“Our prosperity is dependent on coming up with the next big idea that will fuel the economy of tomorrow,” he told a group of businesses executives and political appointees in a speech on August 30 of that year. “That is the greatness of America, a place where entrepreneurs risk capital to make amazing ideas a reality.”
It might come as some surprise that Perry’s passionate comments in defense of entrepreneurialism and free markets were being made to the members of the Emerging Technology Fund, then Perry’s newest and boldest step into taxpayer-funded economic development. Over the next five years, the ETF would spend more than $342 million in public money on 153 different grants and awards. At the same time, the fund came under fire from state auditors and independent fiscal watchdogs for being opaque and self-serving. It funneled money to some prominent donors of Perry’s political campaigns, allowed board members to have contracts with companies applying for handouts, and funded at least one business that later declared bankruptcy.
That is the contradiction that sums up Rick Perry’s time as governor of Texas.