Who Are ‘Texans for Public Justice,’ and Why Does Their Role in the Perry Case Matter?
August 18, 2014 - 7:45 am
As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, a grand jury indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on two felony counts late Friday. Perry is the first Texas governor to be indicted in office since 1917. He was indicted for threatening to veto funds for the Public Integrity Unit of Travis County’s district attorney’s office, because the head of that office, District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, had been caught drunk driving, and was later caught on tape abusing her power to try to get out of the DWI charge. Though that office runs out of Travis County, it has statewide jurisdiction over elected officials in Texas.
Democrats in Texas were muted, to say the least, at the time of Lehmberg’s arrest in 2013, but reacted gleefully to Perry’s indictment. Facebook lit up with comments from Democrats that this would “turn Texas blue,” a feat that Democrats have been unable to accomplish at the ballot box since they started losing power in the 1990s. Such comments also give the game away — the indictment is carrying politics over from an arena where Democrats lose — the ballot box — to an arena where they might win — sympathetic juries in Democrat-controlled Travis County. Battleground Texas has been hard at work fundraising off of the indictment. The chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, Gilberto Hinojosa, is among prominent Democrats who have called on Perry to resign.
Notably, the Democrats from Hinojosa on down have been more than tolerant of Lehmberg’s drunk driving and abuse of power. They have also stood silent in the face of the indictment of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price on serious corruption charges.
The heart of the indictment is Perry’s threat to veto funding for the PIU, and then his carrying out of that threat. He did none of this in secret. He made it clear that Lehmberg ought to step down, and if she did not, the state would not fund the PIU. The governor in Texas has the constitutional authority to veto any bill he wants, for any reason he wants. He can explain his reasons, or he can choose not to. Texas governors have line item veto power. Perry has essentially been indicted for exercising his authority and being clear to the people of Texas regarding why he did what he did.
Also at the heart of the case is Lehmberg’s refusal to step down, and the Democrats’ silence/support for her.
That silence and support are entirely political in nature. If Lehmberg had resigned from the office that, among other things, prosecutes drunk driving in Travis County, Gov. Perry would have appointed her successor. Democrats have owned the Travis County DA’s office and the PIU for, well, forever. The Travis County DA’s office and its perch atop the PIU are among Democrats’ very few centers of power in Texas. They were not about to let it go for any reason. So they are knowingly supporting a drunk driver who was caught on tape throwing her weight around to escape the DWI charge. Democrats may also fear that having a Republican in charge of the PIU might expose wrongdoing in that office, and others, to which Democratic DAs have turned a blind eye.
During the eons of time during which Democrats have owned that office, they have launched at least two malicious political prosecutions. In 1993, then DA Ronnie Earle launched a prosecution against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. She had won her Senate seat by a mile in a special election, a strong signal to Democrats that their days in power in Texas were running out. Earle gathered up a grand jury and indicted Hutchison for, among other things, using her campaign staff to plan a Christmas vacation. John Fund details the disposition of that case here. The bottom line, the political prosecution of Hutchison, built to destroy a female Republican at a time when Democrats were fast losing power, fell apart. Hutchison went on to serve another 20-odd years in the U.S. Senate, racking up victory after victory over every Democrat challenger.
Rep. Tom Delay was not as fortunate. Earle indicted him after grand jury shopping in 2006, and obtained convictions against Delay on actions that were not even crimes when Delay supposedly committed them. The convictions were eventually tossed out, but not before the Democrats used the case to build a phony “culture of corruption” narrative against the entire GOP based in part on Delay’s case. And not before Delay’s career was totally destroyed and he was driven from office.
The current case against Perry was brought through a complaint filed by Texans for Public Justice. Media inside Texas are occasionally mentioning TPJ’s role, but they are not detailing what TPJ actually is. The Austin American-Statesman even failed to explain how Earle’s political cases against Republicans have eventually fallen apart, in this irresponsible editorial on the Perry indictment.
Even a cursory glance at their website is revealing. TPJ claims to be a public integrity watchdog, but their quest for integrity is entirely one-sided. They never take on Democrats. TPJ exists to attack Republicans, and they have been doing nothing but that for years. TPJ is even trying to get Delay’s convictions re-instated.
There is more to TPJ than mere partisanship masquerading as “public integrity.”
According to its own 2013 annual report, Texans for Public Justice is funded by the hard left.
The Piper Foundation bills itself as an “educational” charitable trust. Its donations to the partisan Texans for Public Justice do not appear to stand in line with that mission.
The Open Society Foundations and the Sunlight Foundation are both funded by leftwing billionaire and convicted felon George Soros. Why is a group that sells itself as a public integrity watchdog accepting funds from a man who was convicted of insider trading? Why is no one in the Texas media asking TPJ that very question?
Texans for Public Justice is part of a larger network of money and operatives that the Texas Democrats in exile set up with one goal — to recapture power that the voters took away from them. They set themselves a deadline of electing a Democrat speaker of the Texas House of Representatives by 2010. They failed in that goal. The Texas Republicans expanded their hold on the House that year.
But the network, run by out-of-state leftwing operative Matt Angle, never went away. It won’t as long as money keeps rolling in.
For his part, Angle built the network from the funding left to him by the late Fred Baron, a Dallas trial lawyer. Betraying the cause of “good government” that the Angle network claims to champion, Baron used his fortune to help Democrat John Edwards cover up his affair and love child while he was running to become president of the United States.
While Democrats in Texas are chuckling over the Perry indictment and standing with a felon and a drunk driver, Democrats outside the state are less supportive of the effort to jail a governor for exercising his constitutional power.
Georgetown law professor Jonathan Turley writes that the indictment is “very troubling on a separation of powers basis.”
Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz calls it “dangerous” and says “Everybody, liberal or conservative, should stand against this indictment.”
Democrats in Texas will likely find these statements untroubling. Their aim is not necessarily to convict Perry, though given Austin’s politics conviction is entirely possible. The indictment is an act of revenge. The Democrats’ aim is to get a mugshot that they can parade around and use to build a false narrative of corruption against a man who committed the ultimate crime in their eyes: Rick Perry beat them at the ballot box, over and over and over and over again. At the same time, Perry helped gut the Democratic Party in Texas, relegating it to exile at every level.
More: Perry has described the indictment as a partisan political witch hunt. In what may have been Kinsley gaffe (which is when someone accidentally tells the truth), the head of TPJ says “Nothing could be closer to the truth.”