August 15, 2014

#RickPerry — INDICTED!

Time to stop looking a bit less smug, Tricky Ricky.
Besides, at The Response, your prayer for rain
didn't work either. Patrick Michaels/Texas Observer
Update, 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 18: Perry has added to his original legal team with heavy hitters, including Ben Ginsberg, legal counsel for Shrub Bush in 2004 and 2008, and the Mittster in 2012.

I had a poll up when Tricky Ricky first got in the gunsights of a Travis County grand jury. Half of voters said that Tricky Ricky would be indicted on at least one felony count on the matter of vetoing money for the state's Public Integrity Unit because Travis DA Rosemary Lehmberg refused to step down after her dumb DWI.

Better than that.

Tricky Ricky's been indicted on TWO felony counts. Too bad we don't have perp-walk pictures. That would have made the story complete. (Actual indictment text is here.)

The charges he was potentially facing, per the Texas Observer, included coercion of a public servant, bribery, and abuse of official capacity. And, per the top link, he got one count of each; the first charge is a first-degree felony, the second is a third-degree felony. The first carries a penalty of 10-99 years plus fines, and the other a sentence of 2-10 years.

I had expected that as a possibility at the time of my original post.

Given the amount of money involved with the veto, abuse of official capacity would be a first-degree felony, if the value of the veto is calculated in cash budget $$ since, at $8 million, it's much higher than $200K. On the other two, in the same area of law code, bribery is a felony 2 and coercion is a felony 3. Perry dodged a bribery charge, which arguably could have been made.

That's not the only "money in play," though. The chart at left, via Jobsanger, shows just what crony capitalism is really all about here vis-a-vis the Texas Enterprise Fund.

Think Progress notes the first statute is somewhat vague, especially when combined with the claim Perry was using his normal veto power. That's arguably true in the abstract, but Perry's comments around the time of the veto, his later offer of another job to Lehmberg if she'd step down and other things, all bolster McCrum's case.

How serious is this? Perry even made the New York Times, which notes you're the first Texas governor to be criminally indicted since the infamous Pa Ferguson.

Meanwhile, I guess the Trickster's flaksters were ready for this. The PR email is already out.

Mary Anne Wiley, General Counsel for Gov. Rick Perry, today issued the following statement regarding the decision by the Travis County Grand Jury: 
“The veto in question was made in accordance with the veto authority afforded to every governor under the Texas Constitution. We will continue to aggressively defend the governor's lawful and constitutional action, and believe we will ultimately prevail.”
Sure.

Perry's Aug. 16 presser was nothing new. He's trying to pin it all to politics and Rosemary Lehmberg. Not even discussing special prosecutor Michael McCrum.

He's now shifting to "blame Obama" over the "surge" of Ill Eagles, based on a question at the presser. And, that lasted all of less than 10 minutes!

Time for a new poll, about what jail time the Trickster might get.

Actually, I have two — one about what may happen in the legal process, and the other on what he'll face if he's guilty.

Political and other considerations

First, for any non-Texas liberals, at least, worried that this will make Perry a martyr for wingnutism?

Not likely.

Ever since the Trans Texas Corridor, if not before, Tricky Ricky has NOT been a favorite of incipient, then full-bloomed, Tea Party types. His backers have always been big biz Republicans first. The four-way race in the 2006 general election and the Debra Medina challenge in the 2010 GOP primary point to that.

And, (Aug. 20) that's now official.

The Tea Partiers, as I expected and predicted, have little love lost for the Trickster. Read this, from JoAnn Fleming, chair of the Texas Legislature's Tea Party Caucus Advisory Committee, starting here:
(W)e can say there is a basis for raising the questions, and it centers on the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). …
 Proper oversight was missing from CPRIT from the very beginning. With Republicans in charge of all statewide offices and both the House and Senate, this lack of oversight can hardly be laid at the feet of Democrats.

Why This Matters: A scathing January 2013 CPRIT audit report released by State Auditor John Keel cited a weak evaluation process for grant applications, poor verification of compliance with funding agreements, and lack of controls on spending. 
Well put. The TP folks are still claiming there's a political angle, but not that it's the primary one.

That said, that leads to a "timetable" issue.

The Trickster has less than five months left in office. Right now, he can try dumping at least some of his legal fees on the state, and all of his PR fees. And he's already dumped us with $40K of legal fees, according to Progress Texas.

(I have contacted Texans for Public Justice, asking if they plan to file another complaint or take other action over this.)

Come next January, that's a different kettle of fish. I don't know if that will push him to make a plea deal this year or not. Likely not.

That also depends on how deep the wallets are of Friends of Rick. He lost a deeply walleted donor last year in Bob Perry. While it's true that the Public Integrity Unit had some eyeballs on both the Trickster's Texas Enterprise Fund and CPRIT, the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas, it remains to be seen how much of a rush private sector folks will be to contribute to a Rick Perry Legal Defense Fund.

Is there a chance he could beat the rap? I was reminded of Bug Man himself, Tom DeLay.

I don't think Perry's odds are as good. And, Bug Man isn't out of the woods yet, too.

First, the statute that I still believe Bug Man violated, despite his escaping on appeal, seems a bit less clear-cut than this.

Also, the overturning of his case on appeal was itself appealed by Lehmberg, whose predecessor, Ronnie Earle, initiated the case. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed to accept the appeal, but has not yet issued a ruling.

Second, a special prosecutor, and a Republican seemingly Republican friendly, definitely Republican acceptable lawyer at that, made this case. Travis DA Ronnie Earle, who I wish would have fulfilled rumors and ran for governor in 2010, was after DeLay's tail.

Third, Bug Man had helped elect new, additional GOP Congresscritters. Remember, his campaign fund finagling was related to mid-decadal redistricting last decade. He had people sincerely indebted to him within the political world. Perry doesn't have that. Most of the elected GOP is wingnuts who don't necessarily care for Perry's big biz friends, even if they don't dislike them as much as they do David Dewhurst's ones.

Related to that, GOP wingnuts who are friends of Ted Cruz, at a minimum, probably won't shed tears over Perry's plight. At a medium, they may break out a case of schadenfreude. At a maximum, they may help push him to the curb.

At the ultimate, Cruz himself will probably covertly help push Perry under the bus, if he can do so without leaving fingerprints.

And, the man who's running to replace Perry? Abbott himself has a bit of his skirts dirtied from CPRIT. So, he's going to do his damndest to say as little as absolutely possible. There's already been corruption issues associated with it start to bob up, with the promise of more. CPRIT has been a major focus of Lehmberg's, along with environmental law, and we know how Abbott feels about that.

That said, unless Texas press push the tie-in issue, or Wendy Davis does so strenuously, he may just skate.

And, given that Davis' campaign is still somewhat discombobulated, it's quite possible that, while she mentions a Republican culture of corruption in general or something, she fails to bell Abbott very well.

So far, per an early roundup of political reaction from the Houston Chronicle? Crickets from Abbott and Cruz, and disappointing "justice system" boilerplate pablum from Wendy Davis.

Her full comment at that time?
“These allegations are troubling and I have confidence in our justice system to do its job.”
Blech. A great example of the usually slow-and-timid campaign.

Politics or an independent prosecutor?

Per the top link, about Perry's alleged press conference, this isn't about politics. An independent prosecutor, supported by then Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison as U.S. District Attorney for the Western District of Texas in 2010 (he eventually withdrew his name) sought this indictment.

Speaking of, McCrum's already blasted Perry for politicizing this:
Saturday, the special prosecutor in the case struck back at Perry’s legal team, telling the San Antonio Express-News that it was “ridiculous” and “disappointing” for the governor’s lawyer to say that politics were behind the indictment. Perry lawyer David Botsford had issued a statement late Friday saying he was outraged and appalled by the indictment, which he called an “abuse of the court system” and a dangerous precedent. 
Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor, responded to Botsford Saturday, telling the Express-News: “He can only be implying that it’s either me, or the grand jury, who are motivated by politics, and that’s not only ridiculous, but it’s disappointing, because of the many conversations that I’ve had with Mr. Botsford where he knows full well that was never an issue in our discussions. I think it’s important to note that while that may be good rhetoric for the state, there’s absolutely no basis for it. My investigation not only did not involve that, but my conversations with Mr. Botsford have never involved that. It’s always been about the facts and the law.”

Period and end of story.

However, by the way that Perry's alleged press conference was played, solely on blasting Lehmberg, then using the second of just two questions (a plant? I couldn't hear the question well) to pivot to attacking Obama over border security? We know how he's going to play the game.

We also now officially know that McCrum will fight back with fists swinging.

For friends of mine to pass on to wingnuts and semi-wingnuts talking about Obama's "abuse of power," etc., this little analogy will explain what Obama would have had to have done to do something similar to what Perry's done.

Meanwhile, Michael Lind has written what is far and away the stupidest thing about the indictment I've seen from an alleged liberal and a native Texan to boot. He doesn't even mention a special prosecutor, let alone McCrum's name, and he claims DeLay has been acquitted. You can show him some love with an email to lind@newamerica.net. I've now put his and two other op-ed pieces by folks that should know better into this post.

Beyond this, which idjits like Lind overlook and which the Perry cheer squad wants to sweep under the rug, two other state DAs have had DWI charges during Perry's tenure. His reaction? As the Morning News reminds us — bupkis.

And, I wouldn't be surprised if McCrum knew that, at least the Kaufman DA case, when presenting to the grand jury.

Sidebar: The "missing" bribery charge

So, how did Perry dodge the third possible charge, of bribery?

Perry offered Lehmberg a lesser job within the Travis DA's office in exchange for her resignation shortly after her DWI court plea. First, no, I don't think that counts as bribery, not in the legal sense. Nor do I think it counts as extortion in the legal sense. Whether it adds up to either in a moral sense is another issue.

Somehow, I missed this at the time of Perry's threats. I'm not sure I would have trusted Perry to follow through. OTOH, if it could have been put in writing as a legal contract, I would have preferred it. That said, Perry would have likely still thought about breaking that contract and stalling out a civil legal process, as that's all the result would have been. Especially since other indications are that Perry wanted GOP State Rep. Terry Keel in that job, the offer wasn't to be trusted as genuine.

If I had thought such a deal would have more legal teeth than is the actual case in today's Dodge City, Texas, I would have supported it. Even if she's gotten and stayed stone cold sober, Lehmberg clearly had a drinking problem of long enough standing, probably coupled with some "enabling" here and there, that, ideally, it would have been preferable if she left.

Anyway, contra some opiners, there's no bribery involved in a legal sense. And, since we're now talking matters legal, not matters ethical, I'll fight back on opiners who say he did bribe someone. Whether McCrum presented that as a third charge and the grand jury said no, or whether he pulled it himself, it's the right call there.

 Felonious fallout and a personal connection of sorts

And, if convicted, Tricky Ricky will have to give up that beloved hogleg that he allegedly uses for killing coyotes. It's not just the concealed weapons angle; convicted felons in Texas can't own firearms for five years, and they can't ever have concealed carry permits. That, and many other, restrictions he would face are here. (It's also a great way to do voter suppression, because a felonious Trickster can't vote until he's done with sentence and parole!)

No pistole and no voting; that's about the most fun parts of this.

Beyond that, this has been coming for 20-plus years.

At my first newspaper, I had a set of investigative journalism stories connected to his race against Jim Hightower for Ag Commissioner. Hightower's department was investigating an agrichemical company legally incorporated as a co-op. One of his agents accidentally went from adjoining private ranchland onto the company's site. Perry reportedly told the company to use this as an excuse to stall, stall, stall until after the election, which he, of course won in 1990.  Given the bribery cases against Hightower's aides (to which he was in no way personally connected), Perry had a good chance of winning.

Assuming what I heard as rumor is true, nobody should underestimate Tricky Ricky's legal elbows.

1 comment:

PDiddie said...

I'm not convinced McCrum is a Republican. He was appointed special prosecutor by a Republican judge, but this Austin Chron article leaves me with the distinct impression that he is a very moderate Democrat.