Reformers? Are They Kidding?
RGA Chair Chris Christie – under federal investigation for abuse of power.
Former RGA Chair Bob McDonnell – under federal indictment for corruption.
Former RGA Chair John Rowland – under federal indictment, again.
Former RGA Chair Rick Perry – lawyering up for a criminal investigation of his own.
It’s worth keeping these simple facts in mind the next time the RGA peddles their nonsense about Republican governors being champions of “reform.”
Read the news on Perry here:
Gov. Rick Perry has retained a high-profile Austin defense lawyer to represent him in a criminal investigation into whether he illegally withheld money from the Travis County district attorney’s office, the American-Statesman and KVUE-TV confirmed Sunday.
The hiring of David L. Botsford is the latest signal that the inquiry into Perry’s conduct might be gaining momentum after a seven-month investigation. Perry, whose term will end in January, is not seeking re-election. He sought the Republican nomination for president in 2012 and has not ruled out another presidential run.
A district judge is expected to convene a Travis County grand jury Monday to begin reviewing Perry’s actions in carrying out a threat to veto a $7.5 million, two-year appropriation to the Public Integrity Unit, housed in the district attorney’s office, after District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg refused to resign because of her drunken driving arrest.
Botsford’s hiring also follows an American-Statesman and KVUE-TV report this month in which a special prosecutor investigating Perry said he is “very concerned” about the governor’s conduct.
Perry’s veto of a state budget item last year came two months after Lehmberg’s arrest in western Travis County. Lehmberg oversees the Public Integrity Unit, the state’s ethics enforcement office, and Perry said she had lost public confidence after her arrest last spring.
Perry had called for Lehmberg’s resignation and threatened to withhold the funds unless she stepped down. In June, he carried out that threat.
“Despite the otherwise good work (of) the Public Integrity Unit’s employees, I cannot in good conscience support continued state funding for an office with statewide jurisdiction at a time when the person charged with ultimate responsibility of that unit has lost the public’s confidence,” Perry said in his veto message at the time.
That veto, however, led to allegations that Perry’s threat had violated state laws, including those prohibiting coercion, bribery and abuse of official capacity.
Botsford said Sunday night, “The matter at hand pertains to the power of the governor to issue vetoes as allowed under the Texas Constitution. I have been retained to ensure that (the special prosecutor) receives all the facts, which will show that the governor’s veto was carried out in both the spirit and the letter of the law.”
Botsford is well-known in Travis County and throughout the state and, according to his website, has successfully represented doctors, lawyers, an oil executive and other notable clients.
It was not immediately clear Sunday how Botsford’s legal fees would be paid.
Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor investigating Perry, declined to comment Sunday. McCrum also again would not say whether he had interviewed Perry as part of the inquiry.
Asked earlier this month if his concerns pointed specifically at Perry or his staff, McCrum said, “Yes.”
“I cannot elaborate on what exactly is concerning me, but I can tell you I am very concerned about certain aspects of what happened here,” McCrum said in the April 1 interview at his San Antonio office.
The Public Integrity Unit had been funded by the state since the early 1980s and prosecutes state corruption crimes committed in Travis County, as well as some tax and insurance fraud committed statewide. The unit had 35 employees, and the state funding paid their salaries as well as other costs.
Travis County scrambled to help fund the unit. County commissioners voted in August to give about $1.7 million to the office, allowing Lehmberg to retain 15 employees. Lehmberg also used $730,000 in money from forfeited property to keep about eight employees. Several others sought jobs outside the agency on their own, retired or were transferred within the district attorney’s office. The unit laid off two employees.
Deputies arrested her on a DWI charge a year ago this month. She pleaded guilty, was sentenced to 45 days in the Travis County Jail, checked herself into an out-of-state rehabilitation center and prevailed in a civil trial that sought to remove her from office. She is a Democrat, and if she had resigned, Perry, a Republican, would have appointed her replacement.
A complaint filed by the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice led to the appointment of a special state district judge and prosecutor to investigate the matter and see if any laws were broken.
Travis County grand juries are often handpicked by commissioners who are appointed by state district judges, but officials said the Perry grand jury will be chosen from a group of randomly selected county residents.
A grand jury had been put in place last year to possibly hear evidence in the Perry case, but its term has expired. That grand jury also heard a separate matter stemming from Lehmberg’s arrest — whether her behavior inside the county jail immediately after she was booked violated any laws — but she was not indicted.