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Rest easy taxpayers: Rick Perry won't fund defense with our money after all

Rick Perry mugshot
Rick Perry was booked in Travis County Tuesday afternoon. Courtesy of KVUE

Gov. Rick Perry, who was indicted on August 15 for abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant, announced that he will not pay for his high-priced defense with taxpayer money after all.

Perry's criminal investigation has so far run up approximately $80,000 of taxpayer funds, which were authorized by the office of Texas Comptroller Susan Combs.

Facing increasing scrutiny regarding who should pay for his defense, Perry changed his tune and will now pay for his defense with campaign funds. Perry's spokesman Felix Brown told the Texas Tribune that Perry "did not want it to be an assault on the taxpayers."

Perry's announcement represents an about-face, since his attorneys were originally going to be paid, in part, by state funds under the rationale that Perry's investigation is happening while he's governor and is therefore state business.

Questions about who would foot the bill were raised as far back as April, when Texas State Representative Joseph Deshotel wrote a letter to Attorney General Greg Abbott, asking under what authority the attorney general's office could expend taxpayer funds in defense of a criminal matter.

Perry is accused of using his power to get Lehmberg, an elected official and a Democrat, to resign after her arrest for drunk driving last year. Lehmberg's office oversees the Public Integrity Unit. Lehmberg was arrested for drunk driving in April 2013 and served a 45-day sentence. Perry vetoed $7.5 million in state funding after she refused to resign; she is still in office.

He was booked on August 19, which he followed up with a trip to get an ice cream cone.

He's retained heavy-hitter legal team that includes Houston lawyer Anthony Buzbee; Ben Ginsberg, who represented George W. Bush in the Florida vote recount in 2000; and Austin lawyers David Botsford and Thomas Phillips.

The lawyer who will serve as chief prosecutor is San Antonio attorney Michael McCrum.

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