CommunityThe Bullpen

Network of Private Corporations Paid for Cain Campaign Startup Costs

Jon Walker has already highlighted the allegations of sexual harassment against Herman Cain, dating back to his time at the National Restaurant Association. I know you’re terribly shocked about these allegations of a man in a position of power sexually harassing a woman. But for what it’s worth, I’m not sure that these allegations are even the most damaging of the day for Herman Cain.

Cain eventually, after some shaky moments yesterday, denied the allegations that he sexually harassed two female employees, who ended up with cash settlements for leaving the National Restaurant Association. And he dodged questions at some scheduled events in DC today, with an assist from the American Enterprise Institute, which barred reporters from asking about it. But this Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel report is an even more damning implication of Cain as quite literally a corporate candidate:

Herman Cain’s two top campaign aides ran a private Wisconsin-based corporation that helped the GOP presidential candidate get his fledgling campaign off the ground by originally footing the bill for tens of thousands of dollars in expenses for such items as iPads, chartered flights and travel to Iowa and Las Vegas – something that might breach federal tax and campaign law, according to sources and documents.

Internal financial records obtained by No Quarter show that Prosperity USA said it was owed about $40,000 by the Cain campaign for a variety of items in February and March. Cain began taking donations for his presidential bid on Jan. 1.

Prosperity USA was owned and run by Wisconsin political operatives Mark Block and Linda Hansen, Cain’s current chief of staff and deputy chief of staff, respectively.

The authenticity of the records was verified by two individuals close to the firm.

Cain’s campaign could have paid back Prosperity USA down the road (they make no mention of this in campaign filings), but it would still represent an in-kind donation, either as a loan or an advance. And this violates all kinds of federal campaign finance laws, to the extent that they still exist in a post-Citizens United world.

We already knew that Mark Block, the infamous smoker from that Cain campaign ad last week, was a Wisconsin State operative for Americans for Prosperity, a Koch-funded astroturf group. So the leap to an organization run by him funding the Cain campaign is not that great. Block has paid fines for election law violations in Wisconsin as far back as 1997, and he has run or been a major part of a series of shadowy front groups since then.

Block has apparently neglected to respond to the allegations. And Cain himself was asked about them on Fox News today, in the midst of his denying the sexual harassment claims. He plead ignorance, saying, “I’m not aware of this report, my staff has not had time to go through it, I didn’t even know about the report until you brought it up on the show.”

Since you have violation of federal law here, as well as conduct from the present day in the current campaign rather than older allegations of conduct from the National Restaurant Association days, this could prove to be a more damaging problem for Cain in the weeks to come. And it’s certainly a symbol of how corporations have been able to purchase our political candidates over the past several years. Looks like Cain will have some more clarifying to do.

Previous post

DO people change? And do Conservatives deserve absolution more than Liberals?

Next post

Who's Undercover at Your Occupy Protest? In Oakland It's These Guys.

David Dayen

David Dayen