Governors of the U.S., beware: If you veto a funding bill, you could be indicted -- even if you wear thick-rimmed designer glasses. (Doesn’t every article about Texas Governor Rick Perry have to mention his glasses? I thought I’d get it out of the way quickly.)
On Friday, Perry will be arraigned on two felony counts of official misconduct. The first count charges him with having “intentionally misused government property” -- in this case, public funds -- “contrary to an agreement under which defendant held such property” -- whatever that means, since he never personally held the property, which never actually existed anyway -- “or contrary to the oath of office he took as a public servant.”
Nothing in this count makes any reference to Perry’s effort to force District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg from office after she threatened police officers and acted belligerently following her arrest for drunk driving. That’s mentioned in count two of the indictment, which accuses Perry of coercion. The first count only says -- in effect -- Perry violated his oath by exercising his authority.
If the case goes to a jury, I suspect the first note the jury will send back to the judge will be along the lines of: Huh?
If a jury somehow convicts on the first count, every governor (and mayor and county executive) in the country would have to run for the hills. Every veto they issue would be subject to review by district attorneys for possible criminal charges.
This spring Maine Governor Paul LePage vetoed a bill -- for the third time -- to accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, denying property (funding) to 70,000 residents. Three strikes and you’re out -- throw the book at him! California Governor Jerry Brown used his line-item veto last year to cut $128 million for child care, preschool, and other services. Why is he still free?
State legislators and city councilors would be no better off. After all, if vetoing an appropriation is a felony, what about failing to override it? Or failing to adopt an appropriation in the first place? Negligence can be a crime, too. Even strict constructionists know that.
If the Perry indictment sticks, no action -- and no office -- would be exempt from prosecutorial review. Isn’t it an outrage that President Obama has deported/failed to deport so many undocumented/illegal immigrants? It’s not only an outrage, it’s a high crime. But why impeach when you can indict? And besides, why should House Republicans be the only ones trying to force the president into court? Civil suits are for sissies. Cuff him and stuff him, as a legendary sheriff once said.
"Throw the bums out" is so quaint. Throw the bums in jail.
Now, locking up elected officials for violating their oaths by exercising their authority may seem harsh (and bizarre), but just imagine the benefits. Special-interest groups could bypass Congress and go straight to the DA. Citizens would line up for jury duty, at least when members of Congress are indicted. And eventually -- after a few convictions -- no one would ever want to run for office again, making it the perfect solution to partisan gridlock. Finally, a government that does nothing wrong, because it does nothing. (Libertarians rejoice!)
I can’t believe the Founding Fathers never thought of this. James Madison, what a dope. And a criminal, too: He once vetoed a bill to fund the construction of roads and canals.
When George Washington said, “Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness,” he clearly had no clue what he was talking about. He was just lucky he got away with putting down the Whiskey Rebellion, a popular uprising against a tax on domestically distilled spirits, without ending up in the stockade. Maybe the local DA drank imported vodka.
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