Saturday, December 07, 2013

Greg Abbott, CPRIT, and an indictment

Despite the deep freeze Texas finds itself in this morning, Greg Abbott is lying in bed sweating and hitting his call button, trying to wake up the maid to turn down his thermostat.

Texas Democrats, including their presumptive nominee for Governor Sen. Wendy Davis, sought on Friday to make Attorney General Greg Abbott feel political heat for an indictment related to the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas. As the (Austin) Statesman first reported, former executive Jerry Cobbs was indicted in relation to an $11 million grant that did not go through the agency's proper review process. An agency audit faulted Cobbs for “improperly” putting the application of the company in question on a committee agenda.

“The indictment of a former CPRIT official confirms that Greg Abbott has betrayed Texas taxpayers by failing to show up to even one CPRIT oversight board meeting,” Sen. Davis said. “Abbott has yet to fully explain why he failed in his basic oversight responsibilities to Texas taxpayers.”

As Harvey Kronberg has noted at the link above: "nearly silence from Abbott's folks".  Maybe they're all snowed in.

Just one year ago, Glenn Smith predicted the cancer/cronyism scandal would engulf the GOP.  The fire has been smoldering all this time, and -- despite Harvey's casual toss-off as just some political maneuver -- is about to erupt in flames.  Then...

In a series of explosive articles, the Dallas Morning News has revealed that many of the grants went to Perry and Dewhurst’s allies and donors. The agency’s scientists that review grant proposals have resigned in protest. Those actions have already made the scandal news in international science journals like the well-respected Nature.


The Dallas Morning News video above gives a thumbnail version of the growing scandal. I would also encourage you to read articles here, here and here.

... and now:

A former top executive of Texas' $3 billion cancer-fighting effort was indicted over an improperly awarded $11 million taxpayer-funded grant that plunged the state agency into turmoil, prosecutors said Friday.

Ending a yearlong criminal investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, prosecutors said a single felony count against former chief commercialization officer Jerald "Jerry" Cobbs will be the only criminal charge filed after an Austin grand jury declined to issue indictments related to other agency missteps.

Cobbs, 62, is charged with securing the execution of a document by deception. He is accused of allowing Dallas-based Peloton Therapeutics in 2010 to secure one of the agency's most lucrative awards ever even though the merits of the company's proposal were never scrutinized.

There's been lots written here about it, and lots more by others.  In July, the HouChron...

In the more than four years he served on the state cancer agency's governing board, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott exercised no oversight as the agency made misstep after misstep in awarding tens of millions of dollars to commercial interests.

The state's top lawyer and watchdog instead appointed one of his deputies, who missed about a third of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas Oversight Committee meetings, and, by all accounts, was not much of a presence in the agency's questionable decision-making.

"It turns out that Abbott sitting on the oversight board was a green light rather than a caution sign," wrote Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic political action committee. "Businesses backed by Abbott contributors - many of whom are partisan Republicans - have received large grants and contracts from CPRIT without fear of any oversight at all."

And yesterday, the Texas Tribune.

Cobbs served as the institute's chief commercialization officer for three years, before resigning (in November 2012). In that role, he was responsible for presenting the Peloton grant to the Oversight Board for approval. Given the amount of the grant, and the allegations that Cobbs failed to disclose that it had not gone through the required review process, he is being charged with a first-degree felony punishable by five to 99 years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine. He turned himself in (Friday) morning and was released on an $85,000 bond, according to the Public Integrity Unit's Gregg Cox.

Frankly I think Tom Pauken pulled out too soon.  But that assessment is dependent upon Texas Republicans finally discovering some understanding of the moral corruption and ribald incompetence of their presumptive gubernatorial nominee.

Based on the enthusiasm expressed in this advance from Big Jolly of Abbott's appearance at the Houston Pachyderm Club just this past Thursday -- I'll link to his slideshow of the festivities as soon as he puts it up -- I'm not holding my breath on them getting it.

Update: Slideshow linked.  They ain't getting it.

More on how this topic is a ready-made cudgel with which to beat on Abbott from Socratic Gadfly.  And from John Coby: Abbott's campaign wheels wobble.

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