The New York Times tried to keep the politicized hit job against Texas Gov. Rick Perry alive in Wednesday's edition, insisting the dubious partisan indictment (from a Democratic district attorney's office that has filed failed charges against prominent national GOP figures) actually has merit, with a "complicated back story" and "deep roots," while pouting that Perry's team has had "substantial success in the court of public opinion" so far. No thanks to the overexcited Times coverage.
Reporter David Montgomery filed "Texas v. Perry Emerges From Years of Struggle Over Anticorruption Unit," a follow-up to his Tuesday print edition hit. (By contrast, the Washington Post has limited its recent Perry coverage to blogs and Associated Press briefs.)
Even though even prominent liberals have said the case against Perry is weak, the text box suggested both parties have equally credible cases: "A case in which both parties see examples of politically motivated retaliation." The print edition also included a Reuters photo featuring Perry entering the booking area of the Travis County courthouse. Another photo caption insisted: "....The case has deep roots."
The trail to Rick Perry’s indictment began with way too many drinks and a drunken-driving arrest for Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County district attorney, that was captured in embarrassing detail on videotape.
But the conflict between Republicans who control state government and the Democratic district attorney’s office has been playing out for years, forming a complicated back story to the unfolding legal drama known as the State of Texas v. James Richard “Rick” Perry.
Mr. Perry’s powerhouse defense team filed a motion on Monday to dismiss the felony indictment, asserting that the 64-year-old governor and prospective 2016 presidential candidate was constitutionally empowered to seek Ms. Lehmberg’s resignation. Mr. Perry contends Ms. Lehmberg was unfit to remain in office after berating deputies and kicking a cell door after a drunken-driving arrest in April 2013. She served about half of a 45-day jail sentence.
Mr. Perry and his lawyers have had substantial success in the court of public opinion, contending that the charges represent an overreach that has more to do with politics than the law. But Mr. Perry’s critics note that the grand jury indictment was secured by a special prosecutor who was appointed by a Republican judge and has no clear political leanings or ties to the Travis County courthouse.
Montgomery used the classic evasion, "some say," to put forward a liberal argument:
And some in Texas say the most important political context was the animus Mr. Perry harbored toward the district attorney’s office that, the prosecution alleges, led him to jump on a drunken-driving arrest to improperly attempt to force Ms. Lehmberg from office. The special prosecutor, Michael McCrum, a former assistant United States attorney during the George Bush administration, told reporters last week that he had a sound case against Mr. Perry.
At the center of Texas v. Perry is the district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, which was formed in the 1980s to prosecute official corruption here in the capital, as well as insurance fraud and financial crimes. The office has prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans, stemming from an earlier era of Democratic dominance in Texas. But the unit has been in the Republicans’ cross hairs for years after prosecuting Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Representative Tom DeLay, the majority leader, both Republicans.
Montgomery then neutrally laid out the partisan prosecutions of former House Majority leader Tom DeLay and former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, the former of which was overturned and the latter "fell apart at the outset of trial," before hitting the meat of the Lehmberg controversy.
After Ms. Lehmberg’s arrest, according to the indictment, Mr. Perry threatened to veto state funding for the Public Integrity Unit unless she resigned. He ultimately followed through on the threat, vetoing $7.5 million in state funds. In his veto message, Mr. Perry cited the “otherwise good work” of the unit’s employees but said he could not support continued funding when the public had lost confidence in its boss.
The return of "some say":
Some speculated that Mr. Perry may have entertained other motives, including the opportunities to hinder a troublesome agency and, if Ms. Lehmberg resigned, to appoint a Republican to an office traditionally occupied by Democrats. “He had a twofer,” said Harvey Kronberg, publisher of The Quorum Report, an online political newsletter. “He had the possibility of neutering it by putting a crony in. Or, if she didn’t resign, the alternative was defund it and make it go away.”
But Mr. DeGuerin, who describes himself as a “Lyndon Johnson Democrat” and is not involved in the governor’s defense, disputes the theory that Mr. Perry would have named a Republican, citing news media reports that Mr. Perry’s office, in behind-the-scenes negotiations, expressed a willingness to name Ms. Lehmberg’s assistant to the post.
State and national Democrats have pushed the story line that Mr. Perry’s funding veto was designed to thwart the unit’s investigation of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, one of the governor’s signature programs. The unit’s investigation, which focused on the awarding of research grants to companies that included Mr. Perry’s political supporters, ultimately resulted in an indictment of a high-level institute official.
Montgomery's evidence was pretty thin:
The complaint that led to the indictment against Mr. Perry came from Texans for Public Justice, a liberal-leaning but nonpartisan watchdog group that also lodged the 2003 complaint that resulted in the unit’s investigation of Mr. DeLay.
Mr. Perry’s critics have also pointed out that he took no action against two district attorneys elsewhere in Texas, one a repeat offender, after they were arrested on drunken-driving charges.