Story As It Appeared in the
The McAllen Monitor
Posted: Friday, July 2, 2004 - 1 AM
Revised: July 2, 2004 - 8:15 AM - Added my
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By ALMA WALZER
McALLEN, July 1, 2004 - The wrangling that has jarred state House politics for more than a year appears to be on the verge of taking a new rancorous twist.
A group of Democratic Texas state representatives is researching whether it can impeach Republican Gov. Rick Perry on corruption allegations, according to documents obtained by The Monitor.
At the top of the Democrats' list of accusations of possible wrongdoing involving the governor is the contract between the Texas attorney general's office and a Las Vegas law firm. The contract called on the firm to draft legislation on the issue of slot machines.
The $250,000 contract became public during a June 1 meeting of the Texas House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures. The contract was finalized in 36 hours during a weekend in December 2003 at Perry's urging and is being paid for by funds from the Texas Lottery Commission.
The lottery funds were intended for the state's Foundation School Fund but were instead used to pay the law firm, documents obtained by The Monitor show.
Perry's press secretary, Robert Black, said the governor's office was unaware of impeachment research being done by members of the Texas House.
"It's unfortunate that those who can't beat Rick Perry at the ballot box, who can't compete in the arena of ideas, will always attempt to disrupt the process with crazy schemes," Black said.
"Gov. Perry will continue to work hard on school finance and job creation for all the people of Texas," Black said.
The House Democrats studying impeachment, including Rep. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth and Rep. Pete Gallego of Alpine, said they also are disturbed by statements made by Perry about how the Texas Supreme Court will rule in a school finance lawsuit and the accusation of Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn that Perry misused a state agency to perform political opposition research on her.
Rumors continue to circulate around the state that Strayhorn is considering a run for governor against Perry in 2006.
Regarding the specific allegations, Black said, "This group apparently has a bucketful of misinformation because the governor had nothing to do with the lottery commission contract; he hasn't spoken to a Supreme Court justice regarding the school finance case; and the Legislature, not governor, has control over the state auditor, who looked at Strayhorn's tax decisions in relation to campaign contributions."
Strayhorn's press secretary, Mark Sanders, said the comptroller is unaware of any discussions among House members on the impeachment process.
"We don't have a comment on it," Sanders said.
Burnam told The Monitor that he is among a group of House members who seek to impeach Perry.
"It definitely looks like what the governor did with hiring the Las Vegas law firm, he used state funds to do that, and that was an illegal expenditure," Burnam said. "That's an impeachable offense. What he did was illegal, immoral and unethical."
Burnam said he is focused on the allegedly illegal use of state funds for the law firm and looks forward to the July 14 follow-up meeting of the Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures.
"I certainly look forward to the facts coming forward," Burnam said. "The (impeachment) research out there shows we are well within our rights and so we have to ask ourselves if we have an obligation to the people of Texas to do this.
"I think it's a better use of state time to study the impeachment of the governor than to have him call another special session and get nothing done," Burnam said.
The protracted drama that has punctuated Texas politics for more than a year began in May 2003 when a group of House Democrats left the legislative session and fled to Ardmore, Okla., breaking quorum to prevent action on congressional redistricting during the regular legislative session. It took three special sessions - the second of which was boycotted by the state's Democratic senators who took off for New Mexico - for Republicans to finally push through redistricting.
The power to impeach rests with the Texas House, according the State Government Code. There are three ways to get the process started: by proclamation of the governor; by proclamation of the speaker of the House if 50 or more members sign a petition; or by a written proclamation signed by a majority - 76 members - of the 150-member House. Impeachment in the House is followed by a trial in the Texas Senate, with conviction requiring a two-thirds vote of the senators present, according to state law.
Bob Richter, press secretary for Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, said the speaker was unaware of any impeachment attempts or research.
"We have the feeling it's the usual suspects," Richter said. "And they can sign the petition like men and women, and we'll pick it up."
Gallego acknowledged that he is part of the group studying impeachment.
"I like to be thoroughly prepared and try to play out all the angles," Gallego said. "So I'm not prepared to talk about this in detail right now.
"But there is clearly a long series of really bad decisions, bad judgment, made on his (Perry's) part," Gallego said. "And that is certainly deserving of some discussion of whether that rises to the next level. Where I am right now is holding basic discussion on do we have a violation of the law and does it rise to impeachment? It's too early to comment on anything else."
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.
Other Republican House members expressed shock at the thought of impeaching Perry.
"I haven't heard any of that nonsense," said state Rep. Joe Nixon, R-Houston. "It seems ridiculous to me, and I think a lot of positive things are accomplished when we work together."
State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said the impeachment research conducted by House members was news to him.
"To me, this procedure is drastic," Hinojosa said. "It should be used as a last resort because he was elected governor by the people of Texas.
"I've disagreed with him plenty of times in the past, and if he did something wrong it should be fully researched and handled appropriately," Hinojosa said. "But to impeach him - I have a little hesitation."
The last time a Texas governor was impeached was in 1917, when former Gov. James Ferguson was indicted by a Travis County grand jury for the misapplication of public funds, embezzlement and the diversion of a special fund. The Texas Legislature impeached and convicted Ferguson and made him ineligible to hold any state office.
Two Comments to Add To This Story
During the Sunset hearing, the TLC was asked if any of
Well, there's two problems with Mr. Mallett. One is that
Records show Mr. Mallett was paid $12,720 PER MONTH
Watch This June 1 Hearing Yourself ... Very Interesting!
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