Criminal case against Texas’ Perry moves forward
A few months ago, not long after he was indicted on two felony counts, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) forgot what crimes he’d been charged with. “I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t really understand the details here,” he said in August.
The likely Republican presidential hopeful was nevertheless certain that he didn’t do whatever it was he was accused of doing, and Perry’s legal team still hoped to have the charges thrown out.
As the Austin American Statesman reported late yesterday, things clearly aren’t going the way the former governor had hoped.
A judge denied a second and more substantial request Tuesday by former Gov. Rick Perry to dismiss the indictment against him prior to trial, likely extending his criminal case for the next several months as Perry continues mounting a possible presidential campaign.
The ruling by Judge Bert Richardson, a San Antonio Republican, comes five months after Perry’s attorneys filed the writ of habeas corpus, a sign of the slow speed at which the case is churning through the criminal justice system. Immediately after the ruling, Perry’s attorneys filed formal documents appealing the ruling to the Austin-based 3rd Court of Appeals, a process that could take several months and stall possible resolution of the case.
In case it’s not obvious, most presidential candidates try to avoid launching national campaigns while under felony indictment, and Perry’s legal team was counting on a victory it did not receive yesterday.
By all appearances, however, the Texas Republican apparently won’t let a little thing like criminal allegations get in the way of his ambitions, largely because Perry just doesn’t believe the charges have any merit.
The question then becomes, is he right? I don’t believe so, no.
For those just joining us, let’s recap a bit. The story starts, oddly enough, with a DUI. In April 2013, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving. She eventually pleaded guilty, apologized, and served 20 days behind bars for her first offense.
But Lehmberg, who’d been easily elected to her D.A. position, did not resign her post. That didn’t sit well with Rick Perry, who said she should resign in light of the DUI incident. Lehmberg refused.
So, the governor decided to kick things up a notch. Perry announced that if Lehmberg did not resign, he would use his veto power to strip her office of its state funding. When Lehmberg ignored the threat, the governor followed through and vetoed the funding.
At this point, some might be wondering what the big deal is. After all, it hardly seems outrageous to think a governor would want to see a district attorney step down after she spent a few weeks in jail. If the law authorizes Perry to use his veto power, how could it be illegal?
According to the prosecutors who secured the indictment, the answer is: context is everything.
In this case, Rosemary Lehmberg wasn’t just a D.A. who got caught drunk driving. She’s also a Democrat. What’s more, she’s the district attorney for Travis County – home to Texas’ state capital – which gives Lehmberg responsibility for investigating allegations against leading officials in state government, including all ethics complaints against Texas state officials through a Public Integrity Unit that Lehmberg helps lead.
And given that this is Texas, where Republicans dominate, the fact that there’s a Democrat in charge of a Public Integrity Unit that investigates GOP officials doesn’t sit well. Republicans have long wanted one of their own in that office. (Note, it was the Travis County D.A.’s office that indicted then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay nearly a decade ago.)
Given these details, the innocuous explanation is that Perry used his legal authority to push out a district attorney who got caught committing a crime. The not-at-all-innocuous explanation is that Perry used the DUI as a pretense to gut a Public Integrity Unit so that Republican state officials would face less scrutiny from a pesky Democrat.
Members of a grand jury evidently weren’t persuaded by the innocuous explanation and indicted the governor in August, charging him with “abuse of official capacity” and “coercion of a public official.” Perry’s lawyers urged a Texas court to dismiss the charges, and as of yesterday, that didn’t work.
I’ve written more than once about why I think there’s a reason to believe Perry is in real trouble here.
I realize there are some who’ve argued that this is a partisan fight, with Democrats going after a Republican – I’m still laughing at how brazenly wrong Peggy Noonan was when she made the case that the charges against Perry were “crazy,” citing details that were the opposite of reality – but the accusations about partisanship are still baseless. The prosecutor in this case, Michael McCrum, worked in the Bush/Quayle administration, and was appointed to oversee this case by a Republican judge. Yesterday’s ruling was also delivered by a Republican judge.
As a consequence, the case will move forward, and the legal proceedings will apparently coincide with Perry’s presidential bid – and the combination of the two will probably be unlike anything we’ve seen in quite a long time.
Former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland, Republican
Rowland resigned from office and later pleaded guilty to one-count of deprivation of honest services on December 23, 2004.
Rowland was allegedly using public funds to pay for vacations and other extravagences. He served 10 months in a federal prison.
On Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, former Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell was indicted along with his wife on charges of accepting illegal gifts. It is a 14 count indictment, following a lengthy investigation that alleges fraud, false statements, and obstruction.
In light of these recent allegations, we have compiled a list of 20 other notable politicians who have been arrested, indicted or convicted since 2000.
a few more
Study: 90% of Criminal Corporations Are Republican
Ninety percent of the corporations that were criminally convicted between 1989 and 2000 donated overwhelmingly to the Republican Party in 2012.
A study by the Corporate Crime Reporter, Russell Mokhiber, found that, “Ten out of the current top 100 donors to the 2012 political campaign have ple[a]d guilty to crimes.” The criminal-convictions file that was considered in his study included convictions during the ten years between 1989 and 2000.
An examination of this list, by the present reporter, indicates that nine of these ten big-donating criminal firms gave far more to Republican political campaigns than to Democratic ones. Only one firm, Pfizer, donated more to Democrats; and they contributed only slightly more to Democrats than to Republicans. By contrast, each one of the nine big-donating Republican criminal corporations – Honeywell, Lockheed, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Boeing, GE, Northrop, Koch Industries, Raytheon, and Exxon – donated far more to Republicans than to Democrats; and the most lopsidedly political criminal firm of them all, Koch Industries (which organized the “Tea Party” starting when Obama first entered the White House), donated a whopping 98% to Republicans.
At least according to this measure, criminal firms prefer Republican politicians overwhelmingly. It is rare, almost unheard of, to find a population that is so lopsidedly favorable to one Party over the other, as this one is: 90% vs. 10%.
Mokhiber provided the donation-figures, for each of these ten convicted firms, based on federal filings.
Another and related Mokhiber study, which was published on 3 April 2012, was titled “No Fault Corporate Crime,”and he quoted there the first-ever statement that Attorney General Eric Holder had made as the U.S. Attorney General that had employed the phrase “corporate crime.” In this statement, Holder expressed himself as being against prosecuting corporate crime, because he felt that only individuals should be criminally prosecuted. Holder has, however, also opposed criminal prosecutions of top corporate executives as individuals: not a one of them has been even prosecuted, during his term, much less convicted. Mokhiber pointed out that Holder came to his federal office from the elite corporate law firm of Covington & Burling, which defends corporations against criminal prosecutions. Mokhiber also noted, “And he’s going back to Covington & Burling.” So: Holder’s future income will be derived from corporations that will be hiring C&B to defend them from prosecutions for crimes, and from other legal charges against them. In other words: President Obama, when he had hired Holder, was actually hiring a career defender of corporations; and this person, Holder, has been continuing in this very same capacity while on the federal payroll, during his four-year hiatus from his career, as a professional corporate defender. Holder is, in other words, doing what is in his long-term personal career interest: protecting big-corporate criminals.
As the U.S. Attorney General, Holder’s policy regarding corporate criminality has been to seek what is called “deferred prosecution agreements” (basically agreements not to prosecute) instead of outright criminal convictions, against criminal firms. This policy has been carried out by Lanny A. Breuer (also from C&B), Obama’s appointed head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. Breuer’s chief argument for “deferred” (or actually non-) prosecutions, has been that after the accounting firm Arthur Anderson & Co. was almost put out of business by being criminally convicted in the 2001 Enron case, the Obama-Holder-Breuer team don’t want to hurt another criminal corporation, in a similar way.
However, a study that will be published in the Spring 2013 University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business Law will headline “Arthur Anderson and the Myth of the Corporate Death Penalty: Corporate Criminal Convictions in the Twenty-First Century.” Its researcher, Gabriel Markoff, says there: “No one has ever empirically studied what happens to companies after conviction. In this article, I do just that.” He summarizes his core finding: “The Department of Justice’s policy of preferring DPAs [deferred prosecution agreements, as opposed to criminal prosecutions] is insupportable.” In other words: Markoff finds that Obama has, essentially, been hiding behind a bogus argument, in order to protect executive crooks from being prosecuted.
Furthermore, Obama’s selected Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, has similarly refused to support criminal prosecutions of the mega-bank executives who had created the incentive-systems that produced the enormous fraudulent MBS(mortgage-backed-securities)-marketing bonuses for themselves, and that crashed the U.S. economy in 2008. Geithner, like the other key Obama appointees, comes from a background in which he has served, virtually all his life, the aristocracy that runs the Wall Street firms, and that invests in them; and those executives and investors were bailed out of their “toxic assets” by the U.S. Treasury, and by the Federal Reserve (i.e., by future U.S. taxpayers). Geithner, as the President of the New York Federal Reserve, had served the Wall Street banks back then, even prior to his being selected by Obama as Treasury Secretary.
As a consequence, corporate criminal prosecutions have been even fewer under President Obama than they were under the overtly Republican President, George W. Bush – and those convictions were already at historic lows.
So, if criminal corporations are still donating overwhelmingly to the Republican Party, one might wonder what can possibly be the reason, given that those executives have been getting such a terrific deal from Obama, who (at least nominally) is a Democrat? Perhaps they think that Republican politicians give them an even better deal. For example, Wall Street donated overwhelmingly to the Republican Romney campaign, against Obama, and Romney was (even publicly) promising them the moon.
When Obama, on 27 March 2009, in a private White House meeting with Wall Street CEOs, had told them “My administration ... is the only thing between you and the pitchforks,” and he thus analogized those crooked billionaires to the poor Blacks who had been hunted down and lynched by the KKK in the deep South a hundred years earlier, this seems not to have persuaded them, even though Obama actually did follow through on this secret promise he made to those financial elite that day. And Obama-Geithner-Holder-Bernanke and team did also follow through, and they completed George W. Bush’s bailout of them, and of their top crony investors.
Perhaps what Mokhiber’s study, and others, are indicating, then, is that America’s public is simply spoiling its financial elite, who feel that there is no limit to the privileges that they deserve. Staying out of prison, and even being bailed out by future U.S. taxpayers, isn’t already enough to satisfy them. They want the moon, which Romney promised them. And they almost got it. In the popular vote, at least, Romney lost by only a 2.5% margin. There were evidently lots of Americans who wanted to give the moon to these elite executives.