Rick Perry Had a Good Week but Legal Troubles Remain
-Betsy Woodruff, Washington Examiner
Considering that he was indicted, Rick Perry has had a pretty good week, but it may not last.
After the Republican Texas
governor’s Aug. 15 indicted on allegations of abuse of power, he
received a tsunami of support, defended by everyone from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. Ted Cruz to the New York Times editorial board and Democratic consultant David Axelrod.
When he turned himself in for booking at the Travis County courthouse
in Austin a few days after the indictment, he was surrounded by
supporters chanting “Perry! Perry!” and waving signs that said
“#StandWithRickPerry.” He then gave a triumphant speech — broadcast live
on CNN — defending his record.
“I’m going to enter this courthouse with my held high, knowing
the actions that I took were not only lawful and legal, but right,” he
said, to boisterous cheers and applause. “If I had to do so, I would
veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit again.”
But the story is not over. And Lone Star State Democrats hope that as
the legal case unfolds, the governor and his fellow Republicans will
take a political hit that could affect November’s general election results.
“Perry is not out of the woods until justice has played itself out,”
said Jordan Berry, a Republican consultant based in Austin. “And so far,
we’ve seen how things can go wrong — just the fact that it’s already
gotten this far.”
Democrats agree with the first part of that. And they point to
fallout from the governor’s line-item veto of funding for the Public
Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office, which
sparked his legal troubles, to make the case that Perry’s victory in the
public relations war might not be permanent.
Gregg Cox, who heads the Public Integrity Unit, told the Washington Examiner
that because of the governor’s veto, his staff has shrunk and the unit
hasn’t been able to handle as many cases. At the end of the 2013 fiscal
year, the unit had 35 staffers, he said. Now it’s down to 19.
He also said his office was unable to handle 44 tax fraud cases and
22 insurance fraud cases. These cases were sent back to the offices that
originally referred them.
“Many of them will not get handled,” Cox said.
“All of our cases have been slowed down by the lack of resources and the cutbacks in staff,” he added.
And Deece Eckstein, Travis County’s Intergovernmental Relations
Coordinator, said the unit is struggling now that its funds have been
“They’re holding on right now with bailing wire, chewing gum and the
money from the Travis County Commissioner’s Court,” he said.
Texas Democrats will likely make hay of these problems.
“This from a guy that likes to use the phrase that he’s defending the
rule of law,” said Glenn Smith, director of the Progress Texas PAC. “It
doesn’t quite fit, does it?”
Republicans say Perry’s office will have a simple rejoinder to these
criticisms: If Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg — whose
drunk-driving conviction prompted the governor’s line-item veto threat —
had just stepped down, none of this would have happened.
The public relations fight could get messier. But Republicans are still confident they will come out on top.
"Governor Perry has won the war of public opinion at every turn,”
said Tyler Norris, a Republican consultant based in Austin. “Republicans
and Democrats alike realize this amounts to political persecution."
The Texas Tribune reported
that one of Perry’s attorneys said he will challenge the indictment
next week based on First Amendment grounds, as well as the governor’s