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Texas Gov. Rick Perry Indicted on Coercion, Bribery Charges (Updated)

Andrea Grimes

An Austin grand jury indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on felony corruption charges on Friday after the Republican withheld $7.5 million in two years of funding for a county integrity unit that investigates government misdeeds and fraud.

UPDATE, August 18, 11:37 a.m.: In an official statement released Saturday, Gov. Perry described his indictment on coercion and abuse of power charges as “partisan theatrics.” In fact, Perry called the indictment itself an “abuse of power,” and that he will “fight against those who would erode our state’s constitution and laws purely for political purposes.” A number of prominent Republicans have announced their public support for Perry, including Sen. Ted Cruz (TX), Gov. Bobby Jindal (LA), and former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. According to the San Antonio Express-News, the special prosecutor who investigated the Perry allegations has a reputation as “not the type to use a case to play politics.”

An Austin grand jury indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry on felony corruption charges on Friday after the Republican withheld $7.5 million in two years of funding for a county integrity unit that investigates government misdeeds and fraud.

The state’s public integrity unit is housed within the Travis County District Attorney’s office. After Travis County DA Rosemary Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving in 2013, Perry called for her resignation. Lehmberg refused to resign, and Perry vetoed the unit’s funding.

That veto triggered a complaint from Texans for Public Justice, a left-leaning watchdog group that alleged, in part, that Perry:

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threatened to use the official power of his elected office to veto the legislative budget appropriation for the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit unless Rosemary Lehmberg, the elected Travis County District Attorney resigned her office. Further, the aforesaid James Richard “Rick” Perry subsequently did use the power of his office on the fifteenth of June, A.D. 2013, to veto the legislative appropriation to fund the Travis County District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit.

An investigation into the allegations began more than a year ago in Austin, and on Friday resulted in indictments for abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. If convicted, Perry could face prison sentences from five to 99 years, and two to ten years, on the charges, respectively.

Perry, the state’s longest-serving governor at four terms and a staunch anti-choice politician who has said he endorses the repeal of Roe v. Wade, is not seeking re-election. He is reported to be considering a 2016 presidential bid.

Public corruption has become a contentious issue in the race to replace Perry, with Democratic nominee state Sen. Wendy Davis accusing Republican nominee and current Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, of granting favorable rulings to Koch Industries donors.

Left-wing groups were quick to tie Perry’s indictment charges to alleged corruption in the state GOP writ large.

“Today’s indictment of Rick Perry confirms the corrupt culture of GOP leadership in Texas,” said Matt Angle, a former Davis advisor and director of the liberal Lone Star Project PAC. He characterized Perry’s “abuse of power” as “business as usual.”

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