Rick Perry can't stop messing with Texas, and with Travis County.
Yesterday, Rick Perry threatened to line-item veto funding for the Public Integrity Unit, which has statewide prosecutorial authority over fraud and corruption, if District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg does not resign.
The PIU is expected to receive $7.5 million from the state over the biennium to support its ongoing prosecutions in more than 400 cases, ranging from insurance fraud to public corruption investigations, according to Assistant Travis County District Attorney Gregg Cox, who runs the unit.
I've previously argued that Lehmberg needs to stay to prevent Perry from getting his dirty hands on the PIU, among many other reasons. Now, it appears that Perry's motives may be even more self-serving.
As Progress Texas noted yesterday, Perry may be trying to shut down the PIU to stop the investigation of CPRIT and his alleged efforts to divert state cancer research funds to his donors and cronies.
Now, it turns out Perry's mere threat to veto funding if Lehmberg does not resign may be a violation of the Texas Penal Code.
Find out how below the jump.Basically, Perry's threat to tie funding the PIU to the resignation of an elected official may qualify as bribery or coercion of a public servant. If Lehmberg wants to see the PIU survive, Perry is basically threatening her with her job.
This is yet another reason why anyone who believes in good government can't support letting Perry appoint the Travis County DA, because that person would then helm the PIU. And any suggestions that Democrats — in the State Senate or otherwise — might actually play a role in choosing or vetoing her replacement strike me as deeply idealistic given Perry's history.
Basically, Perry is using the threat of PIU funding to influence a public servant. The penal code is below. Is Rick Perry in violation of the law? Or is he simply trying to block criminal investigations into his own actions?
Either way, Rick Perry's clearly not the best person to decide who should be in charge of the Public integrity Unit.
Sec. 36.02. BRIBERY. (a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly offers, confers, or agrees to confer on another, or solicits, accepts, or agrees to accept from another:
(1) any benefit as consideration for the recipient's decision, opinion, recommendation, vote, or other exercise of discretion as a public servant, party official, or voter;
(2) any benefit as consideration for the recipient's decision, vote, recommendation, or other exercise of official discretion in a judicial or administrative proceeding;
(3) any benefit as consideration for a violation of a duty imposed by law on a public servant or party official; or
(4) any benefit that is a political contribution as defined by Title 15, Election Code, or that is an expenditure made and reported in accordance with Chapter 305, Government Code, if the benefit was offered, conferred, solicited, accepted, or agreed to pursuant to an express agreement to take or withhold a specific exercise of official discretion if such exercise of official discretion would not have been taken or withheld but for the benefit; notwithstanding any rule of evidence or jury instruction allowing factual inferences in the absence of certain evidence, direct evidence of the express agreement shall be required in any prosecution under this subdivision.
(b) It is no defense to prosecution under this section that a person whom the actor sought to influence was not qualified to act in the desired way whether because he had not yet assumed office or he lacked jurisdiction or for any other reason.
(c) It is no defense to prosecution under this section that the benefit is not offered or conferred or that the benefit is not solicited or accepted until after:
(1) the decision, opinion, recommendation, vote, or other exercise of discretion has occurred; or
(2) the public servant ceases to be a public servant.
(d) It is an exception to the application of Subdivisions (1), (2), and (3) of Subsection (a) that the benefit is a political contribution as defined by Title 15, Election Code, or an expenditure made and reported in accordance with Chapter 305, Government Code.
(e) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree.
Sec. 36.03. COERCION OF PUBLIC SERVANT OR VOTER. (a) A person commits an offense if by means of coercion he:
(1) influences or attempts to influence a public servant in a specific exercise of his official power or a specific performance of his official duty or influences or attempts to influence a public servant to violate the public servant's known legal duty; or
(2) influences or attempts to influence a voter not to vote or to vote in a particular manner.
(b) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor unless the coercion is a threat to commit a felony, in which event it is a felony of the third degree.
(c) It is an exception to the application of Subsection (a)(1) of this section that the person who influences or attempts to influence the public servant is a member of the governing body of a governmental entity, and that the action that influences or attempts to influence the public servant is an official action taken by the member of the governing body. For the purposes of this subsection, the term “official action” includes deliberations by the governing body of a governmental entity.