Collateral Damage of Gov. Rick Perry's Veto of PIU Funds Includes 400 Felony Investigations

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Governor Rick Perry’s name isn’t on the ballot in 2014, but you wouldn’t know that judging by the news coverage alone.  And, you could forgive any Texans who might still make that mistake given that most have grown accustomed to “candidate Perry” during a non-presidential election year.

The resurgence of media mentions and a budding presidential re-run began with his unilateral decision to bring 1000 National Guard troops to the border, but is now consumed by another unilateral move — attempting to force an elected official from office.

The collateral damage for Rick Perry’s political maneuvers is stacking up.

It turns out that when Governor Perry lived up to his threat of vetoing the funds for Public Integrity Unity, he didn’t just stop any investigation into his own donors, but 400 other cases of felony white collar crimes.

According to Tribpedia: The Public Integrity Unit is a state-funded division of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. It investigates public corruption, insurance fraud, and motor fuels tax fraud.

It also says,”Dismantling the unit is a perennial platform plank of the Texas Republican Party,” because they feel there are partisan motives behind some of the investigations. This is a good time to remind readers that the Texas GOP occupies every statewide elected office save one Judge who recently switched parties.

Harvey Kronberg, in a blistering piece on Quorum Report, laid out why dismantling the PIU would be bad for Texans:

    For actual tax-payers and citizens, the Travis County Public Integrity Unit is the most under-appreciated law enforcement apparatus in the state.  Fully 95% of what it does is pursue white collar crime in Texas and on behalf of the State of Texas – motor fuels tax fraud, insurance fraud and legal support for the smaller of Texas 254 counties that do not have the funding or expertise to pursue white collar crimes in their jurisdictions.

Fortunately, Travis County gutted it up and covered part of the hole left by the line-item veto so at least some of the white collar crime investigations and prosecutions continue.

While Democrats focus on the obvious red flag of cronyism within the CPRIT investigation, Kronberg, given his decades of experience in Texas politics, opined that cronyism is non-news in Texas politics and listed a few other places that could draw more suspicion of taxpayers.

    If they are looking for contemporary hooks, it is far more interesting to look at the Public Integrity Unit investigation of Republican AG candidate Ken Paxton and Perry Regent appointment Wallace Hall whose disruptive antics motivated Moody’s to start “watching” the University of Texas’ bond rating. Had Lehmberg resigned, it is doubtful Perry’s appointed replacement would be very interested in either criminal referral.And of course, those most interested in the “rule of law” defense would no doubt applaud Perry’s not so veiled threat of retaliation when he said at his post-indictment press conference, “And those responsible will be held to account.”

I think it’s highly possible that at least a couple of these cases become factors in the gubernatorial election. Ken Paxton is vying to replace General Abbott and of course Abbott is vying to replace Rick Perry.

And the last case prompted response from a judge who said she would do everything she could to protect the grand jurors from threats made by the Governor.

Perry is determined not to repeat mistakes he made in his last presidential run, most of which revolved around optics and public perception. He has been on an all out assault and wasting no opportunity to turn any action by the Governor, including a mugshot, into a campaign gimmick. But his aggression and uncanny ability to double down in any situation that gives him star power among conservatives may prove to be his Achilles’ heel in a court of law.

From the Kronberg:

    Perry has never worried about the collateral damage inflicted on citizens in advancing his political ambition – witness the damaging theatrics on the border and the economic havoc it is wreaking.

Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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