Commentary: The stench of scandal at the Cancer Prevention Research Institute should be no surprise.
Voters approved a $3 billion pot of money to fund cancer research, but lawmakers took a walk on requiring routine financial controls.
Sadly, we have been down this road before. Both the Texas Enterprise Fund and the Emerging Technology Fund have at least some history of tax dollars benefitting campaign contributors.
So, noble though the cause may be, CPRIT is particularly offensive because its oversight is run by a foundation funded by, yes, secret donors. We should have known trouble was brewing when the Foundation sought special IRS permission to conceal its contributors.
Let’s be clear. CPRIT doles out $300 million in taxpayer dollars each year but the decision making is partially funded by a government foundation that hides its private donors. That is an invitation to pay for play.
It gets worse. Voters thought the money would fund research. Now we are beginning to learn that emphasis was shifting from research to commercialization–you know, profit making enterprises.
Now it is possible that secret donors don’t get preferential treatment, but frankly that would be a first for Texas government.
So absolutely no one was surprised when we discovered $11 million was granted to a private company with no apparent review by the agency.
To date, no one has explained to me why a state institution charged with spending $3 billion in tax payer dollars should actively hide the identities of those who pay the decision makers.
Is it any surprise that actual scientists charged with reviewing grant proposals resigned from CPRIT en masse?
Cancer is personal. Both of my parents died of cancer. We have all lost people we love to this dread disease. That is why Texans overwhelmingly voted to support the effort and that is why the sense of betrayal is so profound.
An embarrassed legislature will no doubt take some corrective measures. Auditors and law enforcement agencies are investigating this secret society.
At the very least, the veil of secrecy should be lifted.