(CNN) - Texas Gov. Rick Perry's Democratic challenger came out swinging Monday after the Dallas Morning News published a lengthy investigation into more than $16 million in state technology grants given to companies run by top Perry campaign donors.
Former Houston Mayor Bill White, trailing by six or seven points according in recent polls, called on the Republican governor to "come clean" about why money from the taxpayer-funded Texas Emerging Technology Fund, created by Perry in 2005, was steered to "hand-picked" companies.
"It's part of a pattern of Rick Perry helping his friends and his friends helping Rick Perry," White told reporters in Houston.
White said Perry needs to release details about conversations with the companies that received grants, ethics guidelines that may or may not have been followed and performance measures used to award the grants.
White's campaign, hoping to undercut Perry's reputation as a fiscal conservative, has deemed the story a "public corruption scandal."
Perry and his advisers said politics did not influence his decision-making process and said any appearance to the contrary is coincidental.
The Republican tried to turn the tables on White, accusing him of directing public money to political allies while serving as mayor.
Perry spokesman Mark Miner said the Dallas Morning News story "dwelled on less than five percent of the $334 million awarded to Texas companies and schools."
"Once again Bill White has chosen to criticize proven and effective resources that have made the Texas economy one of the strongest in the nation," Miner told CNN in an e-mail.
"It's unfortunate that Bill White would attack a program that is positioning Texas and our universities to be a world leader in bio-technology and other cutting-edge fields that will save lives."