Friday, March 18, 2016

Cause and effect: Veto of Public Integrity Unit funding costing Collin County taxpayers

Grits finds complaints by the Collin County Commissioners Court about paying legal bills for AG Ken Paxton's special prosecutors ironic. A judge dismissed a lawsuit challenging the fees and ordered them to pay the legal tab, which has topped a quarter million dollars. According to the Dallas News:
Collin County commissioners have been vocal about their opposition to the costly Paxton prosecution, saying they have no choice but to pay the amounts ordered by the court. In a blog post on Sunday, County Judge Keith Self called again for the special prosecutors to resign so that another district attorney from the region could be assigned to the case.

“Our taxpayers deserve better,” Self wrote.
Perhaps, if this is such a great concern, Judge Self and the commissioners court should lobby the Legislature next year to reinstate funding for the Public Integrity Unit at the Travis County DA. Former Gov. Rick Perry's veto of their budget is the reason they're stuck with these bills. Before 2013, state taxpayers would have picked up the tab.


Phelps said...

The Paxton case is weak. There's no 'there' there. I'm not sure why they trotted it out in front of a ham-sandwich grand jury, but they did, so they can pay the bill.

Putting the drunk, "do you know who I am" power abusing Democrats back in position to spend even MORE millions on political persecutions is not an answer to this problem. (Perry's indictment being thrown out so decisively means it was absolutely persecution, not prosecution.)

pyrotarkus said...

It wasn't thrown out decisively and Paxton knowingly broke the law 3 times. Good luck with the facts in the future.

pyrotarkus said...

It wasn't thrown out decisively and Paxton knowingly broke the law 3 times. Good luck with the facts in the future.

Phelps said...

Perry's case was thrown out decisively, with prejudice and no wiggle room in the decision. It was a slam dunk for his legal team.

Paxton's case is extremely weak. At the end of the day, what the jury is going to hear is that he, while licensed by the feds, recommended to one friend that they buy stock from another friend of his. The jury is going say, "so what?" and throw it all out -- if it ever gets to them.

It's a waste of a quarter million dollars (certain to be over a million if it goes all the way to a jury) for a case that was already handled by the state bar.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@ Phelps, I agree the case against Perry was dubious, but if it was truly a "slam dunk" for the defense it wouldn't have cost him $2 million in legal fees to get rid of, would it? I imagine just about any defendant who spent $2 million-plus on criminal defense lawyers would get a better-than-average outcome, regardless of the facts of the case. If he were indigent, after all, his lawyer would be paid a few hundred bucks. Or, if it was really a "slam dunk," maybe you believe Perry's lawyers were billing for unnecessary services? I bet he didn't think that.

As for Paxton, all I've seen tells me you're significantly understating things, for reasons which elude me beyond just partisan blinders. The judge in the case disagreed with you that there's "no 'there' there." What you describe is called "insider trading" and if Hillary Clinton had done the same thing, you'd be calling for her immediate imprisonment, or worse. Time will tell, but lawyers I respect have opined that the case against Paxton is substantially stronger than the one against Perry.

Regardless, having a centralized Public Integrity Unit in Austin keeps counties from having to foot these sorts of bills, which is a big reason why the thing was created in the first place. Prosecuting big-shot politicians can get expensive.

Phelps said...

It's only insider trading if he made the recommendation based on insider knowledge that wasn't available to all investors. He's not charged with insider trading. He's charged with not having a state license in addition to his federal license, and with securities fraud for not disclosing that he hadn't bought the stock himself and that he was going to be given stock later.

Hillary has done much shadier deals than this, and no one listened to the hysterics trying to get prosecutors to take up the cause. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I'm much more concerned with the damage she did to national security than her shady payoffs to the Clinton Foundation.

The PIU in Austin doesn't conjure money out of thin air. We are still paying for it, and to an agency that is only accountable to hippies in Austin, not to the actual voters of Texas. It's a unit that needed to end.

Anonymous said...

For the record there were other district attorneys and even judges who were charged with DWI but Perry didn't demand any of them resign. If any of you would spend just ten minutes doing some intelligent research you would find that the real reason Perry defunded the PIU was to shut down the CPRIT investigation before it got to him or his cronies. Come on, surely you guys are smarter than you let on!?

Phelps said...

For the record, I've heard this BS argument before, and it is misleading enough to be a lie. There were other DAs who were charged, and Perry didn't demand that any of them resign -- because the local party demanded it first and they did resign.

Lehmberg was the only one to not only not resign when she was charged, but in fact refused to resign even after she was convicted. That is why Perry had to step in.

Anonymous said...

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 2.07(c) If the appointed attorney is not an attorney for the state, he is qualified to perform the duties of the office for the period of absence or disqualification of the attorney for the state on filing an oath with the clerk of the court. He shall receive compensation in the same amount and manner as an attorney appointed to represent an indigent person.

The law is clear in that the DA pro tem is to be paid at the same rate as an attorney appointed to represent an indigent defendant. What then is the indigent rate? It's found in Collin County's Indigent defense Plan.... you can read it here... see page 13.

$300 bucks an hour is total bulls$#t.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:41, too bad the Republican judges interpreting the law don't agree with your anonymous legal opinion.

Phelps, your double standard and one-sided hostility toward political opposition discredits your stance. Somebody has to pay to prosecute corruption, and it's more expensive with deep-pocketed defendants and thus costs more.

Also, Perry stepping in did nothing to oust Lehmberg from office, it just made counties pay to prosecute the cases the PIU used to do. This was his doing but you'd place blame everywhere but at the source. Counties that have complaints should lobby the Lege to reinstate PIU funding. Simple.

Anonymous said...

Damn, GFB, I would have thought you of all people would be better informed than the yahoos who comment here. You should know that even if legislators restored funding for the PIU, it still couldn't prosecute state officials. Thanks to two crooked republicans, the waste of oxygen Phil King and the most useless republican skank in the country, Joan Huffman, a new bill was passed and signed into law by Perry preventing the PIU from going after any of them. You slipping a little, Scott. But I'll always have your back.

Phelps said...

My alleged "double standard" (which has never actually been contradicted by fact because Republicans have the common human decency to resign when they get caught, a quality Democrats apparently do not share) does not make me wrong.

Your apparent double standard is, "well, when the state wastes money that comes from the taxpayers, that is better than the county wasting money that ALSO comes from the taxpayers."

Someone has to pay to prosecute corruption -- agreed. That someone is always going to be the taxpayer. Shifting that burden from the county level to the state level only matter in that people in non-corrupt counties share the burden for counties that keep electing shitheels. How is that a defensible position?

Perry stepping in didn't remove her, but it did remove the shame of someone who is plainly corrupt herself from being in a position to waste more taxpayer money prosecuting her political enemies rather than using the office to actually tackle corruption.

Is it inconvenient for you that your preferred method of dealing with corruption was made untenable by a drunk, weak corrupt Democrat who corrupted the office? Absolutely.

The solution to that problem is to stop electing drunk, weak, corrupt Democrats.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Sorry to disappoint, 1:43, but my argument was more big picture - the PIU was the better approach. After Perry defunded it, you're right, they changed the law to strip its power. I contend they should re-empower it. And Collin County's complaints are Exhibit A why.

Phelps, you don't like Democrats, we get it. It's a boring and irrelevant point, but rest assured, you've made it.

Rosemary Lehmberg won't always be in office, but the dynamic witnessed with Collin County and the reticence of locals to pay to prosecute statewide officials will remain long after she's been forgotten. The issue isn't about personalities or partisan politics. It's unfortunate those are the only terms of debate you seem capable of engaging in.

Phelps said...

Sorry to disappoint, but the only reason you are arguing it is for partisan reasons. The PIU didn't work. More importantly, the way it was administered was antiquated and no longer reflected the will of the electorate. Austin is a radical enclave of Texas, and there is no more reason for it to elect the corruption watchdog for the whole state than there it would be for Sacramento, a conservative enclave, to elect the watchdog for the entire state of California.

The PIU has been long corrupted -- by Democrats, but probably would be regardless because it was a bad idea -- to the point that it was used primarily for unsuccessful partisan persecutions that were pursued for temporary tactical advantage in election years.

I don't want to pay for that, and neither do the majority of Texans. If you don't like the results of democracy, then we have a much bigger split between us. The Perry and Delay prosecutions were indefensible, and that a DA was allowed to interfere with national politics is a damned embarrassment. I'm sorry that you are beyond shame when it comes to our democracy and prefer machinations by degenerate drunks to the will of the People.

Anonymous said...

That Phelps fellow is brainwashed beyond help, he's drunk off FOX News. Hell, I bet he's one of the very first that the Kenyan orders to be picked up by Jade Helm operatives and held at the FEMA camps.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Phelps, speak for yourself, don't pretend to know my motivations.

As for your comment that "Perry and Delay prosecutions were indefensible," Brian Wice, one of the special prosecutors in the Paxton case, WAS TOM DELAY'S LAWYER. But according to you, it's all a partisan witch hunt. Right.

Otherwise, it's telling you think "democracy" should trump the rule of law. (Or maybe, during this particular primary season, "Trump" it.) A politician's popularity IMO shouldn't place them above the law. You're right we disagree on that.

Phelps said...

You started the mind reading with your opining about my "partisan blinders."

The defunding of the PIU was all done by rule of law, with the duly elected Governor exercising his constitutional duty to veto and later on the legislature properly and legally defunding the unit and changing the law. That is what legislatures do.

Paxton will get his day in court if the prosecution survives his legal challenges (and we both know that a habeas motion is hard to carry, even when you are plainly innocent, so it will probably go to trial.) I don't think a jury is going to care about what he did, will find him innocent, and then we'll hear all kinds of recriminations about how terrible jurors are again. I won't say that I would be shocked if he's convicted (if anything it is shockingly easy to convict someone nowdays) but I would't be advising Collin Co to spend the money on this boondoggle if they were to ask me. Thank god I'm no longer paying taxes there.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Phelps, you explicitly stated your partisan predilections and framed all this as R vs. D. I stuck to the issues and you kept wailing about corrupt Democrats, etc.. I get to observe your arguments and react to them. You don't get to invent motivations for me I've never expressed.

And yes, the PIU was defunded according to the rule of law. Now counties are objecting to having to foot the bill and I suggested the law be changed back. That's the debate. I'm glad you've finally recognized what the real debate is, and it's not about who's an R or a D.

If you simply think NOBODY should prosecute corruption (before you say it, unless the defendant is a Democrat, of course), we'll have to agree to disagree and leave it there.

Phelps said...

Corruption absolutely should be prosecuted. What I don't agree with is spending millions of taxpayer dollars on specious, unsupportable prosecutions of politicians for the sole purpose of derailing national campaigns, which is what the PIU specialized in. That is an actual abuse of power, but you haven't expressed any interest in that. The same way that Absolute Immunity induces DAs to pursue false convictions of the poor with impunity, it allows them pursue false convictions of their political enemies with impunity. That is the real problem. Setting aside money for that sole purpose is not solving the problem.

The only "partisan" thing I've said is that the case against Paxton is weak -- which it is (it was adjudicated a the state bar with a fine, no where near real discipline like a suspension or disbarment) and that Perry was prosecuted solely for taking the reigns of power away from an authority abusing drunk. The only reason that authority abusing drunk was given any defense was that she was a Democrat -- because all the authority abusing drunk Republicans resigned when they got caught.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

RE: "The only 'partisan' thing I've said is that the case against Paxton is weak"

I'll let readers judge your partisan motives themselves from the above comments. As for the case against Paxton, Tom DeLay's lawyer disagrees. I'm guessing he knows more about it than either of us.

George said...


Are you Karl Rove trying to make a comeback? Your attempt at spinning is evident and duly noted. The days when charlatans such as yourself can come on a blog that promotes truth and honesty and corrupt it is long gone.

While your intelligence is not in question, your words attempt to belittle the readers of this blog and try to corral others into a singular way of looking at things. It's evident that you're a Republican, conservative etc. On the surface, there's nothing wrong with that as I'm sure that many people as such frequent this blog. However, when you start your twisting and turning and spinning wordspeak, it's a dead end here dude. There's other blogs out there who have followers who will eat up everything that you're trying to sell, just not this one.

Phelps said...

Dollars are dollars. Money is fungible. The only way that supporting pursuing this weak case against Paxton makes any sense is if you think that what Paxton did is more important than shifting those funds to the Innocence Project, or that you hate Republicans more than you hate seeing innocent men rot in jail.

So which is it? Do you think that putting two friends together on a stock is so heinous that it warrants diverting funds that could be used for criminal reform, or are Republicans so bad that keeping wrongly accused men in court is worth it?

kramartini said...

It seems a better solution would be for the state to reimburse Collin County for the costs related to the prosecution...

Phelps said...

Step 1: File tons of frivolous indictments against your political enemies
Step 2: Funnel all that legal work to your political buddy lawyers and tell the state to pay for it.
Step 3: Rake in tons of campaign cash from said lawyers.

Too easy to exploit for cash and political power. It's the county's job to fight crime. If there is crime in their county, they need to fight it.