DALLAS — Texas Gov. Rick Perry is fending off allegations that the $3 billion cancer research bond program that won statewide voter approval in 2007 is funding projects for his campaign contributors.
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, created ostensibly to find a cure for the disease and boost employment in the state, has provided funding for donors to Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Among those who have received grants is a company backed by a pair of businessmen who guaranteed a $1.1 million loan to Perry in the final week of his 1998 race for lieutenant governor, according to a News investigation. Perry, who won the election and became governor in 2000 when then-Gov. George W. Bush ran for president, has repaid the loan, according to the News. Democrats claim that Perry was beholden to the businessmen as a result, but Perry denies steering the business to his campaign contributors.
CPRIT’s chief scientist and dozens of others who evaluated proposals have quit amid concerns that politics has affected the agency, according to the News. Some of those scientists have warned CPRIT about shifting money from university research toward Texas companies such as one owned by David Shanahan, a Dallas businessman who raised $50,000 for Perry in 2007, a month after the CPRIT bond program was approved. One of Shanahan’s companies, a pharmaceutical startup called Grandalis, later received a grant from CPRTI, according to the News.
Since 2007, the Shanahan family has made $20,000 in campaign contributions to Dewhurst and $15,000 to Perry, the News said. Shanahan told the News in a written statement that his only expectation in return for the campaign gifts was for the “candidates to maintain their vision and commitment to cancer research.”
James M. Mansour, a Texas businessman who has donated at least $55,000 to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns since 2005, was appointed by Perry to chair the oversight committee for CPRIT grants. Mansour is also an investor in Gradalis, according to the News.
Mansour helped guarantee Perry’s $1.1 million loan in 1998 along with San Antonio businessman Dr. James Leininger, another Gradalis investor, according to the News.
Mansour joined CPRIT’s oversight committee members in approving a $748,905 award to Gradalis as part of a much larger grant, according to the News. Gradalis is reportedly using the CPRIT dollars to collect tumor biopsies for genetic analysis.
Perry and Dewhurst deny any wrongdoing, saying they do not award the grant money themselves and say that campaign contributions do not influence their actions. Texas law does not limit campaign contributions from individuals and corporations.
Perry, Texas’ longest-serving governor and an unsuccessful candidate for president this year, has been dogged by claims of cronyism in the making of state grants.
In addition to the $3 billion of tax-supported bonds, CPRIT also received an appropriation of $600 million from the Texas Legislature for fiscal years 2012-2013.
Since its creation, CPRIT has funded 427 awards worth more than $756 million.
Through the Texas Public Finance Authority, the state has issued $250 million of commercial paper in 2009 and $450 million in 2010 for CPRIT.
The liquidity agreement between the TPFA and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. extends through Nov. 21, 2013. The program and the notes are authorized in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $450 million outstanding at any one time.
The state plans to take out the commercial paper with long-term debt at some point, according to analysts at Standard & Poor’s.