Texas Governor Rick Perry is under investigation over his handling of the Austin district attorney’s intoxicated driving conviction and his subsequent decision to stop funding a public corruption unit led by the aforementioned district attorney. After district attorney Rosemary Lehmberg plead guilty to drunken driving charges Perry threatened to veto a proposed $7.5 million in state funding towards the Texas Public Integrity Unit should Lehmberg refuse to step down as head of this special division. When she refused, Perry followed through and denied the funding, claiming that he could not in good conscience support a task force lead by Lehmberg who had lost public confidence as a result of her recent conduct.
The premise for the specialized task unit is to investigate wrong doing by public officials. It has been instrumental in multiple investigations such as the inquiries that led to former congressman Tom DeLay’s indictment. They were most recently looking into the potential corruption of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, an organization strongly supported by Perry, and had already instigated the indictment of former agency executive for mismanagement of funds. Perry publicly questioned Lehmberg’s ability to objectively lead the task force after her very public legal mis-step, calling her character into question.
The investigation is concerned about whether or not Perry overexerted his political authority through the veto and if his personal attack on Lehmberg was criminal in nature. They are looking into whether or not Perry’s threats violated Texas laws by means of coercion of a public servant and abuse of official capacity. The crimes he could be facing range from misdemeanors to felonies and would generally call for his impeachment.
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