When they harassed Hutchison

Many of us recall the baseless indictment of then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay by then Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle in connection with the indictment of Governor Perry yesterday, but does anyone recall the earlier case against Kay Bailey Hutchison brought by Earle? Earle is the predecessor of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, whose drunk driving escapades initiated the chain of events that has now culminated in Governor Perry’s indictment.

Serving as Texas state treasurer, Hutchison won 67 percent of the vote in the special election held on June 5, 1993, to fill the Senate seat that had been held by Lloyd Bentsen, who had resigned to serve as Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration. It was a matter of months — a little over three, to be precise — before Earle engineered Hutchison’s indictment on charges stemming from her service as treasurer. Hutchison was indicted on felony charges of official misconduct and ordering Texas state employees to destroy evidence.

Hutchison anticipated running for election to a full Senate term in November 1994. A conviction on trumped up charges would have served the Democrats’ interest handily in removing her from the picture. I recall the late political reporter Jack Germond laughing about it at the time. I remember because I failed to see the humor. Through his chuckle, Germond observed: “They play hardball in Texas.”

With Hutchison’s trial just minutes under way the following February, the case against Hutchison was thrown out. The Los Angeles Times reported the acquittal here. Hutchison commented at a press conference following her acquittal: “They thought the lady would crack. Well, the lady wouldn’t crack. The lady stood up and fought. The lady showed she could take the worst that a corruption of the political system could give.”

“The only crime I committed,” she said, “was doing a great job as state treasurer and winning an election by a landslide.”

The charges against Perry seem to me absurd on their face. By contrast with the cases against Hutchison and DeLay brought by Earle, however, the case against Perry has been brought by a special prosecutor who is a widely respected Texas defense attorney and former prosecutor (Michael McCrum). Nevertheless, the charges amount to something like a glorified joke.

Adjusting for the fact that Perry is the longest serving governor in Texas history and has won several elections by impressive margins — elections including a 2010 primary contest with Senator Hutchison herself — I trust the day will come when he will be able to make a declaration like Hutchison’s. The early arrival of the day is a consummation devoutly to be wished.

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