Democrats Hope Rick Perry Probe Clouds Presidential Hopes

Image: Democrats Hope Rick Perry Probe Clouds Presidential Hopes

Monday, 21 Apr 2014 01:06 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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Democrats are capitalizing on the impaneling of a Texas grand jury to investigate whether Gov. Rick Perry broke the law in his efforts to get a state prosecutor to resign by threatening to withhold millions in funding for her office, according to The San Antonio Express-News.

On Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee will unveil a parody of the opening credits of "Law and Order" with "Law & Disorder: Republican Governors' Unit" that will mention the Perry investigation, along with investigations into the bridge closing scandal of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's campaign in his recall bid.

Perry is being scrutinized for his efforts to force Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, to step down after she was convicted of drunk driving last year.

Perry, a powerful governor who has held the office for 14 years, longer than any other Texan, threatened to veto state funds earmarked for the Public Integrity Unit. The unit investigates the misdeeds of state agencies and officials and is overseen by Lehmberg, who served a 45-day jail sentence. Police video captured Lehmberg being combative during the arrest and at the jail.

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Republicans, according to the Associated Press, have long felt Lehmberg inserted politics into the unit's investigations.

The Lone Star State's constitution allows a governor the power to veto legislation and funds and a "threat to do something legal is protected speech," University of Texas law professor Ross Fischer told the Dallas Morning News.

"You've got a really high burden, and you've got to make these elements fit the conduct. And it looks like it's going to be a stretch," Fischer told the paper.

Perry announced last year that he would not seek a fourth term as governor. He has been busy revamping his image since his less than stellar 2012 presidential bid, punctuated by him forgetting during a debate the third federal agency he said he wanted to eliminate.

Perry has spanned the globe and spent time in Iowa and South Carolina. He has made appearances on both late-night talk shows and Sunday morning roundtables. Though he maintains he won't make a decision until next year on another run for president, Politico reports that a team of advisers has been working with Perry for months, preparing him for a bid.

Perry's former presidential campaign spokesman, Ray Sullivan, told Politico that his former boss is doing an excellent job of imparting his message to the American public.

"He just seems like a very confident, upbeat and articulate spokesman for conservative policy and values," Sullivan said.

Perry has remained conspicuously quiet on the subject, but he did tease the audience at a Jimmy Kimmel interview in Austin recently.

"You know, America is a great place for second chances," he mused.

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