The news that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was indicted Friday for conducting a lawful act has Republican strategists and others steaming about a pattern of abuse by Democrats: When they can't beat Republicans at the polls, they try to indict them in criminal court.
The Perry indictment focuses on his threat to veto funding for the Travis County (Austin) district attorney's public integrity unit after D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for driving under the influence.
Her blood alcohol was nearly three times the legal limit, and she was seen on video being unruly and belligerent to police officers, who had to physically restrain her. Lehmberg served about half her 45-day jail sentence for her actions, but has refused to resign.
Perry called on Lehmberg to resign, threatening to veto legislative funding for the unit if she didn't. Lehmberg did not resign and Perry followed up on the threat.
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No one is challenging Perry's legal right to veto any bill he chooses, but because of the threat, the liberal advocacy group that backs Lehmberg, Texans for Public Justice, said Perry had committed an abuse of power.
They persuaded a friendly judge to appoint a special prosecutor who was able to get a grand jury in mostly-Democratic Travis County to indict Perry on two counts of misuse of public office.
The indictment says Perry used the power of his office to try to coerce a public official.
But even fair-minded liberals are angered by the obvious abuse of the criminal justice system.
Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz told Newsmax
that while said he is a liberal Democrat who would never vote for Perry, he was "outraged" by the indictment.
"Everybody, liberal or conservative, should stand against this indictment," Dershowitz said. "If you don't like how Rick Perry uses his office, don't vote for him."
Even David Axelrod, former aide to President Barack Obama, called it "pretty sketchy."
Pundits of the left and right see little chance of conviction, but Republicans note a disturbing trend by Democrats in misusing the criminal justice system for political purposes.
In 2010, it was District Attorney Ronnie Earle who pushed a Travis County grand jury to indict Texas Congressman and Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on money laundering charges relating to state races in 2010 that helped Republicans gain control of the state Legislature.
Last year, a Texas appellate court overturned the DeLay conviction, saying it was "legally insufficient."
The Perry indictment appears out of the same playbook. Today, Perry is a top-tier presidential candidate unofficially running for the Republican nomination in 2016. The indictment could potentially be an embarrassment for him.
Two other top-tier Republican presidential candidates have been mired in similar politically fueled probes that have loomed with a potential indictment threat.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is in a similar position over his Bridge-gate scandal
A state legislative panel, run by Democrats, and the U.S. Attorney's Office, headed by a Democrat appointed by Obama, are running separate investigations into whether Christie had any personal involvement when members of his staff purposely shut down commuter lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge last fall, reportedly for political payback.
Christie has yet to be linked personally to the scandal and denies any involvement.
Another Republican governor with possible White House aspirations, Wisconsin's Scott Walker
, already has survived a recall election over his stand to limit collective bargaining by state employees.
More recently, Walker has faced a probe by Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, a Democrat, over allegations the governor coordinated with conservative fundraisers to illegally violate state election laws.
Walker has called the allegations "nothing more than a partisan investigation," noting that two judges, one in federal and one in state court, have ruled he did nothing wrong.
Still, investigators illegally leaked sealed court records, claiming that prosecutors had pushed for an indictment of Walker. Walker's camp said the leak was nothing more than an effort to smear him as he faces a tough re-election race for governor this year.
And Republicans note that it is not just presidential candidates being targeted.
Filmmaker and author Dinesh D'Souza
was forced to plead guilty in May to illegally funneling approximately $20,000 through third parties to help a friend running for U.S. Senate in New York.
His plea agreement calls on him not to challenge a prison sentence of 10 to 16 months.
D'Souza has been a frequent critic of Obama, releasing two documentary films on him. The first, "2016: Obama's America," was released in 2012. His film "America: Imagine the World Without Her," was released this summer.
Criminal experts have said that considering the small amount of money involved, the federal government would typically not even investigate the matter.
"This is clearly a case of selective prosecution for one of the most common things done during elections, which is to get people to raise money for you," famed law professor Dershowitz said at the time of the D'Souza indictment.
"If they went after everyone who did this, there would be no room in jails for murderers."
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