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Perry Got Much More Merck Money Than He Let On

Political contributions from drug maker Merck to Texas Gov. Rick Perry are substantially higher than he said at Monday night's CNN/Tea Party Express debate.

Perry low-balled the number, saying the contribution was just $5,000. But since 2001. Merck has given Perry a total of $28,500.

In the debate, Rep. Michele Bachmann accused Perry of mandating a statewide innoculation program using the Merck-made vaccine Gardasil after the pharmaceutical giant gave money for his 2006 campaign.

Perry said the contribution was just $5,000 and said: "And if you're saying I can be bought for five thousand — I'm offended." But the 2006 contribution was actually $6,000.

And there's more. The watchdog group says that over the past five years when Perry was raising money for the Republican Governors Association Merck gave the RGA $377,500.

The total? A shade over $400,000, about 80 times more than what Perry said.

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Peter Overby has covered Washington power, money, and influence since a foresighted NPR editor created the beat in 1994.