From PERRY Presidential:
AUSTIN — Although never mentioned by name, Austin lobbyist Mike Toomey’s presence was felt keenly at Monday’s Republican presidential debate when Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann harshly criticized Gov. Rick Perry for his 2007 executive order mandating that Texas teenage girls receive an HPV vaccine that would have been worth millions in sales to Toomey’s client, Merck Pharmaceutical.
Calling it “flat out wrong,” Bachmann noted Perry had received campaign contributions from the drug maker and questioned Perry’s motives. “Was it about life or about millions of dollars to a drug company?”
Perry’s response — that he was “offended” by Bachmann’s suggestion that he “could be bought for $5,000” in campaign contributions from the drug maker — belied the powerful role that Toomey, a Houston native who once served as Perry’s chief of staff, has played in the governor’s political career. From advising Perry on personal legal issues to paying $10,000 to help the Green Party siphon votes from Democrats, Toomey has been a loyal and constant Perry political ally throughout his career.
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(left to right: Mike Toomey, Grover Norquist, Governor Little Ricky Goodhair, Botox Batshit Bachmann, Dave Carney, Rick Man-on-Dog Santorum)
The governor’s reply also drastically understates the amount of money that has flowed from Toomey and Merck to Perry’s campaign coffers.
Campaign finance records show that Merck has contributed $29,500 to Perry during his entire tenure as governor, $22,000 of it prior to his 2007 order.
According to a new report by Texans for Public Justice, the pharmaceutical giant also has kicked in $377,000 to the Republican Governor’s Association since 2006, the year Perry became involved as a driving force behind the organization’s fundraising. The RGA has given Perry $4 million, more than any other source of funds during his decade in office, according to TPJ.
Toomey has contributed more than $48,000 to Texans for Rick Perry since 2000. He also serves as a lobbyist for other corporations and groups with political action committees that have been generous to both Perry and the Republican Governor’s Association, a position that offers him considerable clout in Austin.
[Houston attorney Mark] Lanier said Toomey is “joined at the hip” with not only Merck, but Texans for Lawsuit Reform, which has contributed $221,000 to Perry and “a boatload of money” to Republican lawmakers who favored limiting lawsuits. Perry’s February 2007 executive order mandating that Texas girls receive an inoculation of Gardasil, a drug to prevent cervical cancer, was blocked by the Legislature after a storm of protest.
Toomey and Perry served together in the Texas House in the 1980s and have been linked ever since, from Perry’s personal finances to his public legacy.
Toomey acted with Perry’s power-of-attorney in a lucrative 1993 land deal. Perry bought a 9.3-acre lot in the West Lake Hills area and sold it to Michael Dell less than two years later for $465,000, a 281-percent increase from his purchase price.
When Perry angered doctors in 2001 by vetoing a measure meant to prompt insurers to more quickly pay doctors, there was speculation that Perry vetoed the bill, in part, as a favor to Toomey, who was a lobbyist retained by Texans for Lawsuit Reform and Cigna, a health maintenance organization.
Toomey stepped away from lobbying to become Perry’s chief of staff in 2002-04. When Toomey resigned as chief of staff, he went back to lobbying.
Toomey went with Perry on a controversial trip to the Bahamas in 2004 with large GOP donors, other staff, anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist and political adviser Dave Carney.
He now owns a private island in New Hampshire with Carney, who is Perry’s chief political consultant.
That relationship has raised red flags concerning Toomey’s role as head of a Super PAC raising money for the Perry presidential effort because its efforts legally cannot be coordinated with the Perry Campaign.
In a heated debate among Republican presidential candidates Monday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry was caught in the crossfire over his 2007 executive order that required Texas schoolgirls to receive vaccinations against the sexually transmitted HPV virus.
The debate, which aired on CNN, saw Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann lash out at Perry over the contentious vaccine issue.
“To have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong,” she said.
On Feb. 2, 2007, Perry issued an executive order requiring that Texas girls receive the HPV vaccine, which protects against some strains of the human papilloma virus, a contributing factor to some forms of cervical cancer.
Perry’s decision drew a lot of flak from social conservatives, who objected to forcible inoculations against a disease spread by sexual activity. In May 2007, the Texas Legislature passed a bill to undo Perry’s executive order, as they believed the “measure tacitly approved premarital sex,” according to the Associated Press report.
Other candidates also assailed Perry over the issue. Rick Santorum, a social conservative, said that “this disease is spread through sexual contact” and “unless 11- and 12-year-olds in the state of Texas are somehow encouraged to participate in that activity, this is not something that the state or federal government should be doing,” the former Pennsylvania senator said on the Fox News channel.
During the CNN debate, Bachmann questioned Perry’s connection with Merck, which produced the vaccine at the time. Merck stood to gain financially from Perry’s order.
“It was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them,” Perry said. “I raise about $30 million. And if you’re saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I’m offended.”
However, according to a Washington Post report, Perry’s financial connection with Merck goes much deeper.
Perry’s gubernatorial campaigns have received nearly $30,000 from the drugmaker since 2000, most of that before he issued his order, stated the report.
The company also donated money to a national organization called Women in Government, which was led by state Rep. Dianne White Delisi in Texas, who chaired the House public health committee and was also the mother-in-law of Perry’s chief of staff at the time.
Bachmann said on NBC that the HPV vaccine could have “very dangerous side effects,” including mental retardation. This was, however, denied by the American Academics of Pediatrics, which said that Bachmann’s claim had “absolutely no scientific validity.”
“Since the vaccine has been introduced, more than 35 million doses have been administered, and it has an excellent safety record,” the academy said.