Corporations aren't the only recipients of political largesse. Governor Perry is a shining example of a politician who helps his individual contributors. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Perry overruled his own advisors and accepted $75,000 in campaign donations from David Nance between 2001 and 2006. At the same time he used government programs intended for economic development to direct millions of dollars to Nance's companies.
Perry's decision to mandate the use of HPV vaccine to inoculate adolescent girls against cervical cancer also has the whiff of crony capitalism. The mandate capped a concerted lobbying effort by the pharmaceutical giant Merck, an effort headed in Austin by Perry's former chief of staff and longtime friend, Mike Toomey. (Toomey currently chairs a pro-Perry Super PAC that hopes to raise $55 million during the primaries.) On the day he signed the executive order, Perry received a $5,000 donation from Merck's political action committee, part of the $30,000 total he has received from Merck.
America has always known crony capitalism, but we have also had presidents with the courage to take on powerful interests. Teddy Roosevelt led the anti-trust fight. Franklin Roosevelt regulated financial firms despite being called a "traitor to his class." John Kennedy took on the steel industry. Bill Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy.
In 1832, Andrew Jackson vetoed a bill that would have extended the charter of the Second Bank of the United States. The bank's president, Nicholas Biddle, had been using its funds to make political contributions in order to sway legislators. In his struggle with Jackson, Biddle even risked recession by shrinking credit as a way to pressure the president. Jackson would not give in.
In his 1832 message to Congress in which he vetoed the bank's recharter, Jackson said, "There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses." Sometimes, he continued, "the rich and powerful bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes" and seek "exclusive privileges to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful." Then, he said, "the humble members of society -- the farmers, mechanics, and laborers -- who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government."
Old Hickory concluded that we should "take a stand against all new grants of monopolies and exclusive privileges, against any prostitution of our Government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many."
Not to put Sarah Palin in the tradition of Andrew Jackson, the Roosevelts, and John Kennedy, but I'm glad she raised the question of crony capitalism. I look forward to hearing her proposals for legislation to restrict the power of the few. We should know what these large donors want when they give so much money. At least on this issue, the Tea Party may find that they share something with the Democrats.