Political parties tangle over DA, governor's retreatGOP blasts prosecutor's probe; Democrats rip Perry on Bahamas trip
By GEORGE KUEMPEL / Dallas Morning News
March 3, 2004
AUSTIN – State Republicans and Democrats sniped at one another Tuesday over a prosecutor's "partisan witch hunt" and Gov. Rick Perry's "working retreat" in the Bahamas.
Republican Chairwoman Tina Benkiser opened the exchange by announcing an online petition drive to strip Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle of his authority to investigate state officeholders. Ms. Benkiser labeled as a witch hunt the Democratic DA's investigation into whether corporate funds were used illegally to help finance the Republican takeover of the Texas House in the 2002 elections.
The petition, which is available on the party's Web site, calls on the Legislature to stop funding Mr. Earle's Public Integrity Unit and transfer its duties to Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott's office. Mr. Earle has denied that his investigation is a witch hunt.
The House Democratic Caucus responded with a swipe at the Republican governor by offering to pay his travel expenses to five of the state's poorest school districts. That was a dig at the governor for his trip last month to the Bahamas with big campaign donors and political consultants to discuss public school finance.
Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco, the caucus chairman, said in a letter to the governor that he could learn more about the state's school finance "crisis" by visiting poor districts than hobnobbing with "million-dollar donors aboard a 54-foot yacht."
Mr. Perry has said that the trip was a working retreat and that there was "real, progressive conversation" on the issue of school finance.