August 23, 2014

Indictment, Misdirection and Political Benefits

What is Texas Governor Rick Perry indicted for?

Got it wrong, didn't you? You thought he was indicted for vetoing part of a bill. Of course, you thought that -- not only is that what Perry says (to thunderous applause from his supporters), but that's what the media says.

So let's start with the indictment. That sounds obvious, but nobody seems to have actually read the two-page (yes, only 2 pages!) document. Here's what Perry is indicted for:

  • Count 2: he threatened an elected official, demanding that she resign her office; otherwise, he said, he would defund the Public Integrity Unit
  • Count 1: after she refused to resign her office, he carried out the threat, defunding the Public Integrity Unit

That's it.

Now Perry -- and his many supporters, and even those who don't support him -- claims that he is exercising his constitutionally-valid powers in vetoing the funding.

Okay, let's look at this more closely.

Is the Governor constitutionally empowered to threaten an elected official and demand that she resign her office? That's not something I can find in the Texas Constitution. And, when you think about it, that makes sense. If the people of this jurisdiction express their choice of who should occupy an office, then why should anyone else be empowered to dismiss that choice?

In this case, the Governor is charged with demanding the resignation of the Travis County District Attorney. But that is an elected office, and the county voters elected her to that office. If the Governor, or anyone else, want her out, he needs to make his case to the voters -- they will decide, if they agree with him, to mount a recall effort and remove her from office.

The Governor, instead, took the "direct threat" route -- even though he holds no authority to determine who does, or does not, occupy the office of Travis County District Attorney. That "direct threat" option is not authorized by the Texas Constitution, or by any other authority in Texas or elsewhere.

As an aside -- why would the Governor not take the "recall" route instead? In another time, I will comment on some politicians' "fear of democracy" that is apparent in modern politics.

So Count 2 charges Perry with using his office of Governor to threaten an elected official.

Count 1 follows from Count 2 -- it is the actual carrying out of that threat. Although the action he took is lawful under the Constitution, taking that action as a consequence of the unlawful threat makes the action itself a continuation of the threat, and therefore the action becomes unlawful.

Now, it only took a few minutes to research this, find the indictment, read the indictment and understand that the Governor is not being indicted for vetoing the appropriation. He is not being indicted for doing something lawful under his authority as Governor. He is not being indicted for acting Constitutionally.

He is being indicted for threatening a public official, abusing his office as Governor in doing so, and thereby obstructing the public official's exercise of her office.

That is not constitutionally protected. Not even in Texas.