During last night’s debate, Greg Abbott attempted to deflect negative attention from his (lack of) oversight over the Texas Enterprise Fund by accusing Wendy Davis of profiting personally through her work to support the local economy on the Fort Worth City Council. While Texans wait for a real response from Abbott as to his actions regarding the fund, we already know the truth about Wendy Davis: and none of it came out of Abbott’s mouth last night at the debate.
Abbott accused Davis of profiting from a specific economic incentive agreement reached during her time as a Councilmember. While serving on the Council in 2004, Davis was a part of the effort to bring Cabela’s to Fort Worth as a part of a push for economic development in the area. The resulting Master Economic Development Agreement Plan with Cabela’s was praised by Rick Perry as “not only good news for the hunting, fishing and racing crowd, it’s great news for the Fort Worth economy.”
While on the City Council, Davis was employed by Republic Title. It is true that Republic Title aided in the sale of the space to Cabela’s when the company came to Fort Worth. However, what is absolutely false is the suggestion that Davis profited personally from the transaction. Her contract with the company explicitly stated that her payment would consist solely of a “base salary” – which would not be impacted by sales – and benefits. Further, the City Attorney of Fort Worth determined that Davis’ work at Republic Title and her work on economic incentives did not represent a conflict of interest. From the letter, released by the Davis campaign:
- It again should be noted that your employment contract has been structured so as to make it a straight salary arrangement, and not based on commissions or level of sales, so that a vote on a zoning or other regulatory matter does not affect the amount of your compensation.
Abbott’s accusation was a desperate attempt to distract voters from the real ethics dilemma in last night’s debate – his office’s involvement in the mismanagement of millions of state dollars, and public access to information regarding this breach of trust.
Davis’ work with the Fort Worth City Council brought millions of dollars to the city’s economy and almost 400 jobs to the community. The economic incentive plan even included accountability – if the company failed to meet specific expectations such as jobs created and investment in the community, the company would face penalties.
Abbott didn’t just fail to notice the problems with the Texas Enterprise Fund, his office has actively protected the damning evidence of mismanagement. The funds in question are almost quadruple the economic impact of Cabela’s in Fort Worth: $172 million were handed out to companies that never filed applications, a fact Abbott’s office is actively trying to keep from public knowledge.
When questions first arose about the Fund in 2004, Abbott’s office advised the Governor not to release information about the applications, saying that they fell under “exemptions to state transparency laws,” according to the Texas Tribune. Perry’s then-Chief of Staff told the Dallas Morning News that their office wasn’t opposed to releasing the records, but it was Abbott’s ruling that kept them from making those applications (or, it turns out, the lack thereof) public.
It comes as no surprise that Abbott has been desperately trying to stick Davis with an ethics issue, because for him, the hits just keep on coming. From the storage of dangerous fertilizer chemicals to the mismanagement of taxpayer dollars, Abbott’s track record doesn’t look good. And Davis won’t let him – or Texas voters – forget it.