigned. I said so, too, at the time. She didn’t listen to me, either.
However, for the governor to then carry this fight further speaks to political bullying.
It’s been reported that other DAs have been accused of drunk driving, but we heard nary a peep out of the governor’s office. This one is different. Lehmberg is a Democrat, Perry is a Republican, and Lehmberg’s office was looking into some allegations against key GOP allies of the governor.
It’s been speculated that Perry’s interest in Lehmberg’s drunk-driving case had everything to do with how he could remove a partisan nemesis.
Yes, politics can be a nasty affair. I’m betting Gov. Perry is going to learn that lesson the hard way.