Michele Bachmann ripped into Rick Perry for issuing an executive order requiring Texas girls to receive vaccinations for the HPV virus, which could lead to cervical cancer, accusing him of “crony capitalism.” Perry’s decision to sign the mandate in February 2007 sparked a backlash within the Republican party and eventually led the state legislature to override the order. Perry succumbed to the lawmakers’ wishes, but continued to defend the order until he began campaigning for the GOP nomination.
During her appearance on the TODAY show this morning, Bachmann argued that Perry acted at the behest of Merck, which was then lobbying state legislatures to mandate the vaccine and had donated $6,000 to the governor’s re-election campaign:
LAUER: You questioned the motivation behind it, suggesting rather strongly, that this could have been an attempt to appease a big drug company Merck because they contributed to his campaign. So I want you to lay this out for me, is that what you are asserting?
BACHMANN: Well, it’s very clear that crony capitalism could have likely been the cause. Because the Governor’s former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company….people have to draw their own conclusions.
Merck doubled its lobbying budget in Texas while the state was considering its vaccination, funneling funds through Women in Government, an advocacy group with close ties to Perry. By then, Perry’s former chief of staff — Mike Toomey — had become a lobbyist for the drug manufacturer, and the mother-in-law of another chief of staff served as a state director for Women in Government.
Perry himself received $6,000 from Merck’s political action committee during his re-election campaign in 2006 and nearly $30,000 in donations from the drug company over his decade as governor of Texas. Merck also renewed its annual donation of $50,000 to the Republican Governor’s Association, which he headed at the time. The AP reported that “Perry’s chief of staff had met with key aides about the vaccine on Oct. 16, the same day Merck’s political action committee” donated to the governor. Toomey now chairs “a pro-Perry Super PAC with the stated goal of raising $55 million during the primary race to finance a shadow campaign for Perry.”
In the interview, Bachmann also said that a woman at last night’s debate claimed that her daughter had suffered from “mental retardation” as a result of the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) disputes this, however, stating that “HPV vaccines were studied in thousands of people in many countries around the world” and the data found that “both HPV vaccines were safe and cause no serious side effects. The most common adverse event was injection site pain, redness and swelling.”