Herman Cain

Report: Cain Campaign May Have Gotten Illegal Boost From Aides' Firm

This is shaping up to be a really blue Monday for Herman Cain and a very busy Halloween for political reporters.

Not only is there the report of alleged sexual harassment during his time at the National Restaurant Association. Now there's a report that his campaign may have received early help from a company run by his campaign aides, a situation which legal experts say could have violated federal election and tax laws.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports:

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.

That's the same Block, of course, who took a drag off a cigarette in that weird Cain campaign ad that was such a hot topic last week.

And here's a passage from the story that, apropos of the day, may be the scariest for Cain and his aides:

Election law experts say the transactions raise a host of questions for the private organization, which billed itself as a tax-exempt nonprofit, and the Cain team.

"If the records accurately reflect what occurred, this is way out of bounds," said a Washington, D.C.-based election lawyer who advises many Republican candidates and conservative groups on campaign issues. The lawyer asked not to be identified because of those affiliations.

Michael Maistelman, a Wisconsin campaign attorney, agreed.

"The number of questionable and possibly illegal transactions conducted on behalf of Herman Cain is staggering," said Maistelman, a Democrat who has represented politicians from both parties on campaign issues.

This type of story by itself would keep any presidential campaign busy on a normal day. But, of course, Cain is also dealing with the fallout from allegations that at least two women accused him of sexual harassment in the 1990s when he ran the National Restaurant Association during their time there. According to Politico, the women received were paid before they left and signed pacts committing them to silence on the matter.

Cain appeared at the American Enterprise Institute Monday morning for a previously scheduled event to talk about his 9-9-9 tax plan.

Although reporters were told the only questions he would entertain after a question and answer session with the moderator would be fiscal, ABC News' Jon Karl asked Cain about the harassment charges.

Cain declined to answer, saying he was abiding by his hosts' groundrules. He promised he would field questions at a later appearance at the National Press Club.

Block had prior campaign-law troubles. He was banned for several years from involvement in campaigns after Wisconsin election officials accused him of illegally coordinating the judicial candidate's campaign he was running with outside groups. Block settled without admitting guilt.

Block has been associated with the political network created by the Koch Brothers as well. He headed Wisconsin's branch of Americans for Prosperity, the group underwritten by the Kochs.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from