An article in the San Antonio Express News (made available here by the Lone Star Project) examined Greg Abbott's oversight of CPRIT, or lack thereof, during his years serving on the organization's governing board. Abbott's involvement with CPRIT is receiving scrutiny as he sets out on the campaign trail for statewide office.
Abbott's role at CPRIT has raised additional questions because of the investigation his office is conducting into the agency's scandals. Critics question how he can objectively investigate alleged conflicts of interest and favoritism at the agency after his office did nothing to stop it. They also ask how he can look into possible impropriety involving donors that made contributions to the agency and later received grants when some of those donors also have given to Abbott and figure to be tapped again as his gubernatorial campaign kicks into gear.
Since 2001, James Leininger has donated $289,000 to Greg Abbott, campaign finance records show, and Peter O'Donnell has contributed $130,000 during the same time period. Some political activists question these donations, noting that Leininger's company, Caliber Biotherapeutics, received $12 million from CPRIT for a scientific proposal despite receiving low scores from reviewers; O'Donnell invested in Peloton, whose $11 million award underwent no institutional review.
What else doesn't add up between Greg Abott and CPRIT? More below the jump.
- Abbott appointed a deputy to oversee CPRIT instead of being directly involved himself, and said deputy “missed about a third” of the meetings, according to the article.
- Jerry Strickland, Abbott's chief communications officer, maintained that this was an effort to allow Abbott to effectively pursue any problems with the agency.
- Strickland also adds that Abbott's office was opposed to his involvement on the board, and made several legislative attempts to remove this requirement from the legislation. The authors of the bill creating CPRIT, Senators Jane Nelson and Jim Keffer, had no comment.
- Whatever the case, there seem to be significant conflicts of interest for Greg Abbott in investigating CPRIT. Not only did some of his supporters benefit from CPRIT grants, but his office was also involved with the agency while the grants at the center of the controversy were given.
Perhaps Attorney General Abbott and his office really were attempting to limit a conflict of interest by limiting his awareness of the goings-on at CPRIT. And, perhaps, his primary opponents are using this government spending scandal to try to smear some of Abbott's tea party sheen. In any case, the San Antonio Express News has certainly raised some critical issues for Greg Abbott's continued involvement in investigating CPRIT.
As Greg Abbott runs to fill Perry's shoes, we shouldn't be surprised to find that they have even more in common. If nothing else, pointing out the lack of interest in Abbott's lack of oversight in the uproar over wasteful government spending is long overdue.