The Dallas Morning News reports that, following an independent audit of the Texas Enterprise Fund, it has been revealed that $222 Million was given from the Governor-managed fund to entities that had not even submitted an application. The State Auditor, John Keel, released a tough report to legislators today that alleges the TEF has an inconsistent criteria they use to dole out the coveted money.
Most of these handouts occurred in the inaugural years of the fund, which was created in 2003 (for those of y’all playing at home, Perry has been the Governor since 2000). Perry’s office has defended the apparently capricious picks as kinks in the system that were quickly worked out as the fund got its start. Other revelations, however, were also released. Many of the reports on how money was spent and used provided incomplete summaries and details. Other money fell through the cracks when the State evidently did not recoup all the money owed to it when contracts were terminated. Some reports just outright lied. Within the News story is a bombshell that one such report alleged that 66,000 jobs had been created by one beneficiary rather than 48,000. That’s a fairly significant number to fudge.
The audit reveals a culture of impropriety. One in which the desired conclusions influence data, not the other way around. The whole smell of it all is probably the most damaging portion of this report, rather than any of the individual details.
Obviously, the total lies in some of the reports present a problem. But staff can always be blamed for that, in ways that can not necessarily be pinned back on the Governor. In my opinion, the greatest issues that occur deal with the entities that received the money without applying for it. Now, when one looks at the specific entities that got the murky money, they are reputable firms such as the University of Texas at Dallas and MD Anderson. None of them appear to have any financial link to Perry or any of his lemmings. That being said, things could change in an instant.
The most important thing here is the appearance of impropriety. I suppose this could be a campaign tool for State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor. She did, in fact, first author the bill in the State Legislature that led to this office. And while Abbott supports many changes from the system described here, it could be a valuable campaign tool to continue the talking point that Republicans are too interested in picking winners and losers. Especially in light of the ongoing controversy involving CPRIT, this could very well end up being another piece of the puzzle, that inextricably ties Perry and other Republicans to possible impropriety/corruption.