Beyond Bizarre in Texas
Governor Rick Perry’s fiercest ally is his state constitution.

Governor Perry addresses supporters in Austin, Tx. (Stewart F. House/Getty Images)


Deroy Murdock

The abuse-of-power indictment against Governor Rick Perry (R., Texas) is beyond bizarre. Prosecuting a governor for threatening a veto is like charging a Labrador for retrieving a Frisbee. For both species, this penalizes innate behavior.

This controversy began on the evening of April l2, 2013. After observing Travis County district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg operating an automobile erratically in a bike lane and then proceeding southbound in a northbound traffic lane, Austin-area sheriff’s deputies arrested her for driving while intoxicated. Her blood alcohol level was 0.239 percent, damn near triple the 0.08 percent legal limit. En route to jail, Lehmberg told deputies, “You have just ruined my career.” 

Travis County district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg poses for police after her April 2013 drunk-driving arrest.

“Though a high-ranking public official, she was uncooperative and abusive as she was hauled in and charged,” noted Merrill Matthews of the Dallas-based Institute for Policy Innovation. “She pleaded guilty, paid a $4,000 fine, and served about half of her 45-day jail sentence. And her law license was suspended for 180 days.”

Call him old-fashioned: Perry decided to pressure a convicted drunk driver from the wheel of a government-ethics panel. So, when Lehmberg refused to resign as D.A., Perry kept his threat. On June 15, 2013, he vetoed $7.5 million in state funds for Travis County’s Public Integrity Unit (PIU).

For demanding accountability, Perry could get 99 years behind bars.

Perry’s fiercest ally is the Texas constitution. It is Windex-clear about the chief executive’s veto power.

“Every bill which shall have passed both houses of the Legislature shall be presented to the Governor for his approval,” reads Article 4, Section 12 of the supreme law of the Lone Star State. “If he approve he shall sign it; but if he disapprove it, he shall return it, with his objections, to the House in which it originated.”