Lawyers: Texas comptroller committed state funds to MotoGP race

State Comptroller Susan Combs last year committed more than $40 million from a state events trust fund to a MotoGP race planned at the Circuit of the Americas in southeastern Travis County, according to attorneys for motorcycling legend Kevin Schwantz.

The $4.6 million a year for 10 years — which had previously been unreported — is in addition to a controversial $250 million in state funds that Combs appeared to commit to attract Formula One to the circuit, Schwantz’s attorneys claim.

The Formula One money was to come from the Major Events Trust Fund, a state economic development fund administered by her office that has been used to attract events such as Super Bowls and NCAA basketball Final Four tournaments.

Schwantz’s legal team has issued a subpoena for Combs to appear for a December deposition as part of a lawsuit Schwantz filed in September in Travis County District Court against the Circuit of the Americas and circuit President Steve Sexton.

Dorna Sports and the circuit recently signed a deal to host races beginning next year that didn’t include Schwantz, the 1993 MotoGP world champion. Schwantz’s case claims circuit officials undermined his relationship with Dorna, the Spanish rights-holder for MotoGP, a global series that is motorcycling’s equivalent of Formula One.

“We believe the comptroller’s testimony will further establish that Mr. Schwantz was key to COTA getting state funds, for both MotoGP and F1," Austin Tighe, an attorney for Schwantz and his company, said in a statement. “We are pleased that the comptroller will be the first state official to testify under oath regarding the use of taxpayer money for COTA projects."

In a letter dated Feb. 3, 2011, to Schwantz and Dorna chief Caremelo Ezpeleta, Combs wrote: “I hereby certify the following: With the understanding that the first MotoGP United States Grand Prix will be held in Texas in 2013, I confirm that this event is statutorily eligible for and will be included in the Events Trust Fund. Our initial analysis suggests a minimum of $4.6 million for each year the event is held, beginning in 2013 and ending in 2022."

According to the letter, Schwantz’s company was to be paid the money 30 days after the completion of the event.

Attempts to reach Combs were not successful Saturday.

In a May 2010 letter, Combs told organizers “full funding on the entire sanction for 2012 will be paid to Formula OneWorld Championship Limited (‘FOWC’) no later than July 31st, 2011." Combs later said that organizers for the F1 race, planned for Nov. 16-18, would have to apply for the money after the race and that the figures would be analyzed to determine the benefit.

An August opinion by state Attorney General Greg Abbott didn’t settle whether Combs is managing the fund appropriately with regard to Formula One.

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