CRESTON, Iowa –- Rep. Michele Bachmann, battling Rick Perry for the backing of Iowa’s most conservative caucus-goers, on Wednesday accused the Texas governor of “crony capitalism.”
Bachmann’s remarks came in response to a Perry ad as well as his continued remarks on the campaign trail that hammer away at Washington and his call for a conservative outsider to take on its entrenched culture.
“Rick has spent 27 years as a political insider,” Bachmann said. “And while he's been in elected office, he's been guilty of the very things he says he'll fight against, crony capitalism. Rick Perry has taken millions for his political campaigns, and many of those donors have benefited from government grants and contracts, and appointments to government boards and commissions.”
Perry faced criticism in the fall for his executive order to vaccinate all Texas school girls to protect them from cervical cancer caused by a sexually transmitted disease. Perry's former chief of staff, Mike Toomey, was a lobbyist for Merck, the manufacturer of the vaccine that Perry sought to require for girls.
Perry also drew attention to the millions he raised for his own campaigns and for the Republican Governors Association by stating at a debate that he was "offended" by Bachmann's suggestion that he "could be bought for $5,000," the amount of a direct contribution from Merck's political action committee to Perry's 2006 reelection campaign. Records show that he actually received $28,000 from Merck from 2002 to 2010.
In response to Bachmann's remarks, the Perry campaign said in a statement: "Congresswoman Bachmann can't run from her congressional record and tenure in Washington. Her comments indicate a sense of growing concern and frustration with her own campaign. Gov. Perry's fiscal, social and tea party conservative credentials are backed up by six balanced budgets, the nation's leading job creating economy and decades of pro-family leadership. He's never served in Washington or been an establishment favorite."
Playing up her national-security credentials as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Bachmann also blasted Perry for what she called his lack of knowledge in that area. He “doesn't understand the situation in Syria," she said, "or that there is a difference in security assistance and foreign aid.”
Perry has been alone among the candidates in calling for a no-fly zone in Syria and he aroused concern among Israelis when he said earlier this month that that nation would join other countries in starting from zero in foreign assistance under his administration. He later clarified that he would continue providing security funds to Israel.
Rebecca Kaplan contributed