From Rick Perry, after Michele Bachmann suggested that a campaign contribution might have affected his decision to mandate HPV vaccines for girls:
If you're saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended.
Duly noted, sir. So how much does it take?
Jokes aside, what's interesting here isn't Bachmann's allegation per se. It's vanishingly unlikely that Merck's five grand played any real role in Perry's decision. What's interesting is the weird, two-faced nature of the more general crony capitalism charge. On the one hand, you have one version (the HPV mandate was a payoff to Merck) that's ridiculous and unfair, but might actually hurt Perry anyway because the tea party crowd is riled up about the HPV vaccine and therefore open to the idea that there was something fishy about it.
On the other hand, you have the quite plausible and heavily documented fact that Perry has doled out a ton of favors to people who have been campaign contributors over the years. But so far, at least, this version of the crony capitalism charge hasn't hurt him because.....I dunno. I guess tea partiers don't really care about their politicians cozying up with
rich industrialists job creators.
But! It's possible that the first version, unfair as it is, could make conservative voters more receptive to the second, more serious version. After all, no one has really tried to seriously tar Perry with the crony capitalism brush yet. It's a little tricky, I think, since every politician takes lots of campaign contributions and does favors in return. So any mud flung at Perry could easily end up boomeranging. But if Perry keeps riding high in the polls, the rest of the field is eventually going to get nervous enough to give this a try. Bachmann opened the door last night, and I'd be surprised if others didn't join her in walking through it pretty soon.