Taxpayers to foot Rick Perry’s legal bill

Texas taxpayers will pay an Austin lawyer’s legal fees for representing Gov. Rick Perry, who is under criminal investigation for carrying out a threat to withhold money from the Travis County District Attorney’s office.

Attorney David Botsford will be paid $450 an hour to be Perry’s defense lawyer — money that will come from the state’s budget — “because this inquiry concerns actions by the governor while acting in his official capacity,” Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said Wednesday.

The American-Statesman and KVUE-TV reported Sunday that Perry had retained Botsford. The hiring came as a special prosecutor was about to begin presenting evidence to a Travis County grand jury.

That grand jury, seated Monday, will decide whether Perry violated any state laws in threatening to withhold money from Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg’s Public Integrity Unit unless she resign after her drunken driving arrest last year.

After Lehmberg refused to step down, Perry carried out that threat and vetoed a state budget item that would have allocated $7.5 million over two years for the unit, which investigates ethics complaints against elected officials.Travis County commissioners then had to scramble to help fill that gap, but several unit employees had to be reassigned and two lost their jobs.

The Perry veto prompted government watchdog group Texans for Public Justice to file a criminal complaint alleging that Perry had violated state laws prohibiting bribery, coercion and abuse of authority. The complaint led to the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate.

The prosecutor, Michael McCrum of San Antonio, has said that he is “very concerned” by Perry’s actions but has declined to elaborate.

Botsford could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

On Sunday, he said, “The matter at hand pertains to the power of the governor to issue vetoes as allowed under the Texas Constitution. I have been retained to ensure that (the special prosecutor) receives all the facts, which will show that the governor’s veto was carried out in both the spirit and the letter of the law.”

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