July 02, 2004
Impeachment investigated

Yellow Dog Blog noted yesterday this Brownsville Herald article in which some State House Democrats have explored the possibility of starting impeachment proceedings against Governor Perry. Today, the Chron, Express News, and Morning News pick up the story as well. From the Chron:

"Clearly, I think Perry should be investigated for the things he's done," said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, one of the governor's more vocal critics.

State Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, said the dozen or so legislators who have been looking into the impeachment issue include some Republicans, whom he declined to identify.


Democratic legislators contacted on Thursday identified three main complaints that they believe need further investigation:

·The Texas Lottery Commission's hiring of a Las Vegas law firm to draft legislation to legalize video slot machines in Texas. The bill failed during the recent special session on school finance, and the law firm has so far billed the state for at least $176,743.

·Perry's remarks, in a private meeting in Dallas on May 13, that a lawsuit challenging the school finance law will fail because he knows where his appointees to the high court "stand" on the issue. The governor has denied discussing the case with Supreme Court justices, but detractors say it was improper for the governor to raise questions about the court's independence.

·An allegation by Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, also denied by Perry, that he had orchestrated a politically motivated audit of her office.

Gallego said that impeachment talk was prompted primarily by the Las Vegas law firm's hiring.

"The first question that people are trying to answer is if there is a violation of law here. If so, what are the sanctions? And impeachment is on that list," Gallego said.

"I would not characterize this as an effort to impeach the governor. It's an effort to get to the bottom of some allegations that have been made," he added.

Although Attorney General Greg Abbott's office approved the law firm's hiring, Gallego said there also are questions about whether the law firm should have been paid from lottery proceeds and whether the firm had a conflict of interest because it also represents casinos.

Perry's chief of staff, Mike Toomey, also recommended that a particular consultant be hired to assist the law firm, the Lottery Commission's executive director, Reagan Greer, recently told a House committee investigating the contract.

[Perry spokesman Robert] Black said the governor had nothing to do with the Lottery Commission's decision. He said Toomey merely passed along the name of a consultant he had been given by state Rep. Kent Grusendorf, R-Arlington, chairman of the House Public Education Committee.

I'm all in favor of a full and open discussion of the items on this list. For sure, I think the TLC hiring the Vegas law firm to draft gambling legislation stinks to high heaven, and I don't believe for a minute the denials from Perry's office that they had nothing to do with it. If this is all a way to focus attention on some questionable and underexplored doings by Perry, there's nothing wrong with that - indeed, I'd say it's an appropriate thing for the minority party to be talking about. And yes, it's fine to mention impeachment as a possible sanction if any of these allegations can be sufficiently proven, as long as we all understand that we're talking about one of several possible remedies for crimes that may or may not exist.

That said, I think any public mention of the I-word now, whether intentional or accidental, is way premature and will probably serve to sidetrack the more serious effort to get at the truth of these matters since the whole thing immediately becomes cast as just another escalation of partisan warfare. The focus shifts from the allegations and investigations of potential wrongdoing to screaming headlines of "Democrats want to impeach the Governor!!!" It's hard to disagree with this assessment in the Express News:

"I think this is just an element of the increasing partisanship in Texas politics, and it appears to me that this is really a Democratic Party with few levers of power left for it to operate," Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson said.

"It is a party that is getting beaten about the head and shoulders and is frustrated against a very aggressive Republican majority" that controls the Legislature and all major elected statewide offices, Jillson said.


"At worst he was talking Texas bravado; at best he was just second-guessing what he hoped the court would do. Either way, I do not believe there was any misconduct by the governor," said Rep. Steve Wolens, D-Dallas.

Despite being a Perry critic, he said he does not see a basis for impeaching the governor.

"This might be a way that some would like to remove (Perry) from office, but he is no 'Pa' Ferguson, who was peddling prison pardons and withholding the University of Texas' budget," Trinity University political science professor Tucker Gibson said.

You can bet that the op-ed writers will now take the opportunity to tut-tut about all this unseemly partisanship, which leaves them free to ignore the substance of the charges. Even if stronger evidence comes to light, future coverage is likely to be colored by the perception that this is just an attempt to "get" Perry.

Not mentioned in today's accounts, and probably lost as a viable option to the Democrats now that Speaker Craddick has said he would oppose any impeachment effort, was this nugget from yesterday's Herald story:

At least one Republican state representative, who asked that his name not be used because of possible political ramifications, said he was studying the impeachment process along with House Democrats.

“I’m studying all the options,” he said.

Maybe later, with some solid evidence already in hand, you could get a few House Republicans to call for some kind of official investigation against the Governor. I strongly suspect this is the last we'll hear from that unnamed Republican.

I have the same general feeling about this kind of action that I do about the current grand jury investigations into TAB and TRM and the ethics complaint against Tom DeLay, which is that if you're going to take a shot at such a powerful entity, you'd better shoot to kill. The fact that Rep. Lon Burnam is a leader in this effort doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. I'll be happy to be proven wrong, but right now this looks to me like it'll turn out to be a whole lotta nada.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 02, 2004 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

Since when is cluelessness an impeachable offense?

Posted by: Sue on July 2, 2004 8:53 AM

Sue - if only!

OT: Good to see that Tucker Gibson is still at it at Trinity. I took a policy class from him my freshman year, and he took great joy in baiting the right-leaning students. Of course, this was fall of 1984, when Reagan thoroughly trounced Mondale, so Gibson was in fine form as the long-suffering liberal crying in the wilderness.

Further OT: It was my first presidential election. I voted for Mondale, and he lost. Last year, when Mondale replaced the deceased Wellstone for the MN Senate seat, I voted for him again, and he lost. I'm starting to take it personally.

Posted by: CrispyShot on July 2, 2004 9:18 AM

Crispy, you're right about Tucker Gibson. Even as one of those right-leaning students that he baited, was one of my favorite professors at Trinity.

I'm not sure how but at some point while stationed in Croatia, I got word that he got promoted to full professor. As a congratulatory gift, I sent him a note and a box of cigars for him to chew on in class.

He sent back a nice letter of thanks even though I'm certain he had no real idea who I was.

PS - Unless there is a lot more than meets the eye, the charges against Perry are going nowhere. If the Dems want to be rid of Perry, just stand back and let he and Strayhorn snipe away at each other. The sound of the childish bickering might be enough to do the job with the right candidate.

Posted by: Patrick on July 2, 2004 10:01 AM

I guess it's getting a bit off-topic, but am I the only one here who's rubbed the wrong way by professors discussing and advocating their politics with their students? I don't think people in a position of power over others should be doing that.

Posted by: Tim on July 2, 2004 11:02 AM

Well, Gibson is a political science professor, so I imagine the subject would come up. Whether it's better to know exactly how such a prof feels or to not know at all because s/he does such a good job of appearing neutral is a matter of taste, I guess.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on July 2, 2004 11:13 AM

Am I reading this story wrong? The governor directed that $250,000 be taken from the Foundation School Fund and set aside to hire this Las Vegas law firm?

Seems to me, a la GOPUSA, we have a winning soundbite:

"Governor Perry took money from school kids and gave it to gambling lobbyists so they could write legislation to help out slot-machine makers in Las Vegas."

Posted by: Kenneth Fair on July 2, 2004 1:52 PM

Tim, I have a problem with professor advocating political postions if a student's acceptance of a particular political point of view is required in order to obtain a better grade.

But I can honestly say as one of those "right-leaning" students I never felt that way in Dr. Gibson's class. I got a B- and thinking back I earned a B-.

Posted by: Patrick on July 2, 2004 2:20 PM

Kenneth - You're not reading the story wrong, and that's a great soundbite, one I hope to see used in 2006. Which is all the more reason why I don't want to see this issue get bogged down in "impeachment" talk, at least not at this time. Get all the facts out, then talk about what needs to be done about it.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on July 2, 2004 2:44 PM


You may indeed be the only person that is rubbed the wrong way by discussions of politics.

College may be one of the very few, if not only, places that allow for free form discussions of important topics, like politics. If you don't want people discussing politics in college, where should they talk about it?

I talked politics with my students all the time. They had lots of questions, and sometimes it seemed as if no other adult had ever taken the time to have a serious discussion of such topics with them.

Posted by: former prof on July 2, 2004 4:23 PM

This is a partisan witch hunt! These baseless charges don't rise to the level of impeachment!

Sorry, I just couldn't wait.

Posted by: Rob Booth on July 2, 2004 5:00 PM

I think what Tim might be trying to get at is the professors who pimp their own opinions to the exclusion of others, particularly when opposing opinions are mocked or ignored. It's not at all uncommon for faculty of one political bent to grade down students of the opposing view, even if logical, coherent opinions are offered.

College is most definitely a place for opinions to be expressed. And yet I've heard from far too many students that they were afraid of backlash for expressing an opinion that didn't match that of the professor, particularly in PoliSci classes.

Posted by: Sue on July 2, 2004 10:01 PM