Texas Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial nominee Greg Abbott’s murky past with taxpayer money while on the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas is coming back to haunt him and today, Texas State Senator and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis slammed him for his silence. Awkward.
Last year, the Lone Star Project exposed Abbott’s “failure to fulfill his responsibilities as a member of the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) oversight board. Abbott looked the other way as taxpayer dollars were given away to businesses whose grant requests received low review scores or were not reviewed at all.” They asked, “Why did Abbott fail to attend a single CPRIT oversight board meeting?”
Maybe this sounds like no biggie, but that’s until you get to the money involved. Abbott donors raked in over 42 million taxpayer dollars while he apparently “looked the other way.” The Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas is Republican Governor Rick Perry’s baby and it was a signature accomplishment until several years ago when a criminal investigation into its operations was opened. The voters approved the creation of this agency in 2007, in order to distribute up to $3 billion for cancer research.
The Republican Attorney General was serving on the oversight board as his donors received $42 million in taxpayer funds. In fact, the Lone Star Report continued, “Since 2001, Greg Abbott has received nearly half a million dollars in campaign contributions from a handful of individuals who are connected to CPRIT. Companies connected to the Abbott contributors have in turn received $42,800,861 in grants from CPRIT.” That doesn’t look so great.
There are at least ten Abbott donors with ties to this cancer prevention board. As an example of how this works, there are two big Republican players who are also major donors of Abbott’s, James Leininger and Peter O’Donnell. Together they gave Abbott over $400,000 since 2001, and together they received almost $25 million in taxpayer money for “grants” in spite of poor or no reviews.
Looking the other way isn’t a great quality for an Attorney General, unless you’re intending on grifting from the taxpayers and then you’d really want an AG who would look the other way. The AG is supposed to serve justice and the people. While it would be easy to dismiss this as the Davis campaign looking for dirt, and certainly they are, it’s hardly their fault that this happened under Abbott’s watch. The fact that his donors benefited from it to such a large degree makes it a matter worthy of public discussion. It deserves a response from Abbott, and the public deserves to know about it, because those are their funds. With an indictment under their belt, this can’t be dismissed as partisan mud slinging. It’s real.
Wendy Davis’ communications director Zac Petkanas issued a statement on Abbott’s “potentially unethical behavior” (their words, not mine — my words would be that he is either too lazy to be Attorney General or he is too unethical to be Attorney General), slamming him for his silence on this matter. Petkanas said, “Under his watch, Greg Abbott’s largest contributors received tens of millions of taxpayer dollars in contracts with almost no oversight or accountability. However, instead of addressing his potentially unethical behavior while serving on the CPRIT board, Abbott has refused to come clean and discuss his involvement with the organization’s shady activities that led to several officials resigning and one criminal indictment. Texans are sick and tired of the same business as usual from Greg Abbott.”
This isn’t the only issue Abbott is silent on, he’s also avoiding discussing equal pay for women. Here’s a clue: When a Texas Republican won’t discuss their stance on women’s issues, it’s probably not good.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
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