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FOX News/Google GOP 2012 debate: The “Obama lite” label and venture socialism; Updated: Wrap-up, winners, losers

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By Michelle Malkin  •  September 22, 2011 07:31 PM


Graphic via FoxNews.com

The latest GOP 2012 debate starts at 9pm Eastern tonight on Fox news.

GOP Rep. Thad McCotter dropped his quixotic, redundant bid today (really, how many pro-bailout, pro-health care entitlement expansion Republicans do we need in the race), so he’s off the schedule.

Taking his place: Libertarian Gary Johnson. Yep, another quixotic, redundant bid. Because, you know, there aren’t enough open-borders, foreign policy ostriches in the current field.

I will be watching to see if crony capitalism/venture socialism takes center stage tonight.

With Obama’s Solyndra and LightSquared scandals breaking out all over, which of the current candidates is best equipped to provide a clear, credible alternative on this central fiscal/integrity issue?

It’s GOP Gov. Rick Perry himself who said the other night:

We don’t need to nominate Obama lite. We don’t need to nominate someone who is going to blur the lines between President Obama and our nominee,” Perry said in an interview on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity.”

And yet, as I noted last month, Perry has exercised a disturbing habit of overriding the deliberative process, exercising unilateral executive authority, and benefiting donors and cronies with pay-for-play rackets galore.

Some remedial reading in preparation for tonight:

It is no surprise — given the Merck ties — that Perry is a consummate practitioner of corporate welfare “public-private partnerships.” Tim Carney, who wrote the book on Obama’s crony capitalism, dissects Perry’s big government-big business collusion in the Examiner today. As with the Gardasil mandate, Perry exercised his habit of overriding the deliberative process, exercising unilateral executive authority, and benefiting donors and cronies:

Corporate welfare king Boeing provided a formative experience for Perry. Weeks after Perry took over the governorship in 2001, the jet maker announced it was moving its corporate headquarters out of Seattle and was considering Chicago, Denver and Dallas. Undoubtedly, Texas provided the best business environment: lower taxes, less regulation, better weather, less traffic. But Chicago won because Mayor Richard Daley and Gov. George Ryan offered Boeing $63 million in “incentives,” including a $1 million buyout to a tenant who was occupying Boeing’s preferred office space.

One problem: Texas’ slower legislative process prevented the state from making a counteroffer. Perry was determined to fix this inefficiency so he would never be out-corporate-welfared again.

In his next State of the State address, Perry pushed the Legislature to create the Texas Enterprise Fund, giving the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker the power to hand out multimillion-dollar grants to businesses seeking to relocate to or expand within the state. Two years later, Perry and the Legislature created another subsidy bank, called the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, using taxpayer money to invest in high-tech companies. Perry made government a venture capital fund.

Muckrakers at the Los Angeles Times and the Austin American Statesman have shown a strong correlation between Perry’s biggest campaign contributors and the money handled by these funds and Perry’s other public-private partnership. Almost half of Perry’s “mega-donors,” according to the Times, have received profitable favors from the Texas government. Poultry magnate Joe Sanderson, for instance, gave Perry’s campaign $165,000 and received $500,000 from the Texas Enterprise Fund to open a facility in Waco, the Times reports.

The Austin paper documents the unsavory case of $80,000 Perry donor David Nance winning a $4.5 million grant from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund. A regional board had denied the grant to Nance’s Convergen LifeSciences, but Perry intervened and ushered the grant through.

The Wall Street Journal earlier scrutinized Perry’s crony capitalism here.

Then there’s Perry’s troubling erosion of private property rights via the Trans Texas Corridor.

It is all of a piece.

The American Thinker has an excellent piece on “Perry’s Solyndra?” that delves into the aforementioned Convergen deal. Brian Carter writes:

Taxpayers continue to pay the bill for cronyism as the debt balloons, the dollar collapses, and our credit rating falls. From the 2008 financial meltdown, the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac debacle, and multiple pork-laden stimulus bills to auto bailouts, TARP, and easy federal loans for speculative projects, the costs mount.

With such a clear pattern of corruption and special deals for contributors and insiders, how could Republicans possibly fail to capitalize on Obama’s reckless waste of taxpayer money in rewarding his biggest fundraisers? Republicans can easily throw away the advantage by nominating a candidate with a record of rewarding friends and donors with the spoils of government power.

In Texas, bio-tech firm Convergen LifeSciences looks a lot like Governor Rick Perry’s Solyndra.

Governor Perry manages the Emerging Technology Fund (ETF), providing financial support to companies developing new technology in the hope of creating high-tech jobs. First created in 2005, ETF is made up of regional panels that screen proposals for a statewide advisory panel (all appointed by Perry). ETF dispersed $342 million through August 2010.

Like Solyndra, Convergen’s project to develop a lung cancer treatment was easily identified as a speculative endeavor. Convegen’s proposal was rejected at the regional review board, part of the normal ETF evaluation process designed to insulate the program from politics.

Solyndra had George Kaiser, mega-fund-raiser for Obama. Convergen had David Nance, mega-donor for Perry. Nance is the founder of Convergen. Despite several business and personal bankruptcies — including previously failed companies partially funded by the state — Nance managed to donate $335,000 to Perry’s campaigns, association fundraisers, and foundation.

As in the case of Solyndra, Convergen received help in circumventing the normal process. This part is very murky. Somehow, the proposal that failed the regional review was presented at the closed-door session of the state advisory panel (which previously included Nance), where it was approved. While the governor’s office claimed that an appeal was filed, there is no appeals process in ETF’s charter. The process by which Convergen received $4.5 million — the highest amount ever awarded — was “extraordinary.”

Where Solyndra received a below-inflation interest rate, Convergen gave Texas an 8% annual interest promissory note with no due date.

Just like Solyndra, the principal investors unloaded risks on taxpayers. According to the previously secret state grant application, Convergen founders put up only $1,000 each, while Texas taxpayers put up $4.5 million. They were entering phase II clinical trials in late 2010, but only 33% of successful phase II drugs make it to market, and the success rate for cancer drugs is only 4.7%.

The big difference between Solyndra and Convergen is that Convergen hasn’t failed. Not yet, at least. The odds of success might be better than a roulette wheel, but this is taxpayer money.

Convergen is not an isolated case, either. In fact, Nance previously received state money “at the direction of the Governor’s budget office” for a now-bankrupt company which still owes Texas $50,000. Max Talbott served on Perry’s ETF panel and simultaneously was a paid consultant for several firms that sought and received money from the ETF. While he claims that he recused himself for some conflicts (in closed-door sessions), conflict of interest questions remain for other clients; $16 million of ETF funds went to the firms of major Perry donors, and $27 million of ETF funds went to firms of former ETF advisory board members.

There are also questions about unusual access by lobbyists who went to work for Perry and then returned to lobbying for firms doing business with the state. Still more questions exist about major donors influencing decisions, approvals, and the reorganization of state agencies. Much of this will almost certainly be revealed in the course of the campaign.

So far, the response from Team Perry has been to lump all critics of these deals in with George Soros and complain about the left-wing smear machine while failing to address the actual substance of the concerns.

The fact that Perry shares some of the same lefty critics as George W. Bush does nothing to answer the actual stench, appearance, and reality of pay-for-play under the Perry administration.

I was one of the critics on the RIGHT assailing W.’s corporate welfare deals in 1999 and his statist bailout deals during his last year in office that pre-socialized the economy for Barack Obama.

I agree with Perry on this: “We don’t need to nominate Obama lite. We don’t need to nominate someone who is going to blur the lines between President Obama and our nominee.”

Will Perry’s challengers put him to his own test? God knows the MSM will if he makes it to the general. And God knows the White House would welcome a GOP candidate who has to fight Obama’s culture of corruption with his own crippling baggage on the issue.

***

Update: Here’s my quick and dirty debate summary.

Herman Cain’s passion and personality really stood out. Still wish he hadn’t taken the Beltway GOP line on TARP, but his personal story, business experience, humor, and faith in the American dream really do add a grass-roots Tea Party flavor to an otherwise bland establishment field.

Rick Santorum came off well, I thought, on foreign policy and parental responsibility issues. Michele Bachmann stayed strongest on economic issues; she refused to take responsibility for overreaching in her Gardasil critique of Perry. Perry dug in on his Gardasil demagoguery, repeating his “erring on the side of life line” and invoking the Heather Burcham story as a defense.

Mitt Romney and Rick Perry played Punch and Judy throughout the night. Perry lost big in his continued defense of DREAM Act illegal alien student preferences. Frank Luntz’s focus group on Sean Hannity’s show after the debate unanimously panned Perry on immigration and especially took umbrage at his condescending line about critics not having a “heart.” Which follows on his similarly-toned line from the last debate about how Republicans should care about students no matter what their last names sound like.

(Reminder: Texas Tea Party activists to Perry: Hey, what about our borders?)

He blundered through what should have been an easy attack on Romney’s flip-flopping, leading Charles Krauthammer to note his fizzled-out answers. He “dissipated.”

And Gary Johnson delivered a recycled Rush Limbaugh joke about his neighbor’s dogs creating more shovel-ready jobs than Obama.

Winners: Rush, Cain.

Loser: Perry.

Also losers: Grass-roots conservatives looking for a more sustained discussion of how these candidates would distinguish themselves from Obama on the issue I highlighted pre-debate. Believe it or not, there was a single question about Obama’s spending corruption scandals. And it was wasted on Jon “MUTE BUTTON!” Huntsman.

Maybe next time…

***

One more entry for the losers’ column: The morons in the audience who booed the gay soldier. Shame on you.

More cringe: “HPV Vaccine Fact Check: Perry Misstated Relationship With Dying Woman.”

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