The Democrat-controlled Travis County District Attorney’s Office has been called into question before for its highly political case brought against Republican Congressman Tom Delay for allegedly using corporate money to influence elections. He was convicted in Travis County but it was later overturned by an appellate court. So many are crying foul that Perry’s case is more of the same.
By Terri Hall | August 18, 2014
Texas Governor Rick PerryFormer House Majority Leader Tom Delay
The Republican Party is predictably coming to the aid of one of its own, Governor Rick Perry, who was indicted Friday on two felony counts stemming from alleged abuses of power. Perry threatened to veto funding for the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg didn’t resign due to her arrest and drunk driving conviction. She didn’t resign, and Perry vetoed the unit’s funding. A Texas Grand Jury found probable cause that the governor committed crimes of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant when it handed down two indictments. If found guilty, Perry could face up to 109 years in prison.
Perry’s attorney, Mary Ann Wiley, says he was acting within his constitutional powers to veto such legislation last year. The Democrat-controlled Travis County District Attorney’s Office has been called into question before for its highly political case brought against Republican Congressman Tom Delay for allegedly using corporate money to influence elections. He was convicted in Travis County but it was later overturned by an appellate court. So many are crying foul that Perry’s case is more of the same.
Examining Perry’s response to another highly visible lawmaker’s arrest for drunk driving in 2008, the facts show that perhaps his veto threat directed at Lehmberg may very well be political and an abuse of power after all. Republican State Rep. Mike Krusee was also arrested for a DUI in April 2008.
Like Lehmberg’s incident, the DPS trooper caught Krusee’s drunkeness on videotape, which shows him failing the field sobriety test three times. His arrest was later dismissed, arguably due to his connections. Krusee’s lawyer claimed he failed the test due to ‘the wind.’ Really? It was ‘the wind,’ three times in a row? Krusee quietly resigned from office, and then made boatloads of cash lobbying his former colleagues for mounds of pro-toll, anti-taxpayer legislation. All of which Governor Perry happily signed into law. Indeed, Krusee was Perry’s reliable pro-toll, go-to henchman that ended up alienating Krusee with his colleagues to such a degree that he lost all influence. Allow me to explain.
Krusee chaired the House Transportation Committee and carried Perry’s HB 3588 in 2003, which opened the door to road debt, public subsidies for toll roads, new toll road bureaucracies, quick take eminent domain, the Trans-Texas Corridor, and even tolling existing freeways – everything horrific to taxpayers about Perry’s toll policy. By the time his colleagues found out what they had voted on years later, as the public outcry against the Trans-Texas Corridor and Perry’s toll roads hit a feverish pitch, Krusee was no longer trusted by his colleagues.
He was the ONE lone vote against the moratorium on controversial public-private partnership toll roads in 2007. In fact, Perry vetoed the iron-clad moratorium, HB 1892, and threatened to call repeated special sessions of the legislature if lawmakers refused to pass Perry’s loophole-laden, watered-down version instead, which it did with passage of SB 792. See a pattern here? Perry is no novice at using his veto power for his own political ends, especially when it benefits his road building cronies.
Krusee also authored the ‘Driver Responsibility Program’ legislation that created new fines and penalties on drunk driving when seeking to renew drivers licenses. So, similar to the District Attorney who is tasked with enforcing the law being found guilty of breaking the law herself, Krusee was a lawmaker setting-up penalties for drunk driving and was arrested for driving drunk.
Perry’s supposed righteous anger surrounding the Travis County District Attorney veto scandal is a great attempt to get him off the hook with the public, although, he has a track record of looking the other way when his political crony was caught driving drunk. He didn’t publicly ask for Krusee’s resignation. Perry also didn’t demand a resignation from Democrat State Rep. Naomi Gonzalez for being arrested for drunk driving last session either. Nor did he threaten to veto her bills if she refused to resign.
However, the Travis County District Attorney “has misused his power for political purposes,” writes John Gordon for Commentary, in what is referred to as “the criminalization of politics.” In his article he cites Texas politicians such as former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson and House Majority Leader Tom Delay, as examples. But he also points to others, including Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin and former Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska.
“Perry joins the list of other politicians prosecuted under controversial or dubious theories, including Tom DeLay, John Edwards, Scott Walker, Don Siegelman, and Ted Stevens. Some go to jail; some don’t. Some get convicted by juries; some don’t. Some have their prosecutions overturned on appeal; some don’t,” concludes Rick Hasen in his Election Law Blog.
Terri Hall is the founder of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom (TURF), which defends against eminent domain abuse and promotes non-toll transportation solutions. She’s a home school mother of nine turned citizen activist. Ms. Hall is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.