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August 19, 2014 11:00 AM On the Other Hand….

By Ed Kilgore

If there’s a good argument the indictment of Rick Perry will help him and perhaps even more other Republicans nationally, there’s also a good argument Perry’s actual legal peril in Texas has been underestimated. As several Texas authorities have pointed out, it’s a special prosecutor (appointed by a Republican judge), not Rosemary Lehmberg, who was in charge of the grand jury that issued the indictment. More generally, we’re not sure what kind of dirt they have on Rick; it’s not, however, just about him using (or over-using) his constitutional authority to veto appropriations, as Texas Observer’s Forrest Wilder points out:

The Public Integrity Unit is largely funded by the Texas Legislature. That money isn’t earmarked for Rosemary Lehmberg; it’s earmarked for the oversight function of the Travis County DA’s Public Integrity Unit. It is that money that Perry threatened to line-item veto if Lehmberg did not resign. When she did not, and Travis County opted not to remove her, Perry then yanked the funding. Afterwards, he continued to make offers to restore the funding in exchange for Lehmberg’s resignation, according to media reports. One account says he signaled that he would find Lehmberg another well-paying job within the DA’s office. Had she resigned, Perry would have appointed her successor.
The criminal case against Perry centers on his “coercion” of a local elected official using threats and promises. It is not premised—as has been repeatedly misreported—on the veto itself. Craig McDonald, the head of Texans for Public Justice and the original complainant, has said as much. As McDonald told CNN:
“The governor is doing a pretty good job to try to make this about [Lehmberg] and her DWI conviction. But this has never been about his veto of her budget and about her. This is about his abuse of power and his coercion trying to get another public citizen to give up their job.”

So Perry’s hardly in the clear yet, even if he’s now benefiting from national Republicans and Democrats alike sort of wishing the indictments would go away.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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