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Perry's Fund Imbalance

Emerging Tech Fund scandal sees GOP lawyer blast gov

By Richard Whittaker, 2:15PM, Wed. Oct. 6, 2010

Gov. Perry: It's not technology that's emerging from that fund
Gov. Perry: It's not technology that's emerging from that fund
Photo by Richard Whittaker

Quick note to Gov. Rick Perry: When even Tom DeLay's attorney is saying that the Travis County Public Integrity Unit should be investigating you, then you might want to re-think your future plans.

The crux of the matter is the long-running controversy about the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, a discretionary spending source based out of the governor's office. There have been worries for years that both it and the Texas Enterprise Fund have totally failed to produce the jobs promised and required by the terms of the grants. The matter exploded on Sunday, when the Dallas Morning News reported that $16 million went from the fund to firms owned or run by big-time Perry campaign donors.

Cue the expected response: Perry has claimed no impropriety, while Democratic challenger Bill White has found that the revelations fit well into his established campaign message that Perry's financial incompetence and misuse of his office mean he has to go.

However, in an unexpected twist, a new voice has entered the fray: Dick DeGuerin, the lawyer of choice for embattled GOP office holders. At the moment, he's best known for representing scandal-plagued former Speaker of the U.S. House Tom DeLay. In a press release from the Bill White campaign, DeGuerin is quoted as saying, "This is the kind of thing a Public Integrity Unit ought to investigate. If the fundraisers promised or suggested that grants would go to political donors and then that happened, that's criminal, plain and simple."

What makes that doubly interesting is that DeGuerin's client DeLay has gone out of his way to castigate the Public Integrity Unit as just another tool of those damnable Austin Deminycrats.

A little more spice for this stew: DeGuerin has never shied away from tough cases, having managed to get New York millionaire Bobby Durst out from under a murder rap when he killed and dismembered his neighbor, and he represented David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in the 1993 Waco siege.

While some self-appointed legal experts (including Paul Burka over at Texas Monthly) have said they sense sleaze but not crime in Perry's actions, DeGuerin's comments open the door to that becoming an issue in the next four weeks before election day.

And don't expect too many lawmakers to leap to Perry's defense either. Last session, the Republican-run House Appropriations Committee dragged ETF staff over the coals over why Perry saw fit to divert $120 million from the now functionally insolvent unemployment insurance fund. Most especially: Why did $50 million intended for benefits end up getting handed to his alma mater, A&M? At one point, they were furious enough that they came close to defunding the ETF completely.

About that $120 million: Let's remember, that's the unemployment fund for which Perry refused to take stimulus money. It's also the same fund that he has had to refill with a loan from the self-same Federal government, plus the state has had to raise unemployment insurance rates for employers.

That could be a key component of this whole story: If Perry took cash from unemployed Texans that then ended up in the back pocket of his donors' firms, and then he put Texas in the hole to the Federal government, where's the fiscal competence?

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