Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Merck Money Trail

As much as I think we need to provide the HPV vaccine to Texas girls, I’m no longer convinced Rick Perry’s executive order was a smart way to go about it. It would’ve been better just to hash it out in the Legislature.

A report released earlier this week by Texans for Public Justice does a good job of mapping the Merck money trail. I found the following paragraph particularly enlightening.

There would have been much less controversy if the governor had promoted the vaccine differently. It would have been different if he fast-tracked vaccine-mandate legislation—rather than resorting to executive fiat. It would have been different if he had held a prime-time press conference—rather than issuing a statement late on the Friday preceding the Super Bowl. He further invited controversy by granting vaccine maker Merck & Co. a statewide monopoly without concessions—rather than negotiating a deep vaccine discount for poor Texans. Finally, there would have been fewer questions if this initiative came from a longtime champion of women’s health—rather than an official previously AWOL on health policies.

It was my previous suspicion that Perry issued his order to circumvent legislative debate on the vaccine as a favor to his far right colleagues who didn’t want to be forced into becoming mouthpieces for batty religionists who don’t want to lose HPV as a “punishment” for sex they don't like.

The fact that so many Republican legislators have come out against the order proves that theory wrong, but I still don’t think he’d sell out his far right constituency for a measly $6,000. There's got to be more to this. Just how deep in Perry's pocket is former chief of staff-turned-Merck lobbyist Mike Toomey?

Wipe that smirk off your face!

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