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Herman Cain, Front-Man for Billionaires

By Andrew Kreig - Posted on 15 November 2011

GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain serves as front man for the billionaire Koch brothers in a way rarely, if ever, seen in modern times for a prominent U.S. major party candidate.

That relationship should be a huge campaign story. It’s arguably far more important in its implications for voters than the sex allegations raised against Cain two weeks ago that I’ve been covering in Washington, or last week’s Rick Perry “Oops” gaffe in a debate.

That’s because the secretive brothers are using Cain to sell their overall agenda to transform the United States in ways that could mean poverty resulting in premature death for many by destruction of the safety net along with support for the war culture.

Each Koch (pronounced “Coke”) brother is reputed to be worth $25 billion. Much of it is through their privately held Koch Industries conglomerate, a major oil and gas driller, distributor and contractor in the military supply chain. Charles is aged 75,  and David is 71.

The Kochs spend lavishly to influence the nation’s watchdog institutions (including media, Congress and courts) and to groom Cain for the 2012 race.  

Cain appeared Nov. 4, for example, at the Cain-funded, Tea Party-oriented Americans for Prosperity (AFP) “Defending the American Dream” convention, which I attended also at Washington's main convention center.

“I’m a Koch Brothers’ brother from another mother,” Cain announced, “and proud of it!” The crowd roared approval.

All viable national candidates have wealthy backers, of course. President Obama has out-raised all GOP candidates combined this cycle. Boosted during his campaign by what I would call unfair and unprofessional sympathy from many in the media, Obama also controls the vast Executive Branch in the style of recent predecessors.

What distinguishes the Koch relationship? It’s the degree of one family’s influence over a significant candidate at this stage of a race, plus the radical nature of the candidate’s platform — and the reluctance of many watchdog organizations to clarify the stakes.

An exception is Mary Boyle, vice president of the non-partisan Common Cause. She describes the Kochs this way: “What makes them unique,” she told the UK-based Guardian last week, “is that they are not just campaign contributors; they are a vast political network in their own right.”

The brothers are pushing a libertarian-right policy agenda intended to change American life in dramatic ways. Much of the planning is secret from the public and watchdog organizations alike. Two snapshots of that are my recent columns about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a friend of Cain and a justice who with his wife also benefits from the Koch checkbook.

One column was Cain’s ‘Lynching’ Defense Problem…Clarence Thomas Lied Nov. 7. The other was Thomas Must Resign, Says Former Judge, Lover  Oct. 26.

The latter draws on last month's call by 46 House Democrats to convene a House impeachment probe of Thomas to follow up complaints to the FBI. The allegations to the FBI involve Thomas false statements on judicial disclosure forms whereby Thomas denied receiving more than $1.6 million in money and gifts until Common Cause discovered the discrepancies. I sought comment from Thomas, the Koch brothers and fellow billionaire and Thomas benefactor Harlan Crow, but failed to receive a response from them or their representatives.

Regarding Cain, I’ve been monitoring his campaign closely after receiving an assignment two months ago to cover his long-planned speech Oct. 31 at the National Press Club in Washington. The assignment was from the Wire, the Club’s internal news organ going to some 3,000 members around the word plus web visitors. Oct. 31 turned out to be Cain’s first response to sex harassment allegations that the DC tabloid Politico broke in, Herman Cain accused by two women of inappropriate behavior.
In person, Cain seems friendly and is a compelling speaker, as I saw in meeting him at a reception just before his speech. Cain delivered a polished campaign talk to the packed room that contained more than 40 film crews. He vigorously denied the misconduct allegations during the question period.

My column was Cain denies sexual harassment, touts tax plan, sings spiritual at club luncheon. Our Justice Integrity Project has published coverage since then in an archive.

Regarding policy issues, anyone watching the GOP debates has seen Cain’s focus primarily on the 9-9-9 tax plan, which was devised by Cain’s Chief Economic Adviser Rich Lowrie. The Ohio-based financial consultant is a board member of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP). Lowrie sat at the Press Club head-table as did Cain Campaign Manager Mark Block, who also has strong ties to AFP and Koch-funded efforts to savage unions and progressives government in Wisconsin.

Think Progress, and later the Associated Press and the New Yorker this fall documented the lavish spending by the Kochs to foster AFP, the Cain campaign, and the Tea Party movement. These ties are documented further by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and New York Times, which reported this month that the Cain campaign accepted tens of thousands of dollars in goods and services from Prosperity USA, a tax-exempt organization founded by Block.

Cain remains at or near the top of Republican polls two weeks after the sex misconduct allegations. Cain’s survival is due in significant part due to the Tea Party and similar political infrastructure underwritten by the Kochs and their allies.

In sum, the real Herman Cain is, at best, exactly the empty suit seen on the humiliating video that's gone viral his week.

This column is cross-posted in a longer version at the Justice Integrity Project site with more hot-links to sources

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