The Brief: Perry's Improbable Counselor

Gov. Rick Perry's legal team, led by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, c, speaks to the press on August 18, 2014.
Gov. Rick Perry's legal team, led by Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, c, speaks to the press on August 18, 2014.

The Big Conversation

They are this summer's odd couple: Gov. Rick Perry and his lawyer, Tony Buzbee.

The Tribune's Morgan Smith profiles Buzbee, including highlights of his high-profile career as a trial lawyer, his past activity as a Democrat, how he came to be friends with Perry and, perhaps most importantly, what Buzbee brings to the table when defending Perry against two felony indictments handed down by a Travis County grand jury earlier this month.

Here are some of those highlights:

The hard-charging news conference — and the relaxed stroll to the courthouse with his client — are each emblematic of the Houston lawyer leading Perry's legal defense team, who is known both for his tenacity and flair for the symbolic gesture.

Buzbee, who does not have a background in criminal law, has made his fortune being the kind of trial lawyer Perry has spent much of his time in office villainizing — going after oil companies, automobile manufacturers and governmental entities on personal injury and property damage claims.

 

*****

The friendship between the two men began during Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign. A mutual friend reached out to the lawyer, who like Perry is a Texas A&M University graduate, to see whether he would help coach the governor after his stumbling performances in early debates.

“Those are high-pressure situations, and we spent a lot of time together,” said Buzbee, whom Perry appointed to the A&M Board of Regents in 2013.

*****

Until then, Buzbee primarily contributed to Democratic causes. That includes $15,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and over $200,000 to the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, which supports mostly Democratic candidates. A former chairman of the Galveston County Democratic Party, Buzbee ran for the Texas House as a Democrat in 2002. He said now he no longer considers himself a partisan.

“I think people’s political views change as they get older,” he said.

The Day Ahead

•    The updated school finance ruling is expected sometime today, according to Judge John Dietz's office (h/t the Tribune's Morgan Smith)

•    The House Select Committee on Health Care Education & Training meets at 10 a.m. in the Capitol Extension to examine the state of the health care workforce. (agenda)

 

Trib Must-Reads

Critics Charge Local Bond Elections Lack Transparency, by Aman Batheja

Local Debt Explorer, by Becca Aaronson, Aman Batheja, Marcos Vanetta and Ryan Murphy

Secretive Group Launches Pro-Perry Site, by Aman Batheja

Attorneys Call Judge in Perry Case Thoughtful, Fair, by Terri Langford

Elsewhere

Immigration Clash Could Lead to Shutdown, The New York Times

Guilty plea in Iowa caucuses bribery, The Associated Press

Hollywood exec says Texas film incentives need boost, Houston Chronicle

High-speed rail gaining momentum in Texas, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Davis eyes ditching corporate tax breaks, San Antonio Express-News

Texas' Wendy Davis escalates push for female votes, The Associated Press

Texas Tea Partiers have Rick Perry’s back — on at least one issue, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Does Gov. Perry's indictment hold water?, CNN

Could Romney really run?, The Hill

Quote to Note

"It’s commendable that the governor was willing to go outside the box and when his own ass was in a sling he did what people should do when their ass is in a sling and that is go hire a good plaintiff lawyer."

— Beaumont-based trial lawyer Brent Coon to the Tribune on Gov. Rick Perry's hire of trial lawyer Tony Buzbee

Today in TribTalk

How I'd fix the Railroad Commission, by Mark Miller

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With UT System Regent Wallace Hall, on Sept. 4 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa and Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri, on Sept. 10 at The Austin Club

•    The full program has been announced for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival. Register now before prices go up Thursday at 11:59 p.m.!

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, on Sept. 24 at the UTSA Downtown Campus in San Antonio.