A new controversy has flared up as the candidates for governor prepare for their last televised debate on Tuesday at KERA. It involves the Texas Enterprise Fund which was designed to award financial incentives to companies that create jobs.
Democrat Wendy Davis claims her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott, tried to cover up improper spending of the funds. She's calling for an independent investigation of Abbott. He’s responding with his own allegations.
Davis’ call for an investigation follows a scalding state auditor’s report last week. It found Gov. Rick Perry’s job-creating fund awarded more than $200 million to 11 organizations that didn’t formally apply for the money and didn’t always meet the requirements for creating jobs.
State law makes Abbott, as attorney general, responsible for monitoring state accounts and recovering money that’s misspent.
At a Monday press conference, Davis accused Abbott of covering up improper awards he should have known about. She linked his actions to $1.4 million in campaign donations Abbott received from parties who benefited from the fund.
“He looked the other way as hundreds of millions of our tax dollars were handed out without any oversight or accountability,” Davis said.
Her charge of a cover-up follows Abbott telling The Dallas Morning News it could not see a specific application for Enterprise Fund money because the information was confidential.
The Texas Tribune reports that in at least five cases where access to applications were denied there was nothing to keep secret because there were no applications.
“He used the power of his office to keep records secret from the public, concealing the fact that basic documentation simply never existed and that large sums of taxpayer money was being funneled to companies improperly,” Davis told reporters.
Davis has called on Abbott’s office to release all internal documents and return the campaign contributions until questions are cleared up.
Abbott’s attorney general’s office issued a statement calling the accusations “political posturing” and said the auditor didn’t cite Abbott for wrongdoing.
Abbott’s campaign declined an interview request but through emails sought to turn the tables on Davis by claiming she personally profited from a decision by the Cabela’s store to locate in Fort Worth. Cabela’s received $400,000 from the Enterprise Fund in 2004.
Davis, who was a Fort Worth City Council member, supported incentives to bring Cabela’s to the city. The title company she worked for helped handle the sale of property to Cabela’s, but her campaign says that didn’t affect her pay.
Claims and counterclaims of ethics violations and conflicts have been thick throughout this governor’s campaign. The question for Abbott and Davis is whether the Texas Enterprise fund controversy so close to the election will stick.