HOUSTON, Texas–Progress Texas, a pro-Wendy Davis group, published an ad and blog post that attempts to make the case that Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott was potentially responsible for the deaths of cancer patients. Progress Texas attempted to form linkage between Texas Attorney General Abbott’s appointment to the board of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and the alleged mis-allocation of funds by CPRIT.
Gen. Abbott was a member of the governing board of CPRIT according to a report by Ellison Barber in the Washington Free Beacon. Abbott appointed Jay Dyer to represent him on the board. Dyer attended fifteen of the twenty-two board meetings according to the Free Beacon.
While the Free Beacon report seems critical of Abbott for appointing a designee, Breitbart Texas has learned that is exactly what the law that created the position allows. Matt Hirsch, Communication Director for Abbott’s gubernatorial campaign, responding to Breitbart Texas’ request for information, said Abbott appointed a designee “to retain his independence and remove himself from potential conflicts.” Abbott was concerned about any possible appearance of a conflict of interest. “By following the law and appointing Dyer to represent him on the board, Abbott was able “to retain his independence and remove himself from potential conflicts,” Hirsch said.
Texas Health and Safety Code, Section 102.101(b), lists the Comptroller of Public Accounts (Comptroller) or the Comptroller’ designee, and the Attorney General or the Attorney General’s designee as members of the oversight committee. “However,” Hirsch said, “the Comptroller’s and Attorney General’s membership on the oversight committee could impair their independence or professional judgment as elected officials who are responsible for ensuring the enforcement of state laws and regulations over state entities, including CPRIT and its grantees.”
CPRIT came under fire in 2012 when the San Antonio Express News reported “two huge grants” were awarded to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and a startup bio-tech company. The report stated the grants were “awarded hastily, without proper review and potentially involving conflicts of interests.”
The Dallas Morning News reported in October, 2013 that Abbott was concerned about possible conflicts of interest from as far back as the legislative debate process which created the board when he verbally asked legislators to remove the attorney general from the oversight committee.
In the Progress Texas ad, Austin, Texas Attorney Berry Crowley, a cancer survivor who calls herself “The Lawyer’s Lawyer” for defending attorneys with ethics complaints, attempts to blame Abbott for the deaths of unknown cancer patients because of drugs that may or may not have ever been invented by cancer research. “It’s just sort of tragic,” Crowley said, “because, think of the people that probably have died from the lack of drugs that might have been invented from the proper use of the funds in secret.”
Hirsch told Breitbart Texas, “Having just lost a family member to cancer, Greg Abbott thinks it offensive that the Davis campaign would knowingly use the Cancer Institute as a political ploy–especially when her claims are completely false. Texans deserve better.”
It appears Rice University Political Science Professor Mark Jones would agree. He argued the ad is a “risky line of attack because Davis risks being seen as exploiting cancer victims for political gain,” according to the San Angelo Standard-Times.
The Free Beacon said, “The ad calls to mind a 2012 Priorities USA ad, which featured a former steelworker tying the death of his wife to Mitt Romney and Bain Capital. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler gave that ad four Pinocchios and noted it “stretched the bounds of common sense and decency.”
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