The dictionary definition of the Latin phrase quid pro quo is simple: One thing in return for another.
Gov. Rick Perry issued a threat to Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg after she was arrested on a DWI charge.
“Resign your position,” he warned her, “or I will veto $7.5 million in state funding for your office’s public integrity unit.”
Lehmberg served her jail time, got treatment, refused to resign and returned to office. She rejected his offer of a quid pro quo. A man of his word, Perry vetoed the funding, which is used to support prosecutors working on public corruption cases involving politicians and government bureaucrats in Austin.
At the time Perry issued his threat, Lehmberg’s public integrity unit was investigating the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, a Perry creation that critics see as a way for him to funnel tax incentives to big campaign contributors.
Lehmberg is a Democrat. If she had resigned, Perry would have appointed her replacement in the district attorney’s office down in Austin. It’s almost certain he would have appointed a Republican.
Now, a grand jury has returned felony indictments against Perry. The indictments allege that he misused state property — $7.5 million in state money — to illegally coerce another public official to resign.
The courts will sort out whether Perry’s actions were criminal or mere politics.
The real disease afflicting the body politic is the monopolistic control that Perry and the Republicans maintain over every aspect of state government. During his 14 years in office, Perry has appointed all state board and commission members. All statewide elected officials are Republican. The GOP controls both houses of the Texas Legislature.
Americans believe competition is healthy and makes the nation better. We embrace the idea of a two-party system. In the private sector, we believe in the benefits of several companies competing with one another for a customer’s business. Checks and balances are a good thing.
Throughout most of the 20th century, Democrats ran everything in Texas. Republicans could have held their local conventions in broom closets. The governor, House speaker, lieutenant governor and all other statewide officeholders were Democrat, including the judiciary. Vast Democratic majorities controlled the Texas House and Senate.
State government was inbred. Democratic leaders all shared the same interests. The one-party system made it easier for Houston businessman Frank Sharp to bribe key Democrats. He loaned them money to buy stock in his bank and insurance company. They passed legislation to create a more favorable regulatory environment for Sharp. Then, they reaped the financial rewards from his company's growth.
The so-called Sharpstown Stock Scandal erupted in 1971. House Speaker Gus Mutscher went to prison. Sharpstown also tainted Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, a rising political star at the time. The word “Sharpstown” became synonymous with political corruption. In 1971, two of 31 state senators and 10 of 150 House members were Republican.
One-partyism was bad when the Democrats controlled state government. And it’s just as bad today when the Republicans control everything.
Rick Perry was so enamored of his own power that he resorted to bullying tactics against Rosemary Lehmberg, the only Democrat in a position to be a watchdog over the ruling GOP.
When will Texans wake up to the inherent problems in a state government so overwhelmingly controlled by one party?