Texas politics are known to get down and dirty but the rule of law should always trump the kind of baloney we're seeing in one county in the Lone Star state.
In April of last year, Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested and charged with drunken driving. Her blood alcohol level measured .23, three times the Texas legal limit. It would have required about 10 alcoholic drinks in one hour to achieve that rating.
Lehmberg denied she was drunk, despite the fact that she had been reported to police for driving the wrong way down a street in Austin and the arrest video that showed her stumbling and staggering while trying to walk a straight line. There was also an open bottle of vodka in her car, violating Texas' open container law.
Liquor store receipts show that in one 15-month period leading up to her arrest, Lehmberg purchased 76 bottles – adding up to 24.7 gallons of alcohol – a rate of nearly one purchase a week.
The police also stated that Lehmberg attempted to scratch an officer, so she could have been charged with assaulting an officer of the law. The face Lehmberg made during her mug shot booking was the kind any street delinquent trying to flaunt authority would be proud to own.
Incredibly, Lehmberg is in charge of the Travis County Public Integrity Unit! When she refused to resign from her position, Gov. Rick Perry said that he and the public had "lost confidence" in Lehmberg and therefore used his line item veto power to cut funding to Lehmberg's agency, which amounts to about $7.5 million of taxpayer dollars.
This incensed Travis County Democrats who have tried to flip the blame. A Travis County grand jury indicted Perry, charging coercion and official oppression for carrying out his threat to veto funding for the unit headed by the disgraced Lehmberg. In an interview over the weekend, Perry said if he had to do it over again, he would make the same decision.
Perry's use of line item veto is not an abuse of power. Even retired Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a liberal Democrat, sees the Republican governor's indictment as part of a dangerous trend.
Ray Sullivan, a Perry adviser, says this is typical Travis County liberalism at work – attacking powerful Republicans on phony political charges. He said they try to deflect blame in order to garner headlines but almost always lose in court.
It's the kind of political shenanigans that should make every taxpayer sick.
By Jim Zbick