in Houston, Texas
Tech fund that aided donors to Gov. Rick Perry should be totally transparent
Wednesday, Oct 06, 2010, 05:01PM CST
By Jennifer Peebles

People in high-stakes political campaigns often sling mud at each other and make accusations at their opponents. And sometimes they use government transparency as a stick to beat each other with.

But government transparency should be a genuine goal for public officials. They shouldn't use it as a stick to flog their opponents and then fail to be transparent themselves.

And that brings us to Gov. Rick Perry.

The gov's campaign has beaten a good bit on his most prominent opponent, former Houston Mayor Bill White, saying the Democratic nominee hasn't been transparent. He's knocked the mayor largely for tarrying in releasing his personal tax returns for the years White was in government service.

And yeah, Perry's got a point on that -- Mayor White should have coughed up his tax returns a lot earlier than he did, and we thumped him on the head a couple of times for it -- and he still should release his returns for the years when he was deputy energy secretary.

Frosted glass

But the gov has some transparency issues of his own.

I'm tempted to say that he's throwing stones while living in a glass house -- but his glass house is made out of that frosted glass that you can't really see into.

Here's the most recent problem: The gov is refusing to cough up records that would identify investors in companies that have gotten money from a pet Perry project that funnels tax dollars to tech firms, the Texas Emerging Technology Fund. The Dallas Morning News reported this weekend that more than $16 million from the fund -- your tax dollars -- went to firms for which major Perry donors are officers or investors:

"The issue is there are private sector monies and private sector projects and things that are not to be made public because they're proprietary information," Perry said. "Or there's private information that a private sector company is not going to make public because they want to protect that information."

Perry said "nobody is going to come and participate at all" if too much information about their company is made public.

"So the answer is I think we make everything available to the public that we need to in these programs," he said.

Folks, if somebody's going to take money out of your pocket and mine, we have a right to know where it goes. Period. And if that money is being taken out of our pockets and given to friends of the governor, it's all the more important that the administration be totally transparent about where that money goes and to whom.

All candidates for political office should embrace transparency -- not only as a plank in their platform, but as a goal for how they want government to function. Transparency shouldn't just be something they trot out in stump speeches and television advertisements. It's not a means to an end. It's an end in itself.

Contact Jennifer Peebles at or 281-656-1681. Follow her on Twitter at @jpeebles or @texaswatchdog.

Frosted glass photo from public domain photos via Wikipedia.

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