From today’s Statesman (11/11/11): The Texas state comptroller’s office declined to say whether the involvement of Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone in a bribery trial in Germany would affect the state’s annual $25 million support of an F1 race scheduled to take place just outside of Austin from 2012 to 2021. “All of these questions would require us to speculate,” the comptroller’s office replied in an email to an American-Statesman query sent Thursday that asked whether Ecclestone’s testimony as a witness or any possible future charges against Ecclestone could affect the state funding. “Those of us trying to convince our state comptroller not to pay the $25 million F1 Texas tax kickback recognize the sad irony that Mr. Ecclestone testified that he bribed a German bank official with £27 million in order to avoid a tax audit,” Bill Aleshire, a local attorney and former Travis County Commissioners Court judge who opposes state funding for the U.S. Grand Prix, said in a statement. [end of excerpt] This is standard operating procedure for Ms. Combs. She is incapable of making a forthright statement about a potential problem in her agency. She should have stepped forward and said, “I am very concerned about news reports that Mr. Ecclestone is involved in a bribery trial in Germany and is an admitted violator of the law. It is my intention to learn more about the allegations against Mr. Ecclestone. If it appears that he is guilty of criminal conduct in Texas, I will seek to have him prosecuted to the full extent of the law, including a demand for him to return any money that is currently appropriated for his benefit.” Combs never says anything like this. She makes namby-pamby statements like, “All of these questions require us to speculate.” The state is at risk of losing $25 million a year for the next ten years, all of which is money that she elected to spend on a ridiculous project, a one-day Formula 1 race, that greatly enriched a political ally of the governor’s (Red McCombs), and all she says is that further investigation would lead to speculation. It was absurd to put the Formula 1 money in the budget during a legislative session in which the state could not afford to cover public school enrollment growth. Why isn’t the Legislature exercising its responsibility to provide oversight, especially now that it is apparent that the beneficiary of the Formula 1 money is an admitted crook? The LBB should pull the plug on the Formula 1 money and redirect it to items that are in need of additional funding. Why aren’t Dewhurst and Straus on top of this? There is as much omerta in state government as there was in the Penn State athletic department.
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