US presidential candidate Herman Cain has been found to be closely linked to two billionaire industrialists who have bankrolled at least two other Republican contenders and conservative grassroots initiatives across the country.
The discovery comes at a time the former pizza mogul has shot to top-tier status in the Republican primary, based mostly on marketing himself as a political outsider battling the status quo in Washington.
Cain began his relationship with brothers Charles and David Koch when he was hired to speak at chapter meetings for the group American for Prosperity’s “Prosperity Expansion Project” between 2005 and 2006, reports The Washington Post. It was through his AFP work that Cain met Mark Block, “a longtime Wisconsin Republican operative hired to lead that state’s AFP chapter in 2005 as he rebounded from an earlier campaign scandal that derailed his career,” the paper writes. Block went on to become Cain’s presidential campaign manager.
Several others who have worked or are currently working on the Cain for President campaign also come from AFP.
Cleveland businessman Rich Lowrie, who is the only person Cain has publicly credited with working on his so-called “9-9-9 Plan,” not only worked for AFP, serving on the group’s board of advisers from 2005 to 2008, but is also an investment banker at Wells Fargo, a major banking institution owned by the Koch brothers, reports the New York Times. Lowrie credits Art Laffer, often considered the father of the concept that lower tax rates help pay for themselves by generating additional economic growth, and Jude Wanniski, who promoted the idea among politicians, as his main sources of inspiration.
Other than Lowrie, Cain refuses to name any other people who worked on his “9-9-9 Plan,” which proposes throwing out the current tax system and replacing it with a flat 9-percent individual income tax rate, a 9-percent corporate tax rate and a 9-percent national sales tax. The plan has critics from both the left and right; conservatives argue it gives big government another revenue stream that it can increase at will, while progressives say it is a regressive tax, giving huge breaks to the rich while putting the burden on the poor and middle class.
Lowrie has told The San Francisco Chronicle that he consulted with Laffer and another economist, Steven Moore, on the plan.
Cain spokeswoman Ellen Carmichael, who abruptly left the campaign on October 1 for undisclosed reasons, was an AFP coordinator in Louisiana. His campaign’s outside law firm is representing AFP in a case challenging Wisconsin campaign finance regulations. At least six other current and former paid employees and consultants for Cain’s campaign have worked for AFP in various capacities.
The candidate touts his selection of advisers as one of his strongest assets for being president. “I know what leaders do,” Cain declares to supporters at campaign stops. “They surround themselves with the right people in order to put together the right plans.”
Cain continues his work with AFP today. The candidate is scheduled to be at the group’s annual “Defending the American Dream” summit in Washington, DC on November 4. He is the only confirmed presidential candidate for the event.
Herman Cain is the third Republican considered for the party’s presidential ticket to be connected to the Koch brothers. Texas Governor Rick Perry has been heavily funded by the brothers, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was touted in the media as a possible candidate after Perry’s shooting-star campaign fizzled, was revealed as having surreptitiously met with at least one brother and attended a private donor meeting arranged by them.