Gov. Rick Perry has spent more than $1 million in campaign money on lawyers to defend him in the criminal case against him following a felony indictment last year.
Leading Perry’s legal team is Tony Buzbee, who was paid $455,476, more than any other lawyer working for the governor, according to a campaign finance report filed Thursday with the Texas Ethics Commission.
Perry’s campaign dollars also went to Botsford & Roark of Austin, which was paid $180,990; Jones Day of Washington, D.C., which got $169,647; Baker Botts’ Dallas office, which took in $141,462; and McDermott Will & Emery of Washington, D.C., and Chicago, which was paid $126,665.
Backing up Buzbee are some legal heavy-hitters:David Botsford of Botsford & Roark has been with Perry since the grand jury phase of the investigation into the governor’s actions. He specializes in criminal law in the courtroom and on appeal.Ben Ginsberg, a lawyer with Jones Day, is a politically connected specialist in election law who served as national counsel to the Bush-Cheney presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004 and Mitt Romney’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.Tom Phillips, a partner in the Baker Botts law firm, was the chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court from 1988 to 2004. He has a reputation for his work on appeals, alternate dispute resolution and litigation strategy.Bobby Burchfield, an attorney of McDermott Will & Emery, is a nationally prominent trial and appellate lawyer who has never lost a jury trial, according to Buzbee when he introduced Burchfield to the media last summer. He specializes in complex corporate litigation and has twice argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.
As an elected official, Perry could have charged his legal bills to the state, but he opted to pay for his defense out of his campaign coffers. He leaves office Tuesday when Gov.-elect Greg Abbott takes the oath of office. Perry is widely expected to run for president next year.
The legal fees represented about half of the governor’s expenditures from the period that ran from July 1 to Dec. 31. In total, Perry spent just over $2 million in the period outlined in the campaign finance reports.
During the last six months of 2014, the governor raised $377,000, and he had $2.9 million in the bank as of the last day of the reporting period, the reports showed.
Perry’s lawyers are fighting an indictment handed up by a Travis County grand jury in August. Perry was indicted on felony charges of abuse of official capacity and coercion of a public servant. The indictment arose from his threat that Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg resign after her April 2013 drunken driving conviction or lose $7.5 million for the Public Integrity Unit housed in her office.
Lehmberg refused to step down, and Perry carried out the threat by using his line-item veto authority in the state budget.
Perry has repeatedly said he has done nothing wrong.
The judge in the case is expected to rule soon on a defense request to toss the case on grounds that it is unconstitutional.
Perry’s lawyers have said that the criminal charges were based on state laws that are unconstitutional or, at the very least, were misinterpreted — constituting an improper attempt to criminalize politics and limit gubernatorial power in “intolerable and incalculable” ways.