The national press has largely failed to understand the nuance in the indictments of Rick Perry.
The crime is not that Rick Perry vetoed the Public Integrity Unit funding — it's that he used the threat of a veto to try and force the Travis County District Attorney to step down.
That's coercion of a public official and it's against the law.
Over the last four days, Texas Democratic Party Executive Director Will Hailer has been making the rounds on TV, speaking to almost a dozen media outlets about why it's the veto threat that matters.
Here's a clip of Hailer from Sunday morning's Up With Steve Kornacki, by far the wonkiest show for early morning risers on cable TV. Hailer debated the Houston criminal defense attorney Brian Wice, who got Tom DeLay off the hook for money laundering on appeal because DeLay laundered money using a check, not cash.
Here are Hailer's key points:
- Texas Republicans have been going after the Public Integrity Unit since 2005 because it's the only check on their power in Texas.
At the time, the PIU was investigating CPRIT, Rick Perry's slush fund for state grants to his own donors and cronies.
This is about the Travis DA's investigation of the culture of corruption that surrounds Rick Perry and his efforts to shut that down.
DeLay's lawyer was insulting and belittling, which is really no surprise.
There's no question that Perry is allowed to use the line-item veto. However, he is not allowed to use the threat of a veto to try and force a public official to step down.
For more on this, check out James Moore's excellent analysis on Huffington Post:
…the exercise of the veto is not what got Perry indicted.
First, he used the veto to threaten a public officeholder. This is abuse of the power of his office. Presidents and governors frequently use the possibility of vetoes to change the course of legislation. But that is considerably different than trying to force an elected officeholder to resign. What Perry did, if true, can be politely called blackmail, and, when he sent emissaries to urge Lehmberg to quit even after his veto, he may have indulged in bribery. According to sources close to the grand jury, Perry dispatched two of his staffers and one high-profile Democrat to tell Lehmberg if she left her office the governor would reinstate the PIU budget. One report indicates there may have been a quid pro quo of a new, more lucrative job for the DA, which is why this case has nothing to do with his right to use the veto.