Former gubernatorial candidate and Tea Party favorite Debra Medina and other activists slammed what they called a culture of crony capitalism in Texas politics at a Capitol press conference on Thursday — taking aim at Gov. Rick Perry.

“I will allege, as a free-market, limited-government individual, that the stagnant economy is a predictable outcome of government picking winners and losers in business and the industries that they favor,” Medina said, a jab directed at Perry, her former gubernatorial primary opponent and now the GOP presidential front-runner. She said public policy "is being written to provide market advantages to political donors." 

Thursday's criticism, hurled by Medina and activists from Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education and Homeowners for Better Building, comes after Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, another presidential contender, targeted Perry in a televised debate for his 2007 order making the HPV vaccine mandatory for adolescent girls. 

Although the order was quickly overturned by state lawmakers, and Perry has acknowledged it was a mistake, Rebecca Rex, cofounder of PROVE, said it revealed a too-close-for-comfort relationship between drug companies and state leaders: Perry's former chief of staff was a lobbyist for Merck, the pharmaceutical company that produced the vaccine. 

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“Michele Bachmann got it right," Medina added. "Gov. Perry’s executive order was driven on money, not driven on good policy."

At Thursday's press conference, large donations made to Perry's campaign by homebuilder Bob Perry (no relation) also took center stage. Janet Ahmad, president of Homeowners for Better Building, said that Bob Perry’s campaign donations resulted in the formation of the now-defunct Texas Residential Construction Commission in 2003, an agency plagued by allegations that it protected homebuilders at the expense of homebuyers. 

“The resulting agency was so anti-consumer and industry protective that that the Texas Legislature recently abolished it,” Ahmad said. “Meanwhile Bob Perry’s political contributions have become the hallmark of influence for Texas policy.” 

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