Over the past year, the Lone Star Project has researched and documented one case after another of Greg Abbott and other GOP officials using their public office to take care of friends, donors and political allies – all at the expense of Texas families.
This week, we’ll open the door on the “Abbott Corruption Closet” and highlight some of the most blatant examples of Abbott and/or his allies betraying Texas.
Abbott donors raked in over $42 million from CPRIT
Independent prosecutor should be appointed
Last week, the Lone Star Project released research exposing Attorney General Greg Abbott’s failure to fulfill his responsibilities as a member of the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) oversight board. Abbott looked the other way as taxpayer dollars were given away to businesses whose grant requests received low review scores or were not reviewed at all.
Why did Abbott fail to attend a single CPRIT oversight board meeting? (Dallas Morning News 5/11/2013)
Here’s the likely reason.
Since 2001, Greg Abbott has received nearly half a million dollars in campaign contributions from a handful of individuals who are connected to CPRIT. Companies connected to the Abbott contributors have in turn received $42,800,861 in grants from CPRIT.
Abbott’s “Hide and Don’t Watch” Oversight
Donors & Dollars to Greg Abbott
CPRIT Dollars to Abbott Donors
Jimmy Mansour: $17,000
James Leininger: $275,000Jimmy Mansour has been an Abbott donor many years, contributing $17,000 to his campaign (Texas Ethics Commission). Mansour was also chair of the CPRIT Oversight Board that Abbott never attended. (Dallas Morning News 11/17/2012)
James Leininger has been even more active in promoting Abbott’s political career, giving a total of $275,000. (Texas Ethics Commission) Leininger has also taken the Abbott family on three trips.
Caliber Biotherapeutics: $12,808,151
Gradalis, Inc: $748,905
(CPRIT Funded Grants Listing)James Leininger and Jimmy Mansour have both invested in Gradalis. Meanwhile, Medcare Investment Funds - a venture capital firm founded by James Leininger – has invested in Caliber Biotherapeutics. CPRIT’s scientists gave Caliber’s proposal a low science score, but the company received CPRIT funding anyway.
(Dallas Morning News 11/17/2012)
Edith and Peter O’Donnell: $165,000Edith and Peter O’Donnell are major investors in Greg Abbott’s political career – and in CPRIT. Peloton Therapeutics: $11,044,931CPRIT’s grant to Peloton Theraputics was a source of controversy after it was revealed that the funds were granted out without administrative or scientific review of Peloton’s application. (Dallas Morning News 5/31/2013)
According to CEO Larry McKnight, Peter O’Donnell has invested “about $3 million” in Peloton Therapeutics. (Dallas Morning News 10/29/2011) When the Peloton grant drew public scrutiny, O’Donnell pointed out that O’Donnell’s investment took place after Peloton received the grant. He also has says he donated his shares in Peloton to UT Southwestern Medical Center. (Dallas Morning News 5/11/2013)
However, the O’Donnell Foundation moved $1.5 million into an entity created to “supplement” the salaries of top CPRIT, thus retaining an O’Donnell connection to CPRIT. (CPRIT Foundation donor list)
John D. White: $5,000
E.J. Pederson: $5,000White runs Standard Renewable Energy Corporation (Kalon Website) while Pederson is a former administrator for the University of Texas Medical Branch. (Kalon website) However, White and Pederson both sit on the Board of Managers of Kalon Biotherapeutics.
Kalon Biotherapeutics: $7,901,420(Note: this grant is subject to contract negotiations, thus the actual amount may change) (CPRIT Funded Grant Listing) Like with Caliber’s application, CPRIT’s scientists raised questions about Kalon’s grant proposal. But despite their concerns CPRIT gave the company almost $8 million. (Dallas Morning News 11/17/2012) Pfizer: $30,000Through its venture capital arm, Pfizer Ventures, this pharmaceutical giant is an investor in Mirna Therapeutics. (Business Wire 10/24/2012) It also is an investor in Greg Abbott. Mirna Therapeutics, Inc.: $10,297,454Pfizer didn’t invest in Mirna Therapeutics until two years after the company received the grant from CPRIT. (Business Wire 10/24/2012; CPRIT Funded Grants Listing) But it wasn’t until after Mirna received the grant that Pfizer began funding the CPRIT foundation- the organization created to “supplement” the salaries of CPRIT officials. (CPRIT Foundation donor list)
“I’ll Cover Your Tracks” Investigation
Greg Abbott failed to provide oversight while millions of dollars were doled out to friends and donors through CPRIT. Abbott himself did not attend a single oversight board meeting. (Dallas Morning News 5/11/2013)
However, now that a scandal encompasses CPRIT, putting Abbott’s donors, and perhaps Greg Abbott himself, at risk of exposing illegal – or at least politically embarrassing – actions, he has launched an AG investigation of CPRIT. The investigation has been underway for over six months, but Abbott has failed to release any significant findings. Abbott claims his computer forensics units has recovered some of the emails between CPRIT key CPRIT officials, but little else has surfaced regarding his office’s investigation. (Dallas Morning News 5/31/2013)
Greg Abbott needs oversight
In effect, Greg Abbott is investigating an agency that fell into scandal due to his own negligence and failure to carry out his oversight duties as State Attorney General. His office's investigation into his own high-level campaign donors is a huge conflict of interest.
Will Greg Abbott’s CPRIT Scandal Repeat Texas History?
Fifty five years ago, another Texas Attorney General considered a shoo-in to be elected Texas Governor was forced into retirement after failing in his duty to provide oversight of a Texas agency rocked by scandal and corruption.
In 1956, in anticipation of the 1958 race for governor, Texas AG John Ben Shepperd from Greg County was, according to the Texas State Historical Association, “…thought by many to be the logical heir to the governor's office …” And, like Greg Abbott, Shepperd had made a name for himself by working against efforts to protect minority rights. On this, the Texas State Historical Association says, “Shepperd considered his efforts to restrict the activity of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as one of his greatest accomplishments.” (Texas State Historical Association)
Shepperd’s plans to become Governor, however, came crashing down after it was revealed that “unscrupulous land promoters” a scandals in the veterans into believing they were receiving “land free or that they were applying for soldiers' cash bonuses” when in fact they were signing loan applications. (Texas State Historical Association)
Shepperd sat on the Veterans Land Board but failed to provide sufficient oversight to prevent the illegal activity. Ultimately, the scandal resulted in prison sentences for the participants. While Shepperd avoided any legal prosecution, his failure to do his oversight duties not only ended his chance to be Texas Governor but led him to retire as Texas AG. (Texas State Historical Association)