Sunday, October 10, 2010

"Perry's office wouldn't release the names of the investors in all the firms...How many more millions has Perry awarded to his sugar daddies?"

The finance records Perry is hiding


Houston Chronicle
Copyright 2010

Like Gov. Rick Perry, I'd like to see challenger Bill White's income tax returns from his years as Bill Clinton's deputy secretary of energy.

It would, presumably, relieve any concern that White, who released more recent returns, has anything to hide.

But Perry has some nerve in so stridently calling for White to come clean and even refusing to debate White because he hasn't released income tax returns from more than a decade ago.

Perry is today hiding financial records that are much more recent and more relevant to Texas taxpayers.

He's refusing to tell us to whom he is giving millions of dollars of our money.

Last Sunday the Dallas Morning News reported that the state's Emerging Technologies Fund, which is controlled by the governor, has awarded more than $16 million to start-up companies whose investors have given hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to Perry. According to the Morning News:

ThromboVision Inc., a Houston company, won a grant for $1.5 million. Investor Charles W. Tate has given more than $424,000 to Perry.

Terrabon Inc., also of Houston, was awarded $2.75 million. Investors include Perry friend Phil Adams, who has given the governor at least $314,000.

Gradalis Inc. of Carrolton received $1.75 million. Its investors include Dr. James Leininger, who has given more than $264,000 to Perry.

Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc. of Houston was awarded $975,000 from the fund. Investors included William A. McMinn, who has given $152,000 to Perry.

There were more.

Perry campaign spokesman Mark Miner criticized the story in a statement last Sunday, saying, "The story dwelled on less than 5 percent of the $334 million awarded to Texas companies and schools."

Miner made it sound like the Morning News had cherry-picked the firms whose investors had ties to the governor.

But Ryan McNeill, one of the reporters who worked on the story, said there was a reason they focused on so few firms: Perry's office wouldn't release the names of the investors in all the firms.

"We had to triangulate from other records," he said.

He and two other reporters on the story found the names of investors by looking through Secretary of State filings, financial disclosures filed by Perry appointees, Securities and Exchange Commission filings, legal/financial/news database LexisNexis and other sources. In other words, they started with the investors, not the companies.

But most of the start-up companies that received the state grants are closely held, and the names of their investors are not public.

So if the Morning News was sampling only a small portion of the companies who receive grants, how many more millions has Perry awarded to his sugar daddies?

Perry told the Morning News he rarely knows who the investors are before signing off on grants after a closed-door screening process by an advisory committee he appoints.

But a spokeswoman for the governor told the Morning News that applicants must provide the names of investors.

What's more, McNeil said the governor's office gave the newspaper lists of investors for two companies, apparently by mistake.

Perry told the Morning News that records must be kept secret because companies "really aren't interested in opening up their books so their competitors can stroll in and write down all of the different business practices, their cash on hand, or even more detailed descriptions of their technology."

He's absolutely right. But the names of investors aren't normally considered to be trade secrets.

I can think of only one circumstance in which they would be: If a competing company figured it could get a lucrative state grant by luring away your well-connected investors.

Here's a simple rule: If a company doesn't want the names of investors who are getting millions of dollars in taxpayer money to be available to the taxpayers, they don't get the taxpayer's money.

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