2007 drug order now haunts Perry
As predicted, when Rick Perry announced he was reconsidering his adamant denials he would run for president, getting in that rarifi ed political air brings back around all the things you thought you’d put behind you.
And that’s exactly what’s happened with Perry’s 2007 executive order mandating that pre-teen girls be vaccinated for HPV (human papillomavirus).
That resurfaced in the second debate among Republican candidates for president. And the HPV executive order flap, while a bygone in Texas, has legs in a national race as Perry endures the hot questions.
The good thing for Perry’s rivals is that the incident raises questions about the governor in several different ways.
One is arrogance. The Legislature, even though dominated by members of Perry’s own party, dug its heels into the ground at Perry doing something that expensive and controversial without first bringing them into the discussion. Legislators overwhelmingly slapped it down.
Most Republicans and some Democrats were furious at the suggestion that pre-teen girls should be required to get injections designed to protect against cervical cancer – caused only by sexual contact.
Even though Perry noted that families could opt out if they chose, legislators thought it amounted to a unilateral mandate.
It seemed particularly odd, coming from a governor who says the only form of birth control schools should teach about is abstinence. If they’re abstaining from sex, how can teenagers spread a virus that’s the leading cause of cervical cancer?
Plus, the mandate wouldn’t have been cheap. The series of three shots necessary for the immunization would cost $360, which would have been borne by the state.
Another category is cronyism – or, in this campaign cycle’s alliterative replacement for Compassionate Conservatism, Crony Capitalism.
The lobbyist for drug company Merck, which developed the vaccine Gardasil, which Perry hoped to mandate, had as its lobbyist none other than Perry’s longtime buddy and former chief of staff, Mike Toomey.
Toomey, whose activities have brought a whole new dimension to the term Revolving Door, stood to make Merck millions if Perry’s mandate went through.
Then there’s Pay to Play. When rival Michelle Bachmann mentioned in their second debate that Merck had contributed to Perry’s campaign treasury, Perry took umbrage at the intimation that the executive order might have been linked to Merck giving him political money.
“It was a $5,000 contribution,” Perry responded haughtily. “I raised about $30 million (that election), and if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.”
Actually, campaign finance records show that Perry had gotten $29,500 from Merck since 2000. The firm also contributed $352,000 to the Republican Governors Association since 2006, when Perry got active in the organization. He has been its chairman twice, and spent another year as its finance chairman.
Since 2006, the association has contributed $4 million to Perry’s campaigns.
******* This Just In . . . In a development that probably brought about as much joy to Perry as Mitt Romney felt upon learning former
Democratic President Jimmy Carter said Romney is the best-qualified of the Republican candidates, The New York Times editorial page on Sunday, Sept. 18, complimented
Perry’s HPV executive order.
“Mr. Perry made the right call to protect the health of vulnerable youngsters,” the paper commented. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend the vaccine for young girls and attest to its safety based on 35 million doses administered with few serious side effects.”
HPV is responsible for 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer, and 90 percent of all cases of genital warts. The vaccines are most effective if given at that earlier stage, the paper said.
The Times editorialists upbraided the other candidates, like Bachmann, who said the executive order mandating the vaccinations (with a parental opt-out) was a bad idea. But the editorialists couldn’t resist questioning if Perry may have done the right thing for the wrong reasons.
“The governor’s motivations may not have been as high-minded as he claimed,” the paper said. “Merck, the vaccine’s manufacturer, had donated to his campaigns and stood to make millions if its vaccine were required. . . . Merck has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his campaigns and even more to the Republican Governors Association, which has supported his campaigns.”
And then, of course, the Times added, there’s the fact that Merck’s lobbyist was Perry’s longtime friend and former chief of staff.
“If his rivals want to do a real public service,” the editorial concluded, “they should dig deeper into whether he has put his office at the disposal of deep-pocketed donors.”
Contact McNeely at firstname.lastname@example.org or (512) 458-2963.