MIDLAND — Indicted Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday that he believes taxpayers should have picked up his legal tab but opted to use campaign funds “to keep from having folks grouse about it.”
The possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate told reporters in Midland that he considered it appropriate for state funds to pay his legal fees because a criminal investigation dealt with his official duties as governor.
Perry pleaded not guilty to two felony charges of abuse of power. At least $80,000 in taxpayer dollars have been spent on his defense so far. Perry said Tuesday that he hadn’t yet decided if that money would also come from his campaign funds.
Following questions over who would pay for a new team of high-powered attorneys, Perry announced last week that campaign funds would start footing the bill.
In a 60-page motion filed Monday, Perry’s high-powered defense team argued that the law being used to prosecute the longest-serving governor in Texas history is unconstitutionally vague.
He is charged with abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant, both felonies. If convicted, Perry could face up to 109 years in prison.
“It’s in the hands of the lawyers now and the process of the state of Texas, which I have great faith will find that we acted properly and correctly,” Perry told reporters after a groundbreaking event for a new office for Occidental Petroleum.
Standing next to Perry at one point and scoffing at the idea that the governor got carried away with power was former Republican Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick — who was ousted from the powerful job in 2009 following a dramatic, bipartisan mutiny in which Craddick refused to relinquish control of the gavel in an hourslong standoff on the House floor. At one point during the rebellion, Craddick’s parliamentarians abruptly resigned.
“I don’t know all the facts of the thing, but I just think when you indict a governor over something like this, it’s going to interfere with future government,” Craddick said about Perry’s legal case. “I think the indictment is ridiculous.”
Despite being indicted, Perry is seriously considering a 2016 White House run. A call and text message to spokeswoman Lucy Nashed about what complaints, if any, may have been made regarding taxpayers funding his defense were not immediately returned.
During Tuesday’s event, Perry wore the same glasses he’s worn for about a year as part of his effort to rehabilitate his image following a disastrous 2012 presidential bid. Afterward, he showed them to The Associated Press. The glasses, meant to soften his cowboy image for one that’s more humble, are Inspiration by designer Jean Lafont. His wife picked them out. Internet searches indicate that the frames alone retail for $516.