Former Hot Air alum and former Texas state GOP communications director Bryan Preston, now at Pajamas Media, notes that during the tenure of Sarah Palin (who rightly criticized the appearance of crony capitalism in the Perry/Gardasil debacle last night), Alaska took federal funds to expand access to Gardasil:
( Juneau, Alaska) ? The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced today that an increase in federal funding will make it possible for all Alaska girls ages 9 through 18 to receive Gardasil ®, the vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, at no cost.
This isn’t quite the same thing as mandating (and being overturned on, so it didn’t actually happen) a vaccination, but taking federal funds for Gardasil doesn’t quite square with Palin’s hot shots at Perry on Fox last night. I admire Sarah Palin quite a bit (and Bachmann too), but aligning herself with Bachmann’s precious bodily fluids gambit is a huge mistake on her part. Both of them are flaming their own credibility over an issue that, in the grand view of things, ought not to matter much. It hasn’t mattered much to some of the most conservative voters in America, over three gubernatorial elections running now. Both Palin and Bachmann are coming off as ill informed, unreasonable and desperate.
It “isn’t quite the same thing as mandating.”
Gee, no. Ya think?
It’s a freakingly obvious night and day difference — Perry’s MANDATE on families and the MANDATE on insurers going over the heads of the state legislature versus the Palin administration’s decision to accept federal subsidies to increase access to those who choose to take it. (Note: Gardasil is not and never has been mandated in the state of Alaska.)
Preston also objects to indirect costs imposed by the Palin administration’s program on taxpayers outside the state.
Newsflash: The Perry executive order would have ordered Texas health officials to use federal Medicaid funding to cover the vaccine for young women — a cost that would have been born by millions of taxpayers outside Texas.
As for the gobsmackingly ridiculous claim that this revelation about Palin makes her guilty of the crony capitalism Perry is marinated in, another flashback:
Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., responding to pressure from parents, pro-family organizations, and medical groups, announced on February 20 that it was immediately suspending its lobbying campaign to persuade state legislatures to mandate that adolescent girls receive the company’s vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cervical cancer as a requirement for school attendance.
A February 2 executive order by Texas Governor Rick Perry that made Texas the first state to require that schoolgirls as young as 11 get vaccinated with a three-dose regimen of Merck’s Gardasil before entering sixth grade had provoked a storm of outrage from pro-family groups.
A January 31 AP report that tied Merck & Co. to Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country, added fuel to the fire by revealing a blatant conflict of interest. The report observed that a top official from Merck’s vaccine division sits on Women in Government’s business council, and members of Women in Government have introduced many of the bills around the country that would mandate compulsory Gardasil vaccinations. Merck had also admitted donating an undisclosed amount of money to lobbyists promoting such legislation.
A follow-up report by AP’s Liz Austin Peterson on February 21 noted that Governor Perry’s chief of staff, Deirdre Delisi, met with Perry’s budget director and three members of his office for an “HPV Vaccine for Children Briefing” on October 16, the same day that Merck’s political action committee donated $5,000 to Perry’s campaign.
A spokesman for the governor, Robert Black, described the timing of the meeting and the Merck donation as a coincidence, but Cathie Adams, president of the Texas Eagle Forum, remains skeptical. “We have too many coincidences,” said Adams. “I think that the voters of Texas would find that very hard to swallow.”
Now, read this from the National Institute for Money in State Politics:
Among gubernatorial candidates who received contributions from Merck, Perry was second only to former California Gov. Gray Davis, who received $28,000.
Since the 2000 election cycle, the drug company has contributed $2.46 million to state-level candidates and party committees, doling their money out almost equally to both parties.
Democratic committees received just over $1 million and Republicans $1.4 million. Individuals employed by Merck gave an additional $2.5 million to state-level politics. Merck has helped finance races in forty states since the 2000 election cycle, when the Institute began collecting contribution data in all 50 states. Merck has focused intently on its home base, New Jersey, as well as giving in Florida, California and Pennsylvania. Combined, these four states have received more than $1 million from Merck, or 44 percent of the company’s total
…At $360 for the three-shot Gardisal regimen, Merck could generate billions in sales if it is successful in its efforts to persuade the states to require the use of the vaccine.
MERCK CONTRIBUTIONS TO STATE POLITICS, 2000-2006
* 2006 data collection is ongoing; totals may increase.
MERCK CONTRIBUTIONS BY STATE, 2000-2006*
New Jersey $317,600
New York $118,025
West Virginia $52,250
North Carolina $48,000
New Mexico $31,300
South Carolina $24,150
South Dakota $8,200
North Dakota $3,250
New Hampshire $800
Note: Alaska does not appear on this list. It was never a lobbying target for Merck. Nor did Palin have an ex-chief of staff lobbying for Merck or a staffer’s mother-in-law serving as a state director of an advocacy group bankrolled by Merck to push legislatures across the country to put forward bills mandating the Gardasil vaccine for preteen girls.
Moreover, Palin is on record in 2008 e-mails expressing her general opposition to certain vaccine mandates.
It’s a pathetic and ill-informed act of desperation to try and turn the crony capitalism charge on Palin, which is a telling measure of how effective her voice is on this topic — and why so many would rather silence her.
As a sidenote, Perry lowballed the amount of money he took from Merck. See here.
And a final point: A friend points out that Perry supporters sabotage their own defense of Perry. If Perry was simply “erring on the side of life” and would simply have pursued the policy of increasing access to Gardasil in a different way, then he most certainly would have no objection to what happened in Alaska — e.g., making the vaccine available to people who wanted it without mandating it by acccepting existing federal dollars.