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Did Bachmann's drug lobbyist claims ring true?

The CNN Wire Staff
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Michele Bachmann takes on Perry over HPV

(CNN) -- During Monday's CNN/Tea Party debate, Rep. Michele Bachmann criticized Texas Gov. Rick Perry's short-lived 2007 executive order requiring girls to get a vaccination for human papillomavirus, claiming in part that his former chief of staff lobbied for the drug maker, and that the company made millions of dollars because of the order.

"I just wanted to add that we cannot forget that in the midst of this executive order there is a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate. We can't deny that ... What I'm saying is that it's wrong for a drug company, because the governor's former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company," Bachmann said. "The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor, and this is just flat-out wrong. The question is, is it about life, or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company?"

Perry replied, "The company was Merck, and it was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them. I raise about $30 million. And if you're saying that I can be bought for $5,000, I'm offended."

The exchange involves multiple claims. We'll examine each:

Statement No. 1:

Bachmann rips Perry on HPV order
HPV vaccine considered safe
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Bachmann: "We cannot forget that in the midst of this executive order, there was a big drug company that made millions of dollars because of this mandate. We can't deny that."

The facts:

Perry in February 2007 signed an executive order directing the state Health and Human Services commissioner to mandate human papillomavirus vaccination for all girls before admission to the sixth grade. Perry at the time released a statement saying that the vaccine "provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer," which HPV can cause.

At the time, the only such vaccine that the Food and Drug Administration had approved was Gardasil, made by Merck & Co.

Texas' rules were to take effect in September 2008. However, the Texas Legislature passed a bill overturning Perry's order in April 2007. Perry declined to veto the bill, which went into effect in May 2007, killing his order.

The verdict:

False. The executive order didn't last long enough to produce a mandate. Therefore, there was no mandate that would have caused Merck to make millions of dollars.

Statement No. 2:

Bachmann: "The governor's former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company."

The facts:

Michael Toomey, a former three-term state representative from Houston, served as Perry's chief of staff from December 2002 to September 2004.

Toomey was a lobbyist for a number of companies -- including Merck -- before and after he served in Perry's office, according to the Texas Ethics Commission. He was registered in Texas to lobby for Merck from at least 1998 to 2002, and from 2004 to the present, according to the commission.

The verdict:

True. Toomey was a lobbyist for Merck. However, CNN could not find evidence to confirm or dispute that he was the company's "chief lobbyist."

Statement No. 3:

Perry's defense: "The company was Merck, and it was a $5,000 contribution that I had received from them."

The facts:

Merck's political action committee did give Perry $5,000 in 2006, when he was seeking a second full term. But it also gave him nearly $25,000 more over the course of his career, including a $10,000 donation in 2004; $5,000 in 2002; $1,000 in 2005; $1,000 in 2000; $2,500 in 2008; and another $5,000 in his most recent run, in 2010.

The verdict:

Misleading.

CNN's Jason Hanna, Amy Roberts and Matt Smith contributed to this report.

 
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