The Rick Perry indictment is a troubling affront to separation of powers

I recognize that the threat can be viewed as seeking to force Lehmberg to take an official action — i.e., her resignation — however that seems materially different from what the law was primarily designed to achieve. In the very least, this would seem an area for prosecutorial discretion that the charge in this individual case does not advance the purposes of the provision. As for the first charge, I view it as hopelessly ambiguous and facially unsuitable in this case.

There are significant constitutional concerns raised by this type of indictment. Perry is essentially being indicted for his use of constitutional power to veto an appropriations item. Most people seem to recognize that he could have done this if he had not threatened to do it in advance. That seems to be the determinative factor: that he announced what he would do in advance if Lehmberg did not resign. That does not make for a particularly compelling criminal charge…

Governors and presidents routinely seek to defund or cut the funding of offices that they view as unnecessary or abusive. It becomes a matter of legislative and executive debate. Ironically, the greatest concern in Perry’s action would be the effective nullification of the underlying laws enforcing public integrity. However, the legislature can cut such budgets and, under the Texas Constitution, governors are allowed to do so as well (while subject to a veto override). Nullification controversies (like the one involving President Obama in areas like immigration) arise when agencies retain both the authority and budgets to enforce the laws. These are difficult questions to be sure but this dispute occurred in the context of the legislative-executive budgetary process.

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