The emerging Emerging Technology Fund "scandal"
Tue October 5, 2010 8:58 am

It has been apparent for some time that the only thing that can ruin Rick Perry’s prospects for reelection is a scandal. What is on display in the Morning News’ revelations about Perry’s donors benefiting from grants from the Emerging Technology Fund is Perry’s longstanding penchant for rewarding his friends. It is one thing to reward them with appointments to state boards and commissions. It is quite another to reward them with state tax dollars. In this case, the Dallas Morning News has determined that the Governor’s Office has awarded $16 million from the Emerging Technology Fund to companies whose investors and officers are large campaign donors to Perry. The total of the grants to donors represents approximately 5% of the total grants from the fund.

The Morning News identified eight donors who are significant contributors to Perry and have received grants from the ETF:

–$2.75 million to Terrabon Inc., a Houston company. Its backers have included Phil Adams, a college friend of Perry’s who has given his campaign at least $314,000.

–$1.75 million to Gradalis Inc., a Carrollton firm. Among its investors has been Dr. James R. Leininger, who has contributed more than $264,000 to Perry’s campaigns.

–$1.5 million to ThromboVision Inc., a Houston company. One of its investors was Charles W. Tate, who has donated more than $424,000 to Perry.

–$4.5 million to Convergen Lifesciences Inc. of Austin. The company was founded by David G. Nance, a former Perry appointee who has given the governor $80,000.

–$2 million to Seno Medical Instruments Inc. of San Antonio. Its investors have included Southwest Business Corp. and its subsidiaries, whose chairman, Charles Amato, gave Perry more than $32,000.

–$975,000 to Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc. of Houston. At the time of the award, one investor was William A. McMinn, who has contributed $152,000 to Perry.

Is this a scandal? At the very least, it’s sleazy. There is an appearance of impropriety. But it is going to take more than appearances to derail Perry’s reelection drive. He has to have crossed the line into illegality, and I don’t see clear-cut evidence that he has done so. There is no doubt that the grant program lacks safeguards against political influence peddling, but that alone is not going to attract the attention of the media, much less prosecutors. Meanwhile, he is ahead in the polls–a Belo poll shows him at 50%–and now he’s pulled ahead of White in cash on hand. (White’s remaining TV spots are paid for.) White hasn’t put up a single TV spot that has moved the needle for him. It is possible that there will be subsequent damaging revelations, but this is not a scandal–not yet, maybe not ever. It’s just an embarrassment, and Perry is used to those.

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