12.04.12

Serious conflict-of-interest issues at CPRIT

Posted in Around The State, Corruption, Cronyism, Had Enough Yet?, Money In Politics at 2:58 pm by wcnews

Does it really surprise anyone that the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), championed in 2007 by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, has turned into an unaccountable transfer of tax payer money to his campaign donors? Via the Texas Tribune, Investigations of CPRIT’s Grants Process Are Pushed.

State lawmakers expressed concern about CPRIT’s grant process Friday after it was revealed one grant — $11 million awarded to Peloton Therapeutics — was approved without a scientific or business review.

“Serious problems have come to our attention,” Sen. Jane Nelson, F-Flower Mound, and Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, wrote in a letter to the leaders of CPRIT: Jim Mansour, the founding chairman, and Bill Gimson, the executive director. The lawmakers asked for a written description of how an $11 million grant could have been awarded without a review process.

In response to the letter, the CPRIT oversight committee is preparing a report to turn over to lawmakers. In a statement to The Dallas Morning News, a representative for CPRIT said the award to Peloton Therapeutics was ratified in 2010 after it had been “improperly” placed on the oversight committee’s agenda.

Texas voters approved the creation of CPRIT, which awards $300 million annually, in 2007 as a state constitutional amendment. Since 2010, the state has awarded more than 400 grants for a total of $755 million through the program.

Two left-leaning organizations, Texans for Public Justice and Progress Texas, say law enforcement agencies should also be involved in the investigation of CPRIT’s grant process. The groups expressed concerns that lawmakers may not fully disclose the extent of alleged impropriety at CPRIT, because many grant recipients have given large donations to Gov. Rick Perry and other Republican lawmakers.

“The taxpayers assume that this money was going to go to efforts at finding a cure for cancer,” said Glenn Smith, a board member of Progress Texas. “Instead of doing that, it appears to be just another political slush fund being given to Perry contributors.”

Josh Havens, a spokesman for the governor, said in an email that “Gov. Perry expects CPRIT to apply rigorous review standards to every decision that includes taxpayer funds.” He said the governor agrees with fellow lawmakers that a thorough investigation of CPRIT’s grant review process should be conducted and “taxpayers deserve to have the full background of this situation.”

Texans for Public Justice has sent a letter to the US Attorney’s office asking them to investigate potential misconduct and possible illegal activity at CPRIT. TPJ has more including this from it’s latest issue of Lobby Watch, Cancer Grant Recipient’s Political Ties Metastasize.

The biotech company that bypassed normal peer reviews to win $11 million in state cancer funds had close ties to U.T Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Top donors to the Medical Center’s PAC gave $1.6 million to Texas politicians who control the state’s CPRIT cancer fund. These donors include the oil-rich Hunt-Hill clan, which has stakes in a venture capital fund that bankrolled Peloton Therapeutics. A director of that venture capital fund once filed a tax protest that personally saved Governor Perry $14,000 in local property taxes.

As far as Perry and the wing nuts are concerned government is here to service the wealthy. Just look at what’s transpired in Texas over the last 10 years since the GOP took over.

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