Rick Perry is latest GOP governor in legal trouble. What's going on?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been indicted on two felony charges. Fellow Republican governors (and 2016 presidential hopefuls) Scott Walker and Chris Christie are facing probes, too.

Tony Gutierrez/AP/File
In this Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, file photo, Texas Gov. Rick Perry delivers a speech to nearly 300 in attendance at the 2014 RedState Gathering, in Fort Worth, Texas. Perry was indicted on Friday, Aug. 15, 2014, for abuse of power after carrying out a threat to veto funding for state public corruption prosecutors.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016, is facing legal trouble. Perhaps he could form a club.

Republican Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Chris Christie of New Jersey – also potential presidential hopefuls – are also facing investigations. Heck, even President Obama is facing the prospect of a lawsuit by House Republicans accusing him of failing to do his job properly.

Of all the legal actions, the one against Governor Perry is the most serious, at least so far. He’s the only one who has been indicted. By contrast, legal scholars debate whether House members even have legal standing to sue Mr. Obama.

But at a time when politics has become increasingly high stakes and partisan, it should come as no surprise that chief executives are becoming embroiled in legal action.

Perry is accused of misusing the power of his office and attempting to coerce a public official. In short, when Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, whose office holds the state Public Integrity Unit, was arrested (and later convicted of) driving while intoxicated and made a spectacle of herself in what became a viral YouTube video, Perry demanded that she resign. When she refused, Perry withheld her office budget.

Perry’s critics note that Ms. Lehmberg is a Democrat in a Republican-run state, and that the Public Integrity Unit is investigating Republicans.

Yet some surprising voices have come to Perry’s defense.

Former Obama adviser David Axelrod tweeted: 

Likewise, in an article titled, “The Strange Case Against Rick Perry,” the New Yorker’s Amy Davidson writes: “One of the strange things about this prosecution is that the acts were so open and so much a part of normal politics, if there is any normality in American politics anymore.”

Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, a special prosecutor’s office has said that Governor Walker was part of a “criminal scheme” by coordinating too closely with conservative groups during two recent elections. New Jersey Governor Christie is facing state and federal investigations into whether he helped concoct a massive traffic jam as a bit of political payback against a mayor who did not support his reelection.

And in Congress, House Republicans is on the verge of filing a lawsuit against Obama that would charge him with failing to enforce the health care law that they are desperate to repeal.

The cases vary, of course. But they also have something in common. Being a governor has sometimes been seen as ideal preparation for running for president – an immersion in high-level leadership. Perhaps, then, this is just another seminar in the new demands of the presidency.

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