By James Bliss
I thought I would let the dust settle before commenting on the indictment handed out to Presidential possible, Texas governor Rick Perry.
The media has done a very poor job covering the issue. The media's first reaction was to burn the governor at the stake, a typically liberal response. Then, after hearing Perry's press-conference tailored response, laden with misinformation, the media rushed to his defense. Even the liberal New York Times jumped on the "defend Perry" bandwagon.
Sadly, the one thing missing from nearly all of the television press coverage about Perry's indictment was factual information; from which one might actually be able to draw an informed conclusion. We heard a lot of pundit opinions, yet none were able to provide the whole story. But, hey, when was the last time the media actually presented unbiased information. It's been awhile.
Like most, at first glance, I dismissed the issue as a witch hunt set up by the Democrats to damage a potential Presidential candidate before his campaign plane got off the ground. After doing some digging, I learned that there was far more to it. More importantly, I also realized the issue was far more significant than your typical witch hunt. It involves some of the very principles our beloved Constitution was so careful to protect, namely separation of powers and the dangers of a single-party state.
The Perry issue really begins with another indictment, one deriving from Travis County's Public Integrity Unit, lead by District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg. Lehmberg's integrity unit secured the indictment of an ex-official from the state's cancer research fund. You see, the state handed an $11 million dollar grant over to a bio-tech firm which was known for its political connections to Perry and for its generous contributions to Perry campaigns. Cut and dry, right? It seemed there was a little funny business over the $11 million dollar grant, enough to bring up corruption charges. And, it is the job of Lehmberg's office to investigate and prosecute such political corruption.
Problem is Lehmberg was caught committing a crime herself. She made the terrible mistake of driving while very intoxicated. She probably should have resigned immediately. Even though she chose not to resign, chances are Texas voters would have booted her from office in a legal and legislative manner. All of this is normal procedure. By law, Lehmberg did not have to resign over her grievous error in judgment. This was not enough for Governor Perry. He saw an opportunity to pounce on a District Attorney who had accused his campaign donor of taking state money. Perry threatened Lehmberg that if she did not resign, he would veto her office's budget.
Fact: Perry has the right to veto whatever budget item he wishes. Fact: Perry broke the law by using this power of veto to coerce an elected official into resigning. Even more curious, despite his criticism of Lehmberg's ability to maintain the integrity of her elected post, he continued to break the law by bribing her with another position as District Attorney in another office, so long as she resigned the position from which she was prosecuting his campaign donor/friend. Clearly, Perry broke not one, but multiple laws.
There is clear evidence that not only did he actually break the law, but there was never any witch hunt from the Democratic Party in Texas. When it came time for Lehmberg's office to accuse Perry of violating the law, she rightly excused herself. The job was then left to special prosecutor, Michael McCrum. McCrum, who served in the G.H.W. Bush administration, was appointed by a Republican judge and nominated as a Federal Prosecutor by Republican Senator John Cornyn.
There is no doubt that Perry broke the law. There is also no supporting evidence that this was a witch hunt brought on by Texas Democrats. Perry's violations are real and significant to anyone concerned with public officials abusing power for personal and/or political gain. It is important to remember something the media has failed to emphasize; that it was not the veto that violated law, but the threats made using the power of veto as leverage. In fact, the complaint that led to the indictment was filed before Perry vetoed the public integrity budget. Perry will likely be found guilty, appeal, and be absolved by an appeals court, all of which are stacked with Republican judges in the state of Texas. This brings me to my larger point: when you only elect officials from one party, as Texas has done with Republicans, that party can break the law as much as they want to and get away with it.
James Bliss is a Jamestown native who studied philosophy at Fredonia State University.