AUSTIN (AP) – Nearly half of the companies receiving grants from the governor’s Texas Enterprise Fund also gave money to Governor Rick Perry’s re-election campaigns or the Republican Governor’s Association, according to a report released Thursday by a watchdog group.

Texans for Public Justice analyzed state records, campaign finance reports and non-profit filings. The group found that 43 out of the 90 companies receiving state money gave almost $7 million to the Republican Governor’s Association (RGA) while Perry was a leader there, or made donations directly to his campaign fund.

“Companies sometimes made corporate contributions directly to the RGA, while company PACs, owners or executives gave to both the RGA and to Perry’s campaign, which cannot accept corporate funds,” the report said. “These contributions included $1,652,159 to Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns and $5,331,701 to the RGA.”

Perry has repeatedly said all of the grants provided by the Texas Enterprise Fund were based on merit, completely transparent and subject to oversight.

Critics, though, have called Perry’s use of the fund to attract businesses to Texas crony capitalism. Both conservative and liberal lawmakers have tried to move the fund out of the governor’s office, but without success.

In all, the fund has given out almost $440 million in grants to the 90 companies, which have promised to create 59,157 jobs. The 43 companies that donated to Perry campaigns or the RGA received 76 percent of the funds disbursed. So far, only about 39,000 jobs have been created, according to the latest numbers released by the governor’s office.

The RGA has become Perry’s largest single donor, providing his re-election campaign with $4 million since 2006, when Perry started raising money for the association. Perry served as the chairman of the RGA in 2008 and 2010-2011.

The Texas Enterprise Fund is administered by the governor’s office, but grants must be approved by the governor, lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House. The funds are appropriated by the Legislature.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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