Who Gets What from the Governor, Part II

Texans for Public Justice has released a report [full report in .pdf format] that looks at how much money companies that received money from the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) that is run by the Governor’s office.

This report finds that 43 companies that landed a total of $333 million in TEF awards contributed almost $7 million to Perry’s campaign and the Perry-affiliated Republican Governors Association (RGA). TEF companies sometimes made corporate contributions directly to the RGA, while company PACs, owners or executives gave to both the RGA and to Perry’s campaign (which cannot accept corporate funds). These contributions included $1,652,159 to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns and $5,331,701 to the RGA. The 43 TEF recipients that contributed to Perry and/or the RGA represent about half of the 90 companies that received TEF awards.

The TPF also found that 3 of the 37 companies in Perry’s investment portfolio received TEF awards totaling $12.2 million. That seemed less troubling since the portfolio was in a blind trust and I suspect a lot of investors hold stock in companies General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, and PepsiCo. Still, the millions of taxpayer dollars that go to these companies reflect why we have blind trusts.

I have written before about the need for institutional reform to create a wall between elected officials who need campaign contributions and government programs that hand out millions of dollars. This latest report provides even more evidence we need to do something. If these companies need capital so badly that they can only get it through government programs they should not have millions of  extra dollars to put into the political system (and remember that the $7 million here is only what they gave to Perry-related political committees).

This does not have to be about Rick Perry. Whether you distrust Rick Perry or will distrust some future governor, the question is if the state needs to separate the politics from the cash or quit giving money to companies. We have conflict of interest rules for other state employees. I have used the example of a law against textbook publishers making contributions to candidates for the State Board of Education as an example of some of us already facing restrictions. Should we tell the companies that cash from the government that they can not contribute to the politicians that control the money?

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