Rick Perry’s 2007 HPV Vaccine Decision Haunts Him at Debate

Mike Carlson/AP Photo

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was hit both on and off the debate stage Monday night with accusations of engaging in “crony capitalism” when he issued a 2007 executive order requiring sixth grade girls receive a vaccine to protect against HPV, which causes cervical cancer.

“I’m a mom and I’m a mom of three children and to have them make 12-year old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. That is a violation of a liberty interest,” Rep. Michele Bachmann said.

Bachmann claimed there was a conflict of interest in Perry’s decision to require teenage girls receive the HPV vaccine because his former chief of staff, Mike Toomey, who now runs the pro-Perry SuperPAC “Make Us Great Again,” was a lobbyist for Merck, the drug company which manufactures the HPV vaccine called Gardasil.

“We cannot forget that in the midst of this executive order there was a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate we can’t deny that. What I’m saying is that it’s wrong for a drug company because the governor’s former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company,” Bachmann said. “The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor and this is just flat out wrong.  The question is — is it about life or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company.”

Even Sarah Palin, who is still considering a run for the White House, chimed in on Perry’s decision, calling it the perfect example of “crony capitalism” and praised Bachmann for attacking the Texas governor on the issue.

“That’s crony capitalism.  That’s part of the problem that we have in this country is that people are afraid even within our own party to call one another out on that,” Palin said on “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren.”

“I was governor of Alaska at the time that that issue comes down and I told our Health and Human Services Department Alaska was not going to mandate immunizations for our teenage daughters ,and there had to have been something to that whole issue because it just didn’t sound like Governor Perry,” Palin continued. “Governor Perry was you know the proverbial anti-government type of maverick there in Texas, and yet on this issue he decided that he was going to know better than a parent was going to know in terms of what the health care or health benefit would be for their teenage daughter and so I knew there was something to it.”

On the campaign trail and at tonight’s debate, Perry reiterated his regret for instituting the executive order, which was later repealed by the Texas state legislature, saying he should have engaged the state legislature in the decision making process and argued he only had one goal in mind – preventing cancer.

“At the end of the day this was about trying to stop a cancer and giving the parental option to opt out of that,” Perry said.  “You may criticize me about the way I went about it, but at the end of the day, I am always going to err on the side of life and that’s what this was about.”

Perry took issue with Bachmann’s accusation that his decision was spurred by the prospect of cash pouring into his campaign fund from the drug company.

“It was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them,” Perry said. “I raised about 30 million dollars, and if you’re saying that I can be bought for 5,000, I’m offended.”

“I’m offended for all the little girls and parents who didn’t have a choice,” Bachmann responded.

Perry cited a $5,000 campaign donation from Merck, but according to records from the Merck PAC, Perry has received nearly $30,000 in donations from the drug company over his decade as governor of Texas.  The $5,000 Perry referred to was merely the Merck donation from 2006, one year before he established the executive order.