Vaccine maker gave to fundraiserGOP group says Perry didn't solicit $50,000 donation
By GARY SCHARRER
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau
February 28, 2007
AUSTIN — The maker of an anti-cancer vaccine that Gov. Rick Perry mandated for Texas schoolgirls contributed $50,000 to a GOP fundraiser chaired by the governor, but a spokesman for the organization said Tuesday that the donation had nothing to do with Perry's controversial order.
Merck & Co. has contributed $50,000 a year for at least the past six years, said Nick Ayers, executive director of the Republican Governors Association.
"It's just a part of what they do annually," he said.
The governor has come under fire after issuing an executive order earlier this month requiring schoolgirls to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, which protects women against most cases of cervical cancer.
The only anti-HPV vaccine on the market is called Gardasil, produced by Merck.
Last week the Houston Chronicle, Associated Press and other news organizations reported that Perry's chief of staff met with Perry aides last fall to discuss the HPV vaccine on the same day that Merck gave $5,000 to Perry's campaign.
"If a cynic wants to see a controversy, they can make controversy out of almost anything, even thin air," Perry spokesman Robert Black said of questions about Merck contributions involving the governor. "This is AP's latest, much-to-do-about-nothing story.
"The governor did not ask Merck for any money. He did not solicit Merck for any money for the Republican Governors Association," Black said.
Merck's annual $50,000 contribution to the Republican Governors Association makes it "a little hard to say that it was related to Mr. Perry," said Andrew Wheat, research director for Texans For Public Justice, a nonprofit organization that tracks money and politics.
"Merck is certainly giving heavily politically because it has a political agenda. All that's clear," Wheat said.
Perry served as dinner chairman, one of three elected positions in the Republican Governors Association.