Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White is calling for an independent audit of Texas Enterprise Fund grants after documents showed the governor's office offered $2.5 million in state subsidies to Sino Swearingen, a company founded by Doug Jaffe. Jaffe is one of two partners involved in a controversial land deal that netted Perry a $500,000 profit.
Perry announced the grant at a press conference in San Antonio in 2006, but taxpayer money never made it to Sino Swearingen. The company rescinded its request for the grant because it had announced layoffs, despite earlier promises of adding 850 jobs. Perry's spokeswoman, Catherine Frazier, said in an email: "Bill White is desperate to deflect from his own ethical problems ... this TEF transaction was no different from any other, was thoroughly vetted and approved by Governor, Lt. Gov and Speaker's offices."
White's accusing Perry of short-cutting established protocol for selecting grantees in order to "help somebody who made [him] a millionaire." The few documents released to the White campaign through the Texas Public Information Act show that no economic analysis was conducted before approving Sino Swearingen for a grant, the White campaign says. The governor's office said that all public records not protected by the Attorney General had been released, and none included an economic analysis, according to a White campaign release. In their application, the company stated that the original investors, including Jaffe, were still on board.
"Perry pretends to do economic development and has press conferences about giving away taxpayer dollars to companies he hand picks. He makes claims about jobs that aren't met. For all we know, Swearingen used the Texas announcement to get a better offer from another state, enriching itself," White says in the release.
Perry's press release announcing the Sino Swearingen grant is available online.