The Austin Chronicle

Perry: Welcome to the 'Lavatory'

By Richard Whittaker, August 29, 2014, News

The ink on Gov. Rick Perry's felony indictments is scarcely dry, but he seems determined to fight them both in court and the arena of public opinion. The question remains, who will foot the bill?

On Aug. 25, his lawyers filed a 60-page pretrial petition for a writ of habeas corpus, asking the 390th District Court judge to throw out the charges. They claim the statutes under which he is charged, relating to abuse of office through his threatened and then fulfilled veto of Public Integrity Unit funding, are unconstitutionally "fatally vague and overbroad." Special Prosecutor Michael McCrum is expected to respond this week.

Perry, who has spent most of his political career bemoaning the condition of state coffers and demanding budget cuts, earlier took the unprecedented step of asking Texans to cover his personal legal fees. Comptroller Susan Combs signed off on his request, and taxpayers found themselves with an initial $79,550 bill from criminal attorney David Botsford. A second member of Perry's legal team, Tony Buzbee, suggested taxpayers should blame the prosecution for the cost. This was already a hot topic well before the indictments, with Rep. Joe Deshotel, D-Beau­mont, asking in April for a formal opinion from Attorney General Greg Abbott about whether the state should either provide or pay for Perry's criminal defense. Perry's ever-expanding legal team took some of the edge off that debate by announcing this week that his state campaign finance accounts would cover future costs, but there's no word on whether they will refund the state's contribution.

The governor himself was out of the state during all of this, continuing his presumptive presidential campaign in New Hampshire. His attempt to spin primary gold from felony straw seems to be paying off, with Public Policy Polling showing "the unusual indictment bump" with a 7-point increase in his support in Iowa since May. However, the candidate himself seemed determined to undercut any gains. Before leaving for the stump, Perry said that "those responsible [for the prosecution] will be held accountable." 390th District Court Judge Julie Kocurek penned a letter telling him to knock off the veiled threats against the grand jury. Then, once in New Hampshire, he did not seem to be fully aware of the actual charges, telling reporters that he was charged with "bribery." (In fact, he is charged with "abuse of official capacity" and "coercion of a public official.")

Finally, Perry veered into malapropism, describing the states as "lavatories of innovation and democracy."

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